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20 Things you may not know about bees!

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Corvus
202066.  Mon Aug 20, 2007 10:21 am Reply with quote

I keep bees!

1. There are 16,000 species. Most are solitary insects; only about 5% are social bees, the most common being the honeybee. As many as 80,000 of them colonize a single hive.
2. Bees don't mind the cold but hate damp.
3. Bees live for 60 days.
4. They spend the first 21 days of their lives in the hive.
5. They only spend the last 20-30 days of their lives flying. The queen can live for 3-5 years.
6. There are on average 30,000 - 60,000 bees in a hive.
7. Honey is a good treatment for wounds.
8. Drones - the male honeybees - live only for mating with the queen. If there is a shortage of food in the hive, the workers kick them out.
9. Australian researchers discovered that honeybees can distinguish human faces. The insects were shown black and white pictures and given treats for right answers.
10. In the Stealthy Insect Sensor Project, Los Alamos scientists have trained bees to recognize explosives.
11. The term "honeymoon" is derived from an old northern European custom in which newlyweds would consume a daily cup of mead, made with fermented honey, for a month.
12. Honey never spoils. Ever. Which is why honey in Egyptian tombs is still edible.
13. The buzz that you hear when a bee approaches is the sound of its four wings moving at 11,400 strokes per minute. Bees fly an average of 15 miles per hour.
14. A newly hatched queen immediately kills all other hatched and unhatched queens in the hive.
15. Melittosphex burmensis, recently found preserved in amber in a mine in northern Myanmar, is the oldest bee known. It lived 100 million years ago.
16. Worker bees have strictly regimented roles, including that of undertakers who drag their dead siblings from the hive.
17. On the April 1984 Challenger flight, 3,300 bees, housed in a special but confining box, adapted perfectly to zero gravity and built a a nearly normal comb. But they didn't go to the toilet. Since bees excrete only outside the hive, they held it in for seven days. A NASA spokesperson said the space hive was "just as clean as a pin."
18. When drones mate, they die afterwards from a ruptured abdomen. Sex detaches their endophallus, which gets stuck inside the queen.
19. If honeybees died out the human race would follow in 4 generations.
This is because we rely on honeybees (kept and used for the purpose) to pollinate our crops.
20. Propolis (a yellow sticky substance made from tree resin and used by the bees to block up holes and stick things together) is anaesthetic/analgesic, anti-allergen, antacid, antibiotic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-radiation, antioxidant and preservative, antiseptic, anti-tumour/cancer, antiviral and immuno-sitmulant effects. Whew!
There is more but I can't be bothered to type it!

 
bleft 01
202105.  Mon Aug 20, 2007 11:55 am Reply with quote

I have often wondered how bees manage to stay in the air, since they look far too heavy for their wings.
It seems, after a wee bit of book reading, that the answer to this question is that they fly like a helicopter. Their wings are in constant motion, which provides the lift. From their point of view the air behaves more like a viscous fluid and they create vortices down the outside of their wings which help provide motion.

Is this at all accurate, Corvus?? I hope so!

 
Corvus
202117.  Mon Aug 20, 2007 12:14 pm Reply with quote

As I understand it, yes. However I'm not an expert.

 
Curious Danny
202120.  Mon Aug 20, 2007 12:20 pm Reply with quote

If Honeybees did die out, we wouldn't die out. Many insects, animals, even the wind pollinate crops.

 
Corvus
202123.  Mon Aug 20, 2007 12:40 pm Reply with quote

Curious Danny wrote:
If Honeybees did die out, we wouldn't die out. Many insects, animals, even the wind pollinate crops.


Research that. It is considered a fact that the human race would die out if Honey Bees did. They pollinate 98% of our crops, go ask a farmer!

 
Hans Mof
202130.  Mon Aug 20, 2007 12:49 pm Reply with quote

And while you're at it ask him how the weather'll be throughout the next year. Here's what snopes has to say on the matter.

http://www.snopes.com/quotes/einstein/bees.asp

 
grizzly
202144.  Mon Aug 20, 2007 1:27 pm Reply with quote

Humanity certainly would not die out if the honey bee disappeared. That said, significant famines would be an issue in some parts of the world.

Although a large proportion of our crops are polliated by bees, not all of them are. Many of the main staple crops of the world are wind pollinated including the big 3 (maize, wheat and rice). Potatoes are grown from seed potatoes (the potatoes from plants grown in colder climates to ensure that they are more frost hardy).

Meanwhile, there are plenty of animals that feed exclusively on wind-pollinated grasses (think sheep, cows etc) and the loss of bees wouldn't effect the oceans so we would still have a supply of fish (some early humans would have used the sea as their staple of their diet, one of the reasons that humans spread out of Africa by following coastal routes).

The major losses would be in the form of fruits that will only develop when they have been fertilized by bees. These include the citrus fruits, apples etc.

Also remember that there are plenty of other animals are available to take over the role of bees. Pollination is a process done by animals ranging from butterflies and wasps to hummingbirds and bats. One would presume that at least some of these species would benefit without bees to compete with and that their numbers would increase to replace them to some degree.

 
Corvus
202190.  Mon Aug 20, 2007 2:41 pm Reply with quote

All good points but....

The end of honeybees would herald the end of civilization as we know it. The majority of the population would die out through famine and we would be forced to live like the early hunter gathers. No not all our crops are pollinated by bees nor do we rely on bees for meat but the most useful and sustaining crops are pollinated by bees. Ask yourself why The Central Science Laboratory has a large and separate unit solely for the study and health of honeybees (there isn't one for wind or bats!!!)?

 
suze
202199.  Mon Aug 20, 2007 3:19 pm Reply with quote

Some good stuff there Corvus.

The one about the etymology of the word "honeymoon" is controversial though - we went into this once before, in a thread starting at post 156305. As you'll see, the suggestion about drinking mead from a special cup is but one of several possibilities.

 
grizzly
202218.  Mon Aug 20, 2007 4:18 pm Reply with quote

I would refute the idea that civilisation would collapse. Should say a mystery virus destroy all of the world's bee population then the resulting changes would porbably be something like this.

The first thing to change would be food commodity prices. At first the most drastic increase would be in prices for bee-pollinated fruits which will disappear within a season. That will soon be followed by plants that can't be reproduced through cuttings or asexual reproduction. Prices, however, would begin to increase for other foods that can be substitutes such as wheat, maize, potatoes, rice and sugar (sugar beat and sugar cane are both tubers and wind pollinated respectively) when the other ones disappear.

Increasing prices mean several things. Firstly, the people who come off worst will be those living in poor coutries that can't compete for scarce resources. Famines would result, but only in countries like India and even here it wouldn't be a total disaster as many people are reliant on staples that wont be affected. In the worst affected areas the response will be migration, in large numbers, which could create some major conflicts (India and Pakistan likely being countries that would be badly hit could be provoked into war).

Another effect will be on agriculture in western countries. Fruit farmers will soon go out of business with large areas of land going out of use. Poverty will be an issue that will require government intervention but there would also be opportunities. Just as politicians talk about energy security today, they would begin talking about food security. The land currently devoted to now dead crops will be quickly changed, with large financial rewards due to the high food prices.

The final effects though, would be changes in ecosystems. These would be swift but also take tens of thousands of years to reach their conclusion. Bees have been around almost as long as flowers so such a change now would be new territory. Many plants and animals would soon become extinct whilst others will quickly adapt. The aims and pri of conservationists would have to be rethought. The next few thousands and millions of years though would see amazing changes in plants and animals that evolve to deal with the new environment. Even human evolution would be effected.

However, it is the process of change that is the costliest process. It wouldn't IMO be such a disaster that it would destroy human civilisation.

 
dr.bob
202323.  Tue Aug 21, 2007 3:30 am Reply with quote

Corvus wrote:
3. Bees live for 60 days.
4. They spend the first 21 days of their lives in the hive.
5. They only spend the last 20-30 days of their lives flying.


Doesn't this imply that they spend a minimum of 9 days outside the hive but not flying? Do they take brisk walks, or something? :)

Corvus wrote:
12. Honey never spoils. Ever.


Well, yeah. The osmotic pressure would be so outrageously high, nothing could ever survive in it.

 
Curious Danny
202603.  Tue Aug 21, 2007 12:58 pm Reply with quote

Corvus wrote:
Curious Danny wrote:
If Honeybees did die out, we wouldn't die out. Many insects, animals, even the wind pollinate crops.


Research that. It is considered a fact that the human race would die out if Honey Bees did. They pollinate 98% of our crops, go ask a farmer!


Surely there is more than one type of bee that pollinates crops?
Honey is a great loss (Winnie the Pooh will be heartbroken) but more than one type of bee must pollinate crops. They are not native to the western hemisphere so surely the Indians managed to survive not having honeybees in their agriculture?

 
costean
202677.  Tue Aug 21, 2007 3:14 pm Reply with quote

Curious Danny wrote:
Surely there is more than one type of bee that pollinates crops? Honey is a great loss (Winnie the Pooh will be heartbroken) but more than one type of bee must pollinate crops. They are not native to the western hemisphere so surely the Indians managed to survive not having honeybees in their agriculture?

Yup, Danny - about 20,000 different species. As opposed to seven species of true honeybee and a hundred or so similar closely related species.

There were no honeybees in North America before European settlers introduced them. The indigenous bees are known as pollen bees and happily fulfil all the functions of the honeybee except for producing honey. All native North American flora is ideally adapted to survive in the absence of honeybees.

Pollen bees have adapted to all environments, on all continents, except Antarctica. If honeybees died out pollen bees could be managed (as indeed some already are) to act as pollinators.

Honeybees have only been used as pollinators on a large managed scale since the 1950s; farming (and nature) chugged along quite happily before then.

A complete absence of honeybees would certainly mean changes in the short term but would really have little or no longer term impact.

S:
A quite interesting article on bees
http://www.pollinatorparadise.com/Solitary_Bees/Diversfy.htm

 
npower1
202698.  Tue Aug 21, 2007 5:56 pm Reply with quote

Recently there have been reports of large scale loss of hives in the USA. (I think I saw that the latest suggested reason is a fungus?) You have also mentioned 'large managed scale'. This suggests that honeybees are now an industrial process, not a part of nature that comes 'as is'.
Any comments on the latest 'crisis' in the USA? e.g is Europe affected?

 
costean
202997.  Wed Aug 22, 2007 3:37 pm Reply with quote

Yes, this loss of hives is known as colony collapse disorder (CCD). It has been seen in Britain and other parts of Europe. Nobody really seems to know what causes it, but it has been recorded in varying forms for over a hundred years. This (well referenced) wiki article gives plenty of info about it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_Collapse_Disorder

The point about honeybees being part of an industrial process is a good one. Industrial scale food production removes the vast majority of wildlife (bad and good) and the introduction of honeybees as pollinators on a mass scale is a reaction to the lack of natural pollinators. It is reckoned that there are no (pure bred) native honeybees left in Britain, and the only ones in the wild are those ‘domesticated’ honeybees which have swarmed and ‘gone native’.

 

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