Bee Myths

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I like movies.  To me, a good day is just relaxing on the couch and watching Now You See Me or Pirates of the Caribbean for the umpteenth time, but deep down I know that a lot of what I see isn’t physically possible.  Like, beyond the zombie pirates, I mean.  Unfortunately the truth isn’t aways passed down in everything we see or hear, so as we grow up often times there are many myths we need to set straight.  Well here are some bee truths to get you back into the right direction.

First off, not all bees make honey.  Of the rough 20,000 species of bees, only honey bees and stingless bees make enough for it to even be worth gathering from them.  To give you some numbers though, there aren’t even ten species of honey bees and under 450 species of stingless honey bees.  Bumble bees can produce one or two teaspoons in their nests, but there are only about 260 species of them, which ultimately means only about 5% of bee species make honey.

Now that last paragraph might have hinted at this, but not all bees sting either.  To open, a stinger’s primarily used for laying eggs, so just to begin only female bees actually even have one.  Of them however, there are many species that simply don’t have it.  For most though, the sting apparatus is still present and simply doesn’t function, but for others it has simply disappeared.

Next, dispute the picture we all have in our head, bees tend not to live in complex societies.  This image however, is likely composed from honey and stingless bees who do in fact have a complex division of labor.  In additions to queens and workers, that second job is often specialized and split into many different tasks including ejecting the dead or defending the nest.  For the most part though, bees societies are much smaller and much simpler, and usually only last for the summer.  Bumble bees and some sweat bees fro instance are some of the short lived groupings, but most bees are solitary.  One female makes her nest, collects food for her offspring, lays her egg and then repeats the cycle.  The only times these bees interact with each other is to mate or lay eggs, and this accounts for about 90% of all species.

Next, not all bees live in hives either.  Only the most advanced social bees live there, and seeing how we just established most bees are solitary, it’d be a ridiculous amount of unnecessary work.  Typically, bees nest in burrows in the ground or make their nests in abandoned beetle burrows, left in wood or pithy stems.  Others still make their homes from mud or place their brood cells on hard surfaces.

How often have you heard the phrase “as busy as a bee”?  Well that’s something that only really applies to honey, bumble and stingless honey bee workers.  Aside from them, males and females do either little or no work in the nest, and most female solitary bees might only work for a couple of weeks.  Others do nest construction but collect no food, while others just lay their eggs in the nest of other bees.  Finally, there are parasitic bees as well, who invade the nests of social bees and replace the queen, then use her daughters as salves to rear their own.

What are some popular bee myths you’ve heard?

For a continued reading on the matter, click here to view the Reader’s Digest article in its entirety.

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