17 Random Facts About Honeybees

July 9, 2008 at 3:36 pm 18 comments


As part of my new beekeeper duties, I recently attended a very informative workshop on beekeeping.  The presenter, Jim Bobb, president of Pennsylvania State Beekeepers Association, really knew his bees, and I could hardly keep up with my note taking.  I thought you might be find one or two interesting.  Here are the snippets of what I could jot down:

#1 – A single hive can have 50,000 to 60,000 worker bees in it at summer’s peak.  In addition, there are about 800 drones and 1 queen.

#2 – In the honeybee world, females do all the work

#3 – Worker honeybees live on average for 35-42 days during the summer before literally     falling over with exhaustion.  In contrast, they live up to 4 months during the winter when they stay in the hive most days.  The queen, however, can leave for 2-3 years since she very rarely flies. 

#4 – A hive needs about 60 pounds of honey to get through the winter.  Any less and they’ll starve.  For hives that are being kept by humans, they usually produce about 120 pounds of honey during the summer so we get half the fruits of their labors.

#5 – Feathery hairs on a worker bee are what actually gather the pollen.  This pollen then gets pushed back by the bee’s legs into a “pollen basket” on one of their back legs. 

#6 – Bees have 5 eyes: two big ones like us, but then three little ones on the top of the head to help them fly straight.

#7 – Bees can’t see red.  To bees, red looks like black.  As such, honeybees won’t go to a purely red flower.

#8 – Scouts go out and literally choose what to pollinate.  If a scout picks a patch of clover and tells the worker bees to go collect it, those worker bees won’t be put off course no matter how many sumptuous flowers they fly over.  

#9 – Bees are actually somewhat picky eaters.  They will eventually pollinate just about every flower available to them, but they start with their favorites (salvia) and leave their least favorites until last (pears).

#10 – There are over 30,000 species of bees in the world.

In flight

#11 – It takes about 21 days for a new bee to go from the egg stage to working in the hive.

#12 – In the bees’ diet, pollen is protein (fed to the larva only) and nectar is sugar (fed to both adults and larva).  In case you’re curious, honey is nearly all nectar, although some pollen does appear in small amounts.

#13 – 96 degrees Fahrenheit is bee utopia.  

#14 – Hives “split” by swarming, taking about 75% of the worker bees and the original queen to a new location.  The remaining hive has a queen larva and lots of worker eggs ready to hatch so the hive can re-establish itself.  This splitting process is a natural means for reproducing the overall bee population.  If a hive has split during the summer, be careful not to harvest too much of its honey as the old population that took off for new ground gorged themselves on honey before they left, diminishing the amount stored up.

#15 – 3/8 of an inch, known as “bee space”, is the exact amount of space bees like to have between their honeycombs. 

#16 – The drones, or males, only have one purpose in life: to mate with the queen.  Few of them ever get to do such and those that do immediately die after completing their mission. 

#17 – There is a little-known alternative treatment for severe arthritis and MS called apiatherapy.  This treatment, developed by Dr. Charles Mraz, involves purposefully stinging the patient with bees a few times a week in an area where they wish to stimulate nerves and relieve pain.  It is proven to work dramatically on some patients.  The “venom” in the bee’s stinger triggers weakened nerves and joints.

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18 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Tammy  |  July 9, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Isn’t that interesting. I think the females do all the work in the human world too. haha.

  • 2. Mary  |  July 9, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    I learned at an herb fair this summer from a beekeeper that I bought some local honey from that the boy bees not only sit around and only have sex for their entire lives, but in the wintertime they get kicked out of the hive. So if you get a hive in the winter there won’t be any boy bees in it.
    I thought that was pretty interesting. Thanks for all the other interesting facts!

  • 3. Rachel  |  July 12, 2008 at 9:42 am

    We just watched Bee Movie last night. Some of these facts came across in the movie, but mostly…they didn’t. Very cute movie, though and interesting post.

  • 4. Jennie  |  July 12, 2008 at 11:40 am

    Rachel – Bee Movie, while cute, is full of inaccuracy when it comes to bees. Males would NEVER be going out to collect pollen, among other things. 🙂

  • 5. Madeline  |  July 15, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    That is so interesting. I never really paid much attention to bees until I noticed there seemed to be a lack of them. Ever since, I’ve been reading into them. Wonderful little creatures they are.

  • 6. stanley Jenereski  |  July 22, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Excellent Info….

    I would like to start off by the following statement but with a few question, that follow the posted link

    The Honey Bee has given so much to Mankind but what has Mankind given back?

    But first please read the following link by the USDA.


    If bees fly approx 2 to 3 miles to obtain Pollen then why do professional beekeepers put bees in residential areas? How does this affect the farmers yield?

    Does this not put the bees (Home spray materials, etc.) and some of the general public at risk? Please read the link.

    If we speak of food reserves then how does a residential area help the food reserves? I was under the impression the farmers provide the yield. Granted, the victory gardens are great but do they really produce enough food to offset the spraying ( The bee kills) that the general public is brainwashed to do and in some cases required?

    Should not the bees be moved to a farm or to a grower?

    Drive in the country and look at the Farms or Orchards and see how many hives could be place upon these locations.

    What controls does the Beekeeper work under? Does anyone from the Government look after the health of the bees?

    What controls are there in the honey production by the Department for Food and Drug? To my knowledge there are none.

    In closing the same old question I ask over and over again, which no one can answer!!

    Ask your local Beekeeper

    The Honey Bee has given so much to Mankind but what has Mankind given back?

  • 7. stanley  |  July 25, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    now for the rest of the story

    Source: http://www.medicinenet.com/

    Stinging Insect Allergies
    (Bee Stings, Wasp Stings, Others)
    What are stinging insects?
    Who is at risk?
    What types of insect sting reactions occur?
    How is a severe allergic reaction immediately treated?
    How can I avoid insect stings?
    What can I do about becoming immune to insect allergy?
    Stinging Insect Allergies At A Glance
    What are stinging insects?

    The majority of stinging insects in the United States are from Bees, Yellow Jackets, Hornets, Wasps and Fire Ants. Except for fire ants all of these insects are found throughout the United States. Fire ants are at this time found only in the southeastern United States.

    Who is at risk?

    Over 2 million Americans are allergic to stinging insects. The degree of allergy varies widely. Most people are not allergic to insect stings and most insect stings result in only local itching and swelling. Many, however, will have severe allergic reactions. 50 to 150 deaths occur each year from these stings, and up to a million hospital visits result form insect stings. If you are known to be allergic to insect stings, then the next sting is 60% likely to be similar or worse than the previous sting. Since most stings occurring in the summer and fall, you are at greatest risk during these months.

    What types of insect sting reactions occur?

    Most insect sting reactions are not allergic and result in local pain, itching, swelling and redness at the site of the sting. Some extension of the swelling is expected. Local treatment is usually all that is needed for this type of reaction. Disinfect the area, keep clean and apply ice. If the swelling increases antihistamines and possibly steroids may be needed. Occasionally, the site will become infected and antibiotics are needed. Large local non allergic reactions (occurring 10% of the time) are often alarming and can persist for days. This is usually not a cause for concern and are best treated as above.

    The most serious reaction is the allergic reaction. The allergic reaction to insect sting varies from person to person. The most serious is called anaphylaxis and as indicated above can be fatal. Severe reactions are suspected if a person experiences hives and intense itching at sites other than the sting site. Difficulty breathing, swallowing, hoarseness, swelling of the tongue, dizziness and fainting are signs of a severe allergic reaction. These types of reactions usually occur within minutes of the sting, but have been known to be delayed for up to 24 hours. Prompt treatment is essential and emergency help is often needed.

    How is a severe allergic reaction immediately treated?

    Honey bees stingers are barbed stingers which are left behind in the person’s skin and then the bee dies- a bee sacrifice! If the stinger is removed by pinching the stinger, more venom is injected into the skin. It is better to remove the stinger by gently lifting the stinger using a finger nail or knife edge to ‘flick’ the stinger out of the skin. Other stinging insects do not leave stingers behind and this technique does not apply.

    An allergic reaction is treated with epinephrine (adrenaline). Several self-injectable devices are available by prescription including Epi-Pen, ANA-Kit, and others. These devices are filled with the epinephrine to be injected in to the subcutaneous tissue or muscle, preferably into the front of the thigh. These self-injected devices usually contain only one dose and, on occasion, more than one dose is needed. Venom extractors are commercially available, but they have not been demonstrated to have any benefit.

    If a serious sting occurs medical attention can be necessary, even if epinephrine is used and all seems stable! The allergic reaction can subsequently progress and become more serious after epinephrine has worn off. Sometimes epinephrine is not enough and intravenous fluids or other treatment is needed. If you are known to be seriously allergic to insects you must remember to carry the epinephrine at all times especially when out of reach of medical care (such as in the woods or even on an airplane). If epinephrine is not available when you are stung, contact a doctor as soon as possible. In addition to epinephrine, an oral dose of antihistamine (like Benadryl) can reduce the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Antihistamines take effect in about one hour. Ultimately, however, it is crucial to first avoid the sting, so such treatment isn’t necessary!

    How can I avoid insect stings?

    Obviously the best treatment is avoiding the insect sting. Certain precautionary measures will greatly decrease your chances of being stung. Honey bees are not aggressive and will usually not sting unless disturbed or injured. The majority of honey bee stings are on the bottom of the bare foot while stepping on the bee. Avoid walking bare foot on lawns where honey bees forage on succulent clover. Yellow jackets nest in the ground and in walls. Caution is used with unusual forms in walls and mound in the ground. Hornets and wasps often nest in bushes, trees and under roofs. Use caution too in these areas and in selecting employment requiring exposure to these conditions. Bright colors attract insects seeking nectar. Stinging insects are attracted to food and strong smells. Avoid open food as in garbage cans, dumps and open picnic areas. Do not wear perfumes, hair sprays, and colognes.

    It is interesting that bees find black color very irritating and blue is comforting to them. Remember this when selecting your summer bathing attire. If you think that insect repellent of any kind is effective in repelling these stinging insect you are mistaken and in fact may attract them. Please do no use except for reasons other than to avoid stinging insects.

    What can I do about becoming immune to insect allergy?

    All persons who have had a significant reaction to a stinging insect should be evaluated by an allergy specialist for possible venom immunotherapy (allergy shots that develop an immunity to insect allergy). If indicated by a well recognized protocol, selected patients with significant sensitivity and specific symptoms should undergo allergy injection therapy for stinging insect allergy. Not all patients who have stinging insect reactions should get allergy shots, but many should. Allergy immunotherapy against stinging insects in these selected patients is almost 100% effective. This type of treatment usually involves gradual twice weekly increase in the venom dose over 10-20 weeks. At this dosage level (achieved by 90% of patients) a “maintenance” dosage every 4-8 weeks is given. After approximately 5 years reevaluation discontinuation of the venom shot is considered. The risk of severe adverse reactions from this venom therapy is minimal ( less than 0.2%) and to date no deaths have been reported.

    Knowledge in the field of stinging insect allergy has expanded greatly in the last 10 years and will likely continue to do so.

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the following:

    Avoid disturbing likely beehive sites, such as large trees, tree stumps, logs and large rocks.
    If a colony is disturbed, run and find cover as soon as possible. Running in zigzag pattern may be helpful.
    Never stand still or crawl into a hole or other space with no way out.
    Do not slap at the bees.
    Cover as much of the head and face as possible, without obscuring vision, while running.
    Once clear of the bees, remove stingers and seek medical care if necessary, especially if there is a history of allergy to bee venom.
    Stinging Insect Allergies At A Glance
    Severity of reactions to stings varies greatly.
    Avoidance and prompt treatment are essential.
    In selected cases, allergy injection therapy is highly effective.
    The three “A’s” of insect allergy are Adrenaline, Avoidance and Allergist.

    Last Editorial Review: 4/16/2002

    © 2008 MedicineNet, Inc. All rights reserved.
    MedicineNet does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information

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  • 8. stanley  |  July 28, 2008 at 9:08 am

    Two more health Notes to be aware of

    1. Do Not give honey to children under the age of 1 year.

    2. Honey should not be given to elders who suffer from Sugar Diabetes

  • 9. melissa  |  July 28, 2008 at 10:17 am

    thanks loved the website good new i love bees

  • 10. jafara  |  September 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    um, the women should not be doin all the world. Those men need to get up and do something!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • 11. Anonymous  |  June 5, 2012 at 3:39 pm


  • 12. bob  |  August 18, 2010 at 7:31 am

    @ stanley Humankind has given bees habitat, hives, and acres upon acres of fields and orchards to feed and grow upon! The benefit goes both ways.

    I have a different issue – during the last few weeks, honeybees have been stinging me randomly, or that’s the way it seems. We have two hives in the yard, well away from the house or my upper garden. And when they’re busy with flowers, they never bother me. But lately it’s been a bit strange – I’ll be out on the balcony or the upper garden (nowhere near the hives) and a honeybee will start flying in circles around me. That in itself is odd for a honeybee. I wave it away, it comes back, and if I let it land, it stings me. Once was in the evening, we were eating dinner on the balcony and one came and flew around the light, doing several swoops down. My friend said “don’t worry, it’s a honeybee, it won’t do anything.” 30 seconds later it landed on my arm and stung me. (It really was a honeybee, and was lying dead on the ground after I brushed it off, its stinger was still on my arm.) It happened another day as I was hanging laundry; one kept hanging around the house and would buzz me every time I’d go out.

    I’m wondering if it could be the perfume in some soap or shampoo I’m using that’s attracting-provoking them?

    Luckily I’m not allergic!

  • 14. Sitamshu Marahatta  |  October 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks. I was doing a school project on bees and you had a few amazing facts that will look amazing on the paper.

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  • 16. Dale Dolch  |  February 7, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    A growing number of people who suffer from allergies and not finding the relief that they want from antihistamines are turning towards allergy shots to hopefully put and end to their dreaded sneezing, wheezing, itching and misery.So exactly what are allergy shots? Allergy shots actually contain a very small amount of whatever it is that you’re allergic to. If you have multiple allergies, such as a combination of indoor and outdoor allergies, then two shots are actually given. One for the outdoor allergies and one for the indoor allergies.^

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  • 17. sumo51  |  May 30, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Very useful information indeed but i need to conform about a point on bees are bees need to travel 4 times the earth to flock 1 kilo of honey ?

    Source: Unknown Facts about Bees

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