There are a lot of honey bee facts that everyone knows. They live in hives, they have a queen, and they make delicious honey. But it’s easy to simplify honey bees into just another insect. These creatures are surprisingly complex, both in their biology and their social structure.

So why should you learn honey bee facts? It may be surprising, but honey bees are one of our oldest animal companions. We’ve been keeping honey bees for thousands of years — pretty much all of recorded history.

Our relationship with these little insects is not only as old as our bond with cats and dogs, but it’s just as beneficial, if even more. Honey bees give us food, not just their delicious honey, but in the form of the crops that they pollinate. Respect honey bees, and learn as many honey bee facts as you can.

Everyone loves honey. Humans have been eating the delicious golden syrup for nearly our entire history. It’s sweet, natural, and lasts pretty much forever. But as amazing as honey is, the little creatures that make it are even more so.

Honey bees pollinate our crops and flowers and give us delicious honey. But the way they do it is what’s really incredible. These communal insects continue to amaze us. They have organizational skills that the most efficient company would be jealous of, and they build more efficient structures than any other creature.

Studying their behavior even teaches us about ourselves.

If you want to know more about what makes honey bees so special, keep reading.

 Honey bee biology

While honey bees are only as strong as their hive, there are a lot of aspects to each individual bee that help them work so well together.

Whether it’s the special way each caste of bees is born or the unique biology that every bee has, it’s clear that honey bees are fine-tuned to doing their jobs.

Name those bees

The first thing you should know about bees is that, in every hive, there are three crucial types of bees. The most numerous are the worker bees. They are entirely female, and there are about 60,000 of them in any hive.

As the name suggests, they are the ones who do all of the work around the hive. They each have a job, like scouting, pollen collecting, building, and nursing. That job changes based on the bee’s age.

Next is the queen bee. She’s the most important bee in the hive because she’s the only fertile female. Her only job is to keep creating bees to replenish the worker population. She can live for years, much longer than the average worker.

Finally, the least common bees are the males, the drones. Drones have one purpose, which is to fertilize the queen. Drones get a bad rap for being “lazy” around the hive. Compared to the worker bees, who are endlessly busy, drones tend to wait for their time to come.

But they are only made for breeding — so much so that after they mate, they die.

These three bees all work together to make the hive work like a well-oiled machine.

What is she eating?

Queen bees don’t have a royal lineage. Of course, every queen bee comes from another queen, but there’s nothing special about the larval queen when it’s born.

When a larva is chosen to be a queen, it is exclusively fed a substance known as royal jelly. Normal worker bees are fed a mix of honey and fermented pollen. For a long time, we thought that royal jelly made a larva become a queen. Now, we know that it’s the other way around.

Queen bees are different because their ovaries are allowed to develop while they’re still growing. The honey and pollen diet of worker bee larvae actually prevents these organs from developing. So, it’s what the queen bee doesn’t eat that’s special.

You are not the father!

Wrap your head around this:

A drone is born of an unfertilized egg. So, he doesn’t have a dad, just a mom — the queen. But, since the queen is a female, she is born of a fertilized egg. Which means she has a father.

So, no drone has a father. But they all have one grandfather. This is a little crazy for us to think about, but actually makes perfect sense when you think about it.

Crazy fact about bees’ eyes

One of the most amazing things about bees is the way they see. Of course, they have two prominent compound eyes, which lets them see from yellow to ultraviolet. But you probably didn’t know they have three simple eyes on top of their heads.

These simple eyes have a single lens for light reception. By using these eyes, bees can orient themselves based on the sun.

But it’s that ultraviolet sight that shows that honey bees are perfectly adapted to their flower-seeking role. It lets them pick out individual petals on flowers that have the most sugar. And when they’re flying past a bed of flowers (at 15 miles per hour), they can see every single one!

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