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Bee keeping in Barnsley, South Yorkshire

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Facts & Tips - Bee Trivia

For many of us, honey bees are amazing creatures. Even for the most experienced beekeeper there is always something new to learn about bees.

Below is a “snap shot” of facts about honey bees. All of these facts are available on the wider world wide web; some having been gleaned from scientific papers whilst others are simply commonly know facts.

A typical colony of honey bees will consist of between 30,000 and 60,000 bees (half of this in winter)

Most of the bees in a colony are worker bees, which are female and do all the work

The male bee (the drone), of which around 500-1000 may exist in the hive during the summer, does no work other than mate with the queen bee. Their life may seem one of pure satisfaction however they meet an untimely end – either dying after mating (the endophalus is gripped by the queen which causes the drone’s innards to be ripped out) or facing eviction and starvation at the end of the summer

The male bee (the drone) does not possess a sting. Only the female bees (workers and queen) possess stings. The stings are modified egg laying tubes known as ovipositors. The queen rarely uses her sting - she will use it to fight other queens and may use it against wasps

At today’s prices (circa £200 per colony), a single worker bee costs 4p

Honey bees can fly up to 22 mph in windless conditions but typically average around 15 mph

The wings of a honey bee beat up to 200 times a second. The frequency reduces with the age of the bee

A worker bee weighs around 80 mg and can carry around 70 mg of nectar

A honey bee will only make 0.42 ml of honey (1/12 of a teaspoon) in its lifetime

A honey bee will typically fly up to 3 miles to collect nectar and theoretically can travel up to 45,000 miles (almost twice around the earth) to make 1 lb of honey

It takes around 556 bees to gather 1 lb of honey

Around 2 million flowers will be visited to make 1 lb of honey

A honey bee will visit between 50 and 250 flowers on each foraging flight

In the UK, the value to agriculture of pollination by honey bees is estimated at £200 million a year (£1 billion in retail value)

A queen bee can live up to 5 or 6 years but normally only lives for around 2

The queen bee can lay up to 2500 eggs a day at the height of the season

Worker bees (the females) live for around 6 or 7 weeks during the summer months and over 6 months over the winter

A honey bee has 5 eyes (2 large compound eyes and 3 small eyes called ocelli)

A honey bee can detect movement at around 1/300th of a second compared to a human who takes around 1/50th of a second

Honey bees can’t see red. The colour range of honey bees is from yellow through to green, blue and ultra-violet

Bees can smell something a mile off. In fact, it is believed that honey bees can sense particular odours over distances of 2-3 km (1.2 – 1.8 miles). Bees can use odour to locate their own colony or a particular source of nectar. In areas of increased pollution, the “smelling distance” can be reduced to less than 200 m

The odour detecting senses of the bee are so sophisticated that the American military have been researching the bee’s ability to sniff out explosives

Honey bees are believed to have been around for 40 million years (the earliest know fossil evidence dates back 35 million years)

Humans have been “keeping” bees for nearly 2500 years

During the summer the bees can maintain a temperature in the colony of 35.5C (+/- 1.5C). During the winter the centre of the cluster [of bees] is maintained at around 20-25C with the centre never falling below 15C and the outside of the cluster never falling below 5C. When clustered during the winter, the bees continually shuffle around with the outer bees gradually working their way towards the centre

Bees can “talk”. The buzz of a bee is traditionally thought to be made by the beating wings. However, bees can also contract their flight muscles and make a buzzing sound - without moving their wings - causing air to vibrate through their spiracles (breathing tubes). It is believed that bees can communicate by modifying the tone of the buzz by controlling how air passes through the spiracles. American researchers have found that bees can modify their buzz according to specific stimuli such as particular chemicals

Foraging honey bees are able to “tell” other bees where rich sources of nectar can be found by performing a “waggle dance”. The dance appears to demonstrate the direction in relation to the sun and the distance from the hive