They are associated with hard work and honey. Some people fear them and others are allergic, but they help keep the world running. Without bees, the Earth would be a much different place. Unfortunately, several species around the world are going extinct, and we don’t always know why. Today we will explore some interesting things I’ve found about bees.
They keep us alive.
Various species of bees pollinate seventy-five percent of the world’s plants, including thirty-five percent of our important food crops. They support the production of eighty-seven of the world’s crops. Without bees, we would be a lot of trouble.
Their venom is used in medicine.
A substance in bee venom known as melittin has antibiotic properties and may be used to treat MRSA infections in the future. It is currently used to treat cancer, chronic pain, inflammation, and allergies, and it may someday be used to treat HIV/AIDS.
They are threatened by colony collapse disorder.
Colony collapse disorder occurs when the worker bees in a hive vanish and leave the queen behind. She can only survive so long without workers and eventually the hive dies. Though it is still a major concern, numbers of colony collapse disorder have dropped since the mid-2000s. There are many ideas as to why the disorder occurs, primarily the introduction of insect diseases and pollution by pesticides. However, it is still a major mystery.
Killer bees were blown out of proportion by the media.
They are officially known as Africanized bees, having sprung from a hybridization of African and European honey bees in Brazil in the 1950s. Since that decade there have been around 1,000 human deaths due to the aggressive behavior of the bees. However, this is dwarfed by the number of people killed by mosquitos every year. Though they have moved into the southern United States, they are not the threatening mob the media made them out to be. The biggest threat from Africanized bees is to the honey industry, and they are considered pests wherever they are found.
Some bugs imitate them in the wild.
Many species of hover fly, bee fly, and certain butterflies mimic not only the looks of bees, but also their behavior. They are often pollinator species who work in tandem with bees. The reason for this convincing mimicry is to make them unappetizing to insect-hunting predators, such as birds.
They are shipped by truck.
At least this happens where the author lives. Beehives are loaded onto flatbed semi trailers and covered in netting, though this doesn’t always stop the bees from getting out. Work bees tend to fly around the truck, pollinating flowers along the road as they go. Though some may be lost along the way, most seem to find their way back to the proper hive. You can always tell a designated shipping day when the guys at the California inspection stations meet you in bee gear.
They once caused a wildfire.
A southern California wildfire in the 2010s was ignited by a beehive. The natural hive had compromised the inside of a dead tree trunk and it fell onto live electrical wires. The wires arced and caused a raging wildfire, which burned several homes in the area.
One of the largest natural beehives in existence was found in Texas.
I was unable to find a record for natural beehives in general. However, one of the largest ever found by bee removers was located in the walls of a house near Houston, Texas. This hive was 20 feet high, with an estimated population of 200,000 to 500,000 honey bees.
The idea that bumblebees’ wings are too short to fly is a myth.
A bunch of nerdy physicists figured out the mystery of bumblebee flight in the early 2000s. Apparently they flap their winds and create an air vortex, which lifts them and keeps them in the air. It’s all pretty complicated and I won’t explain it all here without boring you to death. Just know that bumblebees are the physics geniuses of the bee world.
They die when they sting you.
At least when honey bees sting mammals. Mammal skin is thick and often catches the stinger. The only way for the bee to escape is to pull out its stinger, which pulls out its guts as well. They end up sacrificing their lives to protect the hive. Interestingly enough, only female honey bees can sting.
Early one summer morning, I was down near one of the feeder creeks to Mono Lake when I happened to find a large beehive in a cottonwood tree. It was still pretty cold and the bees were not active yet, so I stuck my head in the large opening of the hive to look around. The walls were lined on all sides by bees, who were buzzing softly as they fluttered their wings, creating heat to keep the hive warm. It was maybe 45 degrees outside, but more like 90 inside the hive. This was a fascinating experience that I will never forget.
Live Kindly- www.livekindly.com
Urban Beekeeping Lab- www.urbanbeelab.org
Environmental Protection Agency- www.epa.gov
Smithsonian Institution- www.si.edu
North Dakota State University- www.ndsu.edu
Houston Chronicle- www.chron.com
Animal Dynamics- www.animal-dynamics.com