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Random Fun Facts: Bees

If the bee disappears from the surface of the globe, man would have no more than four years to live.  ~Albert Einstein (attributed)

honeybee Aunt Heather PiperIn this digital age, does anyone really read magazines?  I mean the real deal.  I do!  Now let’s not get silly, anyone who knows me, knows I love my books, the real printed pages of complete escapes into other worlds, yet I mostly read magazines and newspapers online.  That is until I had to use up some frequent flyer miles and chose to order a few magazines.  Among my mix, Money, Inc., Entrepreneur, Entertainment, Fortune and Time.  Do I read them?  You bet I do!  Why not, there is a lot of information in those pages.  Do I actually read the articles?  Yes I do!  Now granted, sometimes they pile up until I have the opportunity to address the piled stacks of printed pages, but I really truly try to give them attention.  Some articles interest me more than others but I do at least skim through those pieces.

Recently, I got Kyle into reading a few found articles.  One was the Auntie Anne’s franchise, since Kyle is such a fan of the soft pretzels.  It told of how one women created herself an empire, starting off at the farmers market with her little idea.  He loved it!

honeybee on flower-Aunt Heather PiperI also had Kyle read a few articles in Fortune about the Apple company.  He loves their products and was very interested to hear about any new technologies, how the company is doing and such.  Pretty cool coming from a twelve year old.

Anyway, why my dissertation on magazine articles?  Simply because I came across one that I found so interesting, I couldn’t just let it go.  It was in the August issue of Time magazine.  It was an article on honeybees and their demise.  This article was pretty thorough and I found it very intriguing, maybe because I am a fan of honey, as is the rest of my family, especially Kyle.  Dad loves to get the honeycomb and eat it.

Years ago I read an article that stated, when consuming honey over long periods of time, it was said to decrease allergies.  Since then, Kyle has held that near and dear to his heart.  So when any one of us gets sick or seems to be filling the effects of seasonal allergens, Kyle becomes the honey pusher.  Literally!  Once he made me a bowl of oatmeal and there was so much honey in it, I swear he invited an entire hive to stop by and regurgitate into my bowl.   Love that kid!

According to Hannah Nordhaus “Honeybees are the glue that holds our agricultural system together.”  I hope you enjoy this information as much as I did.  It was pretty much taken directly from the article.  Enjoy!

Random Fun Facts:  Bees     

Bee History 

  • Bees are not a natural resident to North America
  • 17th century bees were imported to the continent
  • The oldest known honeybee specimen dates from 100 million years ago
  • During the 17th century, Ian Swammerdam discovered that the king bee had ovaries and was in fact a queen
  • In 1923, Rudolf Steiner, a scientist predicted that within 100 years artificial cultivation of honeybees would have a sever consequence on the bee population
  • There’s an Institute of Bee Health at the University of Bern in Switzerland
  • Honeybee, also known as Apis Mellifera
  • There are more than 20,000 species of bees worldwide, only 6 main types are kept commercially (Italian, Russian, Carniolan, Caucasian, German, Buckfast)


Bee Basics

  • There is the worker bee, drone bee and queen bee
  • Worker – construction, storage, keeping the nursery, guarding, care-taking, scouting and foraging, lives 20-30 days
  • Drone – mates with virgin queen in midair, can fly backward, rotate and flip, dies after mating
  • Queen – lays up to 1,500 eggs a day, secretes pheromones to control workers, lives 3-7 years
  • Honeybees can fly as far as 5 miles (8km) in search of forage
  • The queen bee communicates by dance
  • 1/12 teaspoon is the amount a worker bee will produce during its short life

honeycomb-Aunt Heather Piper

The Hive

  • A colony typically has 20,000 to 30,000 bees
  • The colony creates a winter ecosystem during the winters months and lives off honey
  • Bees use their wings to generate warmth
  • Middle-aged worker bees build by attaching each comb to the walls of the hive, requires more than 2lbs. of wax
  • A worker bee can visit 100 flowers and carry more than half its weight in pollen in a single trip
  • To produce 1lb. of honey, hive workers fly a collective of 55,000 miles, while tapping 2,000,000 flowers


Bee Anatomy

  • Bees have 5 eyes (2 large and 3 ocelli used to detect light intensity) The workers have nearly 7,000 lenses
  • Bees have 2 sets of wings.  The rapid flapping generates warmth and evaporates water from nectar to make honey
  • Bees have wing hooks, which enable them to attach 1 of each set of wings together during flight for maximum efficiency
  • A charge on the bees hair attracts pollen, known as electrostatic charge
  • The proboscis is an airtight, strawlike tube that sucks up nectar and also works in reverse to feed offspring from a honey stomach
  • Bees’ jaws help bite and pack pollen as well as shape wax for building honeycombs
  • Bees have a 2nd reservoir where nectar is temporarily stored before being regurgitated
  • Bees have a pollen basket, this is a sac attached to the rear leg.  The legs scrape pollen from front to back and is collected there.
  • Bees have wax plates.  They secrete the wax from beneath plates on their abdomen and use it to build honeycombs
  • A bees venom (a unique mixture of chemicals) has been known to destroy HIV
  • A barb prevents a bee’s stinger from being pulled out.  The bee tears its abdomen while freeing itself before dying

Flying honeybee Aunt Heather Piper.jpg

 The Dance

  • Scout workers locate food and alert fellow foragers location with a series of dance moves
  • Through the number of turns, the duration of the dance and the moves themselves, the scout can communicate the distance to the food, the angle of the food to the sun and whether it is near or far
  • The scout dances in a figure-eight shape to tell other workers to fly toward the sun
  • Number of dance patterns in a given time indicates distance
  • The angle to which the scout dances gives the angle (relative to the hive and the sun)



  • Bees bring in $15 billion in value for farming each year
  • In the winter of 2012, 1/3 of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared (42% increase from the previous year)
  • Normal winters beekeepers experience 10% to 15% losses
  • California’s most valuable agricultural export, the almond ($4 billion) is at risk of decline or collapse
  • Almonds are totally dependent on honeybees
  • Honeybees increase the yield of fruits and vegetables such as cantaloupes, cranberries and cucumbers
  • Bees (unnatural to the continent) are a  man-made, mercantile ecosystem that helps bring big revenue for grocery stores, super centers and such
  • Studies have shown that honeybee pollen was contaminated on average of 9 different pesticides and fungicides
  • European Commission put a 2-year restriction on the use of some neonicotinoids

Suggestions for the disappearance?

  • Agricultural pesticides
  • Bee killing pest like Varroa destructor (a parasitic mite)
  • Bacterial and viral diseases
  • Neonicotinoids
  • American foulbrood, a bacterial disease
  • Hive beetle, a pest that can infiltrate and contaminate colonies
  • Fungal infections like Nosema ceranae
Published inCommon SenseCooking with KyleEducation & LearningFamilyNewsObservation & ImaginationRandom Fun FactsReminiscing

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