As you read this, imagine a bee. Where is it? What is it doing? Is it big or small? Are you scared? Annoyed? What do you do about it?
When most people imagine a bee, myself included, they imagine a honeybee or bumblebee. These two types of bees have become the face of them all – even though they are only 2 of around 20,000 species in the world.
If you don’t know a lot about these tiny creatures, I want to introduce them to you in a new light.
The Common Honeybee
This beautiful bee is known for making honey, but it is also an incredibly valuable source of pollination for crops all over the world. Honeybees are raised almost like livestock – to produce honey, beeswax, and pollinate our growing food. These bees are well known for their stinging capabilities, but I want to share some lovable facts about them, too:
- All honeybees that gather pollen and make honey (and have stingers) are female.
- Honeybees dance to communicate with each other.
- When honeybees fly, they frequently bump into things and fly in weird patterns because they aren’t that great at steering.
- A common honeybee will almost never sting unless she feels the hive in threatened, she is stuck or trapped (in your hair, for instance), or you jerk around or swat at her.
- Honeybees frequently get wet and sometimes drown when trying to gather water, but if you rescue a wet honeybee she will sit on your hand until she’s dry and ready to fly away!
If these facts didn’t sell you on how adorable these little flying fuzzballs are, I don’t know what will.
The Common Bumblebee
These flying fuzzballs are bigger than the previous flying fuzzballs, and while they are still key pollinators, they do not make honey. (Ok, you probably knew all of that already…) But do you know why bumble bees bumble?
Their tiny wings beat around 130 times per second. Per SECOND. This, along with their large bodies, causes flowers to vibrate and release pollen. This whole process is called buzz pollination, and it’s wildly effective. Bumblebees are less known for stinging and more known for size, but here are some more tidbits of information you’ll want to know:
- Bumblebees fly by beating their wings forwards and backwards, not up and down.
- Colonies of bumblebees usually contain 50 to 500 individuals, and they are ruled by a queen.
- Right before winter, all the bees will die except for the queen, who hibernates until she can start a new colony in the spring.
- Bumblebees do not die when they sting, unlike honeybees.
- Some bumblebees have been shown to have a favorite color of flower.
I’m willing to bet that you didn’t know at least one of those facts… unless you’re a bee expert, in which case, teach me all you know!
Most of us have known about these two species since we could talk, but there are so many more. Native bees are widely unknown by the average Joe, but they take on such important roles in the environment. If you’re interested in bees, pollinators, farming, or ecology I highly recommend you look into native species in your area.
Don’t worry, I’ll make a blog post for them someday, too.
Peace and Love,