Honeybees are so misunderstood. People scream and swat at them whenever they pleasantly fly by. And yet, most people know that honeybees are crucial to agriculture and that a decrease in the number of honeybees would be a global disaster. Once you learn about them, bees are quite incredible little creatures.
Interesting Facts about Honey Bees
- They beat their wings about 200 times per second!
- If the queen bee dies, the workers will create a new queen by feeding newly hatched baby insects “royal jelly” which makes the larva develop into a fertile queen!
- They have 170 odorant receptors! Their sense of smell enables them to recognize different plants and communicate with the hive.
- The queen will live up to 5 years and produce 2,500 eggs a day!
- The worker bees, on the other hand, literally work themselves to death and rarely live longer than 6 weeks.
- The average bee will only make 1/12th teaspoon of honey in their whole lifetime!
- Bee stings may ease rheumatoid arthritis pain. The venom increases your body’s level of glucocorticoid which is an anti-inflammatory hormone.
- Bees are “programmed” to do certain jobs. Scout bees: search for new food sources. Soldier bees: are the security guards. Undertakers: remove dead bees from the hive and the regular honeybees will perform many jobs in their life and each new “job” requires a change in their brain chemistry!
- When older bees do the jobs of typically younger bees, their brain age literally reverses. Imagine if crawling like a baby literally reversed the aging of your brain? Scientists are trying to use this information to find ways to slow dementia.
- Bees pollinate over $20 billion worth of crops each year.
Colony Collapse Disorder
In recent winters, beekeepers have started to notice unusually high losses of 30-90% of their hives. Colony worker bees were disappearing. This became known as “colony collapse disorder”: bees will leave their hives and never return. But, why?
Glyphosate commonly found in Roundup is the most commonly used herbicide ever. While it does what it is intended to do: kill things, sometimes it ends up killing the good stuff. In this case, it kills honeybees. Roundup damages a beneficial enzyme in bee guts which makes the bee more susceptible to fatal infections. In one study, researchers painted colored dots on the backs of hundreds of worker bees and exposed them to glyphosate levels. After only 3 days, the gut microbiota of the bees was severely damaged. In addition, adult bees that were exposed to glyphosate experienced cognitive impairments which prevented them from returning to their hives.
As higher levels of glyphosate plague our fields, we can expect the bee problem to get worse. Fewer bees mean a huge global economic cost including lower crop yields and increased production costs.