Top 10 Fascinating Bee Facts I've Learned as A Beginning Beekeeper

When we adopted a hive of rescued bees last year, I couldn't wait for the honey.  How soon do we harvest?  When can we open the hive?  But the longer we've had honeybees in our backyard, the more I have become fascinated with them:  they're tiny creatures that are organized and super vulnerable, delicate and beautiful, industrious but humble.  

I've listed the "Top 10 Fascinating Bee Facts I've Learned as Beginning Beekeeper" because there's more to bees than just honey.  These are facts we've gleaned from Deb Conway, the owner of GirlzWurk, while she tells us stories and does seasonal inspections of our hives.  

And now...the weird and wonderful facts I've learned about bees:

A queen bee is a queen.  But she is also a warrior… and a bento box.

  • A queen bee’s first job after being born is to kill the other baby queens in the hive.  Only one queen can survive in a hive.  She will tear apart egg cells and sting unborn queens until only one survivor is left.  In the picture above, there are about 6 queen cells, can you spot them?  (Hint: they look like peanuts).
  • After her mating flight, a queen stores sperm and eggs in separate compartments (like a bento box).  When she lays eggs, she can decide whether it will be a girl (sperm & egg) or a boy (just her egg). 
  • A queen bee's job is to lay 1,500 – 3,000 eggs a day.  One of our chickens lays about 200 eggs a year.  A queen bee does 150 times that much in a day.

A worker bee is always a girl.  The worker bees run the hive, not the queen. 

  • 99% of the hive is girls.  And they're all sisters!  They build the comb, feed the babies, clean the hive, create food, gather nectar / pollen / resins, guard the hive, cool the hive down, heat it up, and protect and feed the queen.  They're pretty amazing.
  • Each day of their life, worker bees have a specific role in the hive: nurse, guard bee, undertaker, forager. More on this in a couple of weeks...  
  • Worker bees determine when it is time for a new queen.  The queen does not decide this. 

To raise up a new queen, worker bees feed a female baby bee royal jelly until it's ready to hatch.   Raised on this super food, she grows to be the biggest bee in the hive, almost twice the size of a regular female worker bee.  Then, a huge cell (seen above), is built around this mega bee as she grows so she has a royal room worthy of her queenliness. 

  • Royal jelly is placed by the workers to tell the queen where to lay the eggs.  Ultimately, the queen's daughters decide where the babies bees are born and in which cells.

Drones are boys that never leave their mom’s house… except to go out and mate.

  • Drones are built for one thing, chasing after a queen to mate.  The rest of the time, they're really clumsy and hilarious.  In the video above, you'll see a drone crash head first into the hive and skid on its bottom before falling off the landing deck (:24) and another knock a girl out of the air as it takes off (:44).
  • Drones look like flying sausages, don’t gather food, don't do work, and are fed by mouth.   They only leave the hive to hang out with other guy bees and wait to mate with a new queen.  
  • When winter comes, drones are dragged out of the hive and left to die.  Literally dragged.  Drones take up too much food for a hive trying to survive on limited stores of honey.  I have seen their tiny sisters haul their large brothers out and drop them off the edge of the hive.  Yikes!

So there you go, 10 reasons bees are a lot more interesting than honey.  Not that I'm going to stop waiting for that honey, though.  




Aislin GibsonComment