Facts about Honeybees

The honey bee is also known as Apis mellifera.  Apis is a very old word probably with Egyptian roots, but is also related to the Greek word for ‘swarm’.  Mellifera means ‘honey-bearing’ in Latin.
Only female honeybees can sting, the males (drones) are not able to sting, but if you are stung it will probably be by a worker.  Queen honeybees can sting, but as they rarely leave the hive a sting from a honeybee queen is very rare.
If the queen honeybee is removed from the hive, within 15 minutes, the rest of the colony knows about it!
A typical active honeybee colony may have around 50,000 workers but could vary between 20,000 – 60,000.  
Male honeybees (drones) have no father, but they do have a grandfather!
The queen honeybee can be about twice the length of a worker.
A honeybee queen may lay as many as 2000 – 3000 eggs per day as she establishes her colony.
Honeybees communicate through pheromones.
Drones (male honeybees) die after mating. Poor things! 
Foraging honeybees have to fly about 55,000 miles to produce a pound of honey, visiting around 2 million flowers.
Honeybees may typically fly between 1 – 6 km on a foraging trip but can fly up to 13.5 km.
Honeybees fly up to 15 mph and beat their wings 200 times per second or 12,000 beats per minute!
Each honeybee makes about 1 twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
The honeybee is the only insect that produces a food (honey) eaten by man in any significant quantity.
Honeybees use their front feet, tongue, jaw and antennae to taste with!
The antennae on honey bees are very sensitive and important for tasting things.  The tips of the antennae have more than 300 taste sensors!
Honeybees, along with other bee species, are believed to be descendants of wasps.
The honeybee is one of the most scientifically studied creatures in the world after man! 
Honeybees belong to the insect order Hymenoptera which they share with other bees, wasps, ants and sawflies.
Scent is important for bees.  A study has found that bees are better at learning new odours (smells) in the morning.
Honeybees eat nectar and pollen, but there are times when food is scarce, and they may eat insect secretions.  They are also known to eat a little fruit, such as plums and grapes.
Honeybee queens normally live for at least 2 years, but can live up to 5, whilst drones live for 55 days on average, and worker honeybees raised in the Spring may only live 6 or 7 weeks (those raised in the autumn may live 4 – 6 months).
The hexagon structure of honeycombs enables bees to make efficient use of beeswax, and guards against wastage!
The ‘Waggle Dance‘ or ‘honey bee dance enables worker honeybees to inform their sisters about great locations of food and water, or a new home.
Like other bees, honey bees cannot see the colour red. However, they may visit red flowers because they are able to see the U.V. patterns in the flowers.

As with other types of bees, honey bees have 5 eyes: 3 simple eyes on top of its head, and 2 compound eyes, with numerous hexagonal facets.
Honeybees have hairy eyes
Honeybees can account for up to 80% of crop pollination. They actively pollinating at least somewhere during every month of the year!
To keep warm in winter, honeybees huddle together in a winter cluster.
Honeybees are often thought of as living in wooden beehives made by humans, but in fact a honey bee colony in the wild will naturally choose to build a nest in cavities, such as a tree hollow or cave – or around homes including an unused chimney.
Honeybee activity is dependent on temperature, rather than the seasons as is the case with other bee species. 

Honeybees are most active between 60 – 100 °F (15 – 37 °C), although they can forage in temperatures as low as 55 °F (12 °C).  
Scientists have studied honeybees, and have learned that honey bees sleep.

The honeybee’s brain is about the size of a tiny grain of sugar, but researchers have found that it is surprisingly sophisticated.  Specifically, honeybees can understand conceptual relationships such as “same/different” and “above/below” that rely on relationships between objects rather than simply the physical features of objects.
Scientists have discovered that honeybees are able to ‘vote’ when making decisions about where the colony should create a new nest site!  Female ‘scout bees’ fly out to look for potential sites, and report back to the colony, using the famous waggle dance to inform the rest of the colony about the location of the nest – and the better the potential site, the more enthusiastically the scout bee dances!   If other worker bees like the potential nest site, they begin imitating the dance, until eventually a ‘critical mass’ has been achieved, with enough worker bees in agreement about the new nest site such that a decision is made.
Honeybees have been trained to act as bomb detectors!  Scientists have trained honeybees to react to minute amounts of chemicals found in explosives.  Trainers reward honeybees with sugar water when they correctly sense a particular explosive compound, such that the bees automatically stick out their tongues in expectation of a reward when they correctly sense the compound!
By digitally reconstructing the complete brain of the European honeybee researchers hope to one day create an autonomous flying robot that thinks, senses, and acts like the sophisticated pollinator!
Honeybees can be trained to detect illnesses in humans.
Honeybees have been around longer than humans with fossil evidence from 150 million years ago!
The earliest form of chemical warfare probably dates back to Turkey in 65 BC, and honey bees had a role in it, by producing toxic honey (or ‘mad honey’) after foraging on a certain plant.
Different countries have kept bees in different ways.  In Europe, people kept bees in straw baskets called skeps, or even in tree trunks adapted for the purpose.  In parts of the Mediterranean and Middle East, clay jars were used.
The ancient Egyptians and other civilisations used honey as food and medicine.  It was also used in offerings and for embalming the dead. Beeswax was used in magic rites, for preserving and also in medicine. Today honey is believed to have a multitude of health benefits.
The royal bees were required to be officially informed of the death of Queen Elizabeth II in 2022.  The beekeeper to King Charles II of England said:  “The bee is an exquisite chemist“.
Humans have been seeking out bees for honey for a long time! Mesolithic rock-paintings in caves near Valencia, Spain, show honey hunters at work. These paintings are believed to date back 6,000 years.
It wasn’t until 1586 that it was recognized that the head of the honeybee colony is a female queen. This news was popularized by Charles Butler (the ‘Father of English Beekeeping’) in his book ‘The Feminine Monarchie’ in 1609. Prior to that, it was assumed the head of the colony must be a male – a ‘king’. Even William Shakespeare, in Henry V, refers to honeybees living in a kingdom, with a king as ruler.
Honey can be fermented to make a type of wine, called mead’. The earliest evidence for the production of mead is from Northern China, and dates to back to about 7000 BC.
In 1791, during the French Revolution, the government demanded a record of all beehives. Honey was used as a source of tax revenue. Many beekeepers who did not wish to pay more tax, destroyed their hives.
Honey has long been mentioned in religious holy books, and even used in religious ceremonies and symbolism.
When the fictional character, Sherlock Holmes retired to the Sussex Downs he became a beekeeper.  There is even a group called “The Retired Beekeepers” in England who are actually an international group of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts.
Honey is loved by fictional characters Yogi bear, Winnie the Pooh and not forgetting the Sugar Puffs Honey Monster!