Bees are truly remarkable little creatures.
They are responsible for the pollination of 90% of wild plants and around 75% of the world’s leading global crops.
This equates to one in three mouthfuls of the food we eat existing thanks to the hard work of bees.
Decreasing habitats, changing temperatures and aggressive pesticides have all contributed to the decline in bee numbers over the past century. Efforts are now being made to preserve and increase the bee population worldwide.
You can find out more about Bees on the British Beekeepers Association website.
Here are ten fascinating facts about our four-winged friends*.
1. Bees have been around a while.
Fossilized evidence suggests that bees have been around for at least 150 million years. Mesolithic cave paintings show humans seeking out bees for their honey over 6,000 years ago.
2. Not all Bees live in hives.
There are 20,000 species of bees worldwide, with over 250 species native to the UK. Not all of these bees live in hives and make honey.
Some species of bees live solitary lives instead, including leafcutter bees that craft homes from thick-stemmed plants and rotted leaves, and masonry bees, which can be found in the naturally-occurring holes in brickwork.
3. Making a beeline.
Have you ever heard the phrase ‘make a beeline for’ before? The phrase comes from the efficient lines bees take between sources of food. Bees will use scent and a charming series of gestures known as a ‘waggle dance’ to communicate to their hive mates the best places to find food.
4. Bees feet smell.
Bees have smelly feet. They can distinguish between the smell of their own footprints, those of their hive mates and those of strangers. This can save them valuable time on visiting flowers that have already been plundered.
5. Speedy Bees.
Honeybees need to be efficient in their travels. The tiny insect powerhouses can fly up to 24km per hour, flapping their wings an impressive 200 times a second! On a typical foraging trip, a bee will travel up to 6km before returning to the hive.
6. Bees work very hard.
In its lifetime, a honeybee can only make around 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey. To make 500g of honey, the honeybees will travel almost 90,000km and visit around two million individual flowers
7. Bees are smart.
The brain of a honeybee is roughly the size of a granule of sugar but is surprisingly sophisticated. Honeybees are known to be able to understand conceptual relationships such as same/different and above/below.
8. Bees can play football.
Brainy bees have been trained by scientists to do some very interesting things. Researchers taught buff-tail bumblebees to score a goal in ‘bee football’ in return for sugar water. Scientists have even managed to train bees as bomb detectors. The bees were conditioned to react to a minute amount of the chemicals found in explosives and were rewarded with a sweet treat each time it was present. Soon they began sticking out their tongues in anticipation whenever they detected it.
9. How to help a Bee.
If you spot a bee in distress, you can help. Ideally, you should move the exhausted bee to a bee-friendly plant in order for them to feed and recover. If that’s not an option, mix equal parts of white sugar and water and offer the bee a few drops. This should give them the hydration and carbohydrate boost to fly off.
10. Bees respond well to help.
Although bee populations are in decline, they are also very receptive to help. For every 10% increase in bee-friendly habitats, such as organic farmland, bee populations and diversity increase by a third.
*Bonus Bee fact.
Bees have four wings rather than two. When they’re flying, they hook the two pairs together to form a larger pair of wings. When at rest, they unhook them.