A lesson in Beeing efficient

As I’m still reeling from learning about the amazingness of bees at a beekeeping course on Sunday, I’m going to give you some more bee facts that could potentially blow your mind. They blew mine.

There are 250,000 varieties of bee. Only one of these is a honey-making bee.

A bee hive is an extremely clean environment. When a bee knows it is going to die, it will fly away from the hive and die elsewhere. If the bee is very ill and cannot get away in time, the other bees will remove the dead body to a safe distance from the hive, to prevent disease spreading.

Bees also do not go to the toilet in the hive. They will fly outside and go somewhere else.

There are guard bees at the entrance to the hive. Each hive has it’s own scent (a unique mixture of the pollen that has been collected by that colony). As a bee approaches the hive, the guard bees will smell them to check they have the same scent. If they are not from that colony, they will be shooed away, unless they are carrying tons of pollen, then they will be allowed in.

When the young worker bees first leave the hive, they spend some time familiarising themselves with the hive and the local area. To help them find their way back, the guard bees flap their wings and fan the scent of the hive out into the air.

When a bee visits a flower to collect pollen, they will leave a scent behind that allows the other bees, who are also out foraging, to know that flower has already been visited. This prevents lots of other bees wasting time visiting the same flower.

A workers bee’s life lasts about six weeks in the summer, at which point they’re pretty knackered from all the flying and foraging etc. In the winter, because their main job is to keep the brood warm, as opposed to all the flying, they will live to about six months.

The personality of the queen bee dictates the character if a colony. If you have an aggressive queen, the colony will be more aggressive and you will get more stings, etc. If, however, you replace that queen with a more placid one, the whole colony will become more placid and calm.

Royal Jelly is produced by a gland in the bee’s head, which develops after a few weeks of life. The worker bee eggs will be given the Royal Jelly for two days only. An egg which is destined to become a drone will recieve a bit more and an egg which is to potentially become a queen bee will be fed solely on Royal Jelly. It is not that the Jelly is scarce. There is tons of it to go around. It’s that the worker bees need to be kept ‘stupid’ and so are rationed, whereas the drones and queens need to develop more and are ‘in charge’ of stuff, so they are given more.

I’ve just realised that this still doesn’t cover all of the bee facts I learned on Sunday.

A bee colony is the picture of efficiency. It’s funny to think that they don’t talk, yet they have developed all these complex systems to keep the colony running efficiently.

10 responses to this post.

  1. good post!


  2. Bees are fascinating. I’m going to see if I can find a bee keeping place near me. Duh, I’m in Portland, of course there are bee keeping classes 🙂


    • O, really? Is it very like that in Portland? It’s quite green and bee friendly where I live. Our local MP is a bit of a green champion. Let’s get beekeeping Maggie. Let’s do like a schools-link thing but with bee hives. You can have one there and I’ll have one here and they can write each other letters.


  3. Posted by Alex Jones on June 11, 2013 at 17:15

    I am a fan of bees myself. I had hoped to have my own hive up and running by now, but challenges in life prevents my ambitions for the moment. Bees are amaing creatures, I am learning more about them each week.


    • O, I’m totally going to get a hive too. I’m going to wait till next year though because it is would be too hard to start one now because they won’t have time to make stores to last the winter. I think I will get one in March or February next year. maybe you could aim for March too?


  4. Amazing facts. I knew a few from the previous one but this one virtually nothing. I love the bees going to the toilet bit. How do they know that? Have they found a bee-toilet? You don’t have to go that far back in city history to a time when domestic toilets were outside: down the garden or at the end of a yard. When I was small I had a friend who lived in a house that was part of a row of 8 terraced houses. None had an inside toilet. They had a common yard (no dividing walls/fences) with just two toilets, one at each end. Winter was not a good time to have to use them.


    • The house I live in now has an outside toilet that’s been joined onto the house by a little porch bit but was outside until quite recently. It must have been freezing in winter, like you say. It’s still quite cold there now, in June!


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