Lately I’ve been spending time with a beekeeper and she is teaching me amazing things about bees. The following is a list of 100% true, organic, locally sourced bee facts. 🐝
The bees that you see flying around from flower to flower and that you’re afraid of getting stung by are all female and are called worker bees. Worker bees are both architects and defenders of the hive; they collect pollen and nectar, build honeycomb from wax, define upfront the ratio of sexes in the hive, heat or cool the hive as needed with their wings or by building air passages, and so much more. Female bees are, in short, badass bees. 💁♀️
Male bees are called drones. They don’t have a stinger and their primary purpose is just to mate. Like many of the human species, males are not useful for much else. Sorry, brones. 🙅♀️
Bees are vegan, as the diet for both young and mature ones consists of only pollen and honey, which is produced by evaporating nectar. Wasps, on the other hand, can feed their young protein from other insects and meat. Some bee species look almost exactly like wasps, but to tell them apart, you need to look at what they feed their young with.
When badass bees notice they don’t have a queen, they will create some by feeding larvae royal jelly exclusively. 👑
When a queen bee is born, her first order of official business is to take a casual stroll around the comb and brutally murder any other virgin queens she finds.
Queens are barely distinguishable from worker bees and can be tricky to spot within a hive, even for a beekeeper.
A virgin queen will want to mate, so she will fly away from the hive to seek out a drone congregation area, where brones from as many as 200 colonies will be “casually” hanging out, but actually just hoping to score. She will then mate with up to 15 of them in-flight. Damn, girl!
You might be thinking: lucky few brones who got in on some queen action— high-fives all around? “Lucky” indeed: after a drone successfully mates, he falls to the ground dying because his penis and adjacent part of the abdomen got ripped out during intercourse. 💀
Meanwhile, the queen bee has now collected enough semen that she will selectively fertilize eggs with for up to seven years. 💅
Apart from laying eggs, the queen doesn’t do much else like directing hive business; it’s all up to worker bees who can, if they decide that she is too old or injured, even choose to brutally murder the queen. They do that by collectively forming a ball with their bodies around her and then buzzing their wings until she dies from overheating. They execute other insects as well by balling, like wasps, when one seems to be threatening the hive.
It’s fall season now and enough honey was collected to ensure the survival of the hive through the cold winter months. Worker bees will soon close off the hive, take turns softly buzzing to keep the temperature of the hive up, and eat sweet sweet honey they worked so hard to collect and store. The hive takes care of their own— well, except for the drones who have outlived their usefulness. The hive doesn’t want to spare enough honey to keep the males fed through the winter, so around this time of the year they all get dragged outside of the hive and not let back in until they starve to death. Sorry, brones! They’ll simply make more of you next year.
Bees are awesome, fascinating, amazing creatures that my friend says she’s still learning about, even years later. Please, protect them and don’t be scared of them, as they won’t sting you unless you threaten them. If you’re going to plant flowers, plant ones that local bees like. And if you’re going to be a bee, be a worker bee. Trust me.