Bees are flying insects that belong to the Apidae family.
There are about 20,000 known species of bees.
They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.
Bees have three-part body (head, thorax and abdomen), 6 legs, 2 compound eyes made up of thousands of tiny lenses (one on each side of the head), 3 simple eyes on the top of the head, one pair of antennae and 2 pairs of wings.
Bees vary in size. The world’s largest species of bee is thought to be the Indonesian resin bee Megachile pluto, whose females can attain a length of 39 millimeters (1.54 in). The smallest species may be dwarf stingless bees in the tribe Meliponini whose workers are less than 2 millimetres (0.08 in) in length.
Bees are usually black, brown, or banded with white, yellow, or orange stripes.
Orchid bees are the most colorful bees. They have brilliant iridescent colors of green, blue, and red. The males visit orchid flowers.
All bees are covered with hair, but some have more hair than others.
Female bees have a structure on their legs that no other insects have: a pollen basket. The basket is made of rows of stiff hairs that arch to form a hollow space on the outside of the bees’ legs, usually her back legs. When a bee visits a flower, she combs grains of pollen into her baskets. Pollen from the flower also sticks to the bee’s hair.
Bees fly from flower to flower, sipping nectar and collecting grains of pollen. Many plants depend on bees to spread pollen, helping them to reproduce. Flowers that attract bees are usually yellow, blue, and purple.
Most bees are polylectic meaning they collect pollen from a range of flowering plants, however, some bees specialize in one plant species. In areas where different flowering plants bloom at the same time, this keeps different bee species from fighting over the same flower!
Bees have a special tongue that sucks up the sweet nectar and a crop in their throat for storing it until they get back to the hive. Here the nectar is turned into honey. Bees can store large amounts of the honey in their hives to use as food.
Bees are sometimes mimicked by plants such as the bee orchid which imitates both the appearance and the scent of a female bee; male bees attempt to mate (pseudocopulation) with the furry lip of the flower, thus pollinating it.
Bees may be solitary or may live in various types of communities.
Some species including honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees live socially in colonies. These colonies consisting of a fertile queen, sterile female workers, and males called “drones.” These social bees are the only bees to produce and store honey.
All the bees in the colony work together for the good of the hive. Each has a job to do: the queen lays the eggs and the workers build the honeycomb, care for the larvae and collect the food.
Only 10% of the world’s 20,000 bee species are social, and only a small percentage of these construct hives.
Solitary bees gather pollen, build nests, and lay eggs on their own, without the help of a hive. (Some might live in groups, but they won’t have a social structure with a queen or workers.)
The average lifespan of a bee depends upon the hive’s activity when she is born, and is 40 days during the active season and 5 months if born the season before. Queen bees live an average of three years, and drones live until they mate or for 90 days.
Solitary bees usually live for a year but you’ll probably only see them during their active adult stage, over a few weeks in the spring or summer.
The life cycle of a bee, be it a solitary or social species, involves the laying of an egg, the development through several moults of a legless larva, a pupation stage during which the insect undergoes complete metamorphosis, followed by the emergence of a winged adult.
The first thing a worker honeybee does when she hatches is to turn right around and clean her cell for the next egg.
Bees travel between 24 and 35 kilometers (15 and 22 miles) an hour when they fly.
Wing-beat frequency normally increases as size decreases, but as the bee’s wing beat covers such a small arc, it flaps approximately 230 times per second, faster than a fruitfly (200 times per second) which is 80 times smaller. Because of this bees making their famous, distinctive buzz.
When a honey bee stings a person, it cannot pull the barbed stinger back out. It leaves behind not only the stinger, but also part of its abdomen and digestive tract, plus muscles and nerves. This massive abdominal rupture kills the honey bee. Honey bees are the only bees to die after stinging.
Solitary bees hardly ever sting. In fact, male bees don’t even have stingers, and the females’ are not long enough to penetrate your skin.
Birds, small mammals, reptiles, spiders and other insects are known to prey on bees and larger mammals such as bears are notorious for destroying the hive of the honey bees in order to eat the honey inside.
The greater honeyguide interacts with humans by guiding them to the nests of wild bees. The humans break open the nests and take the honey and the bird feeds on the larvae and the wax.
Honey is a natural product produced by bees and stored for their own use, but its sweetness has always appealed to humans.
Human beekeeping or apiculture has been practised for millennia, since at least the times of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece.
Depictions of humans collecting honey from wild bees date to 15,000 years ago; efforts to domesticate them are shown in Egyptian art around 4,500 years ago.
Apart from honey and pollination, honey bees produce beeswax, royal jelly and propolis.
An average worker bee makes only about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its.
It takes one ounce (28 grams) of honey to fuel a bee’s flight around the world.
It is estimated that one third of the human food supply depends on pollination by insects, birds and bats, most of which is accomplished by bees, whether wild or domesticated.
Bees are closely related to wasps and ants.