10 Incredible Facts About Bees

Bees live intricate, fascinating lives.

In 2018, the UN declared May 20th "World Bee Day," which means it's the perfect occasion to appreciate bees for all they do.

Bees are incredible and intelligent creatures that live shockingly complicated lives, but they're also vital to the survival of the natural world–and to the survival of humans, too. There are about 25,000 species of bees in the world (though honeybees are the best known), and each and every one helps pollinate our crops, playing a vital role in our health and survival and in the health of our global ecosystems. Here are some fascinating facts about bees' strange lives.

1. Bees' brains can age in reverse

We already knew that linear time isn't real, but bees have always been living in total defiance of time. Bees' brain chemistry is linked to the job they're doing, so when older bees start performing a task usually reserved for a younger bee, their brains actually start aging in reverse. They're just like Benjamin Button, but real. Human scientists are currently researching this process, which could potentially teach us how to reverse the effects of dementia, so maybe… Bees hold the secret to eternal life?

2. Bees' brains work like serial killers

Bees' habits have actually helped forensic researchers track serial killers due to similarities in their behavioral patterns. Bees tend to collect pollen close to their hives but far away enough so predators can't find the hive. Similarly, serial killers tend to commit crimes close to home, but far away enough that their activities can't be traced to them. Scientists have studied this "buffer zone," using it to improve computer police models that traced criminals.

3. Honeybees communicate through complicated dances and specific smells

Bees utilize an incredibly complicated system of gestures, dances, and symbolic movements to communicate with other bees. Every time a bee goes out on a mission, they have to communicate their findings to other bees, which they do using a "waggle dance" and other gestures. In 1973, zoologist Karl von Frisch won the Nobel for his book The Dance Language and Orientation of Bees, which explored the intricacies of these movements. Apparently, specific speeds and angles that correspond to the location of the sun indicate different locations that help other bees pinpoint the exact location of food. The "waggle dance" resembles an infinity symbol, and there's also a "sickle dance" that indicates the relative distance of food from the hive.

The Waggle Dance | Inside the Animal Mind | BBC www.youtube.com

Bees also communicate using odors and scents they secrete. Bees have incredible senses of smell and can differentiate between hundreds of flowers.

4. Drone bees only exist to mate

In the human world, women might frequently be objectified and viewed only as sex objects by men, but it's the exact opposite in the bee world, where male drone bees literally only exist in order to mate and die. Drones have no stingers and do no work; they just mate with the queen when it's time to do so and then (usually) immediately die. If they don't die, then they're likely to be kicked out of the hive in the winter months when food grows scarce.

5. Worker bees have different jobs depending on their ages

Bee life is incredibly precise and regimented. At 1-2 days old, worker bees clean their cells. At 3-5 days old they feed older bees. At 6-11 days old they feed younger bees. At 12-17 days, they produce wax and remove corpses from the hive (bees are fastidiously neat, it turns out). At 18-21 days, they guard hive entrances. At 22 days they graduate and spend the next twenty or so days of their lives flying around and collecting pollen.

6. Bees do a ridiculous amount of work for very little payoff

During their lifetimes, worker bees will typically fly 90,000 miles (or three times around the globe). They beat their wings around 200 times per second, and they often visit two to five thousand flowers per day. Yet it takes around 2 million flower visits to produce a single one-pound jar of honey.

7. Bees have a special place in human folklore and mythology

Bees and humans have a unique connection (or at least, humans love to project our stories onto bees).

In ancient folklore, bees were often thought of as sacred insects that had the ability to fly between the underworld and our own world. According to the Homeric Hymn of Apollo, the god Apollo received the gift of prophecy from three goddesses who had human faces but the bodies of bees.

Bees are fairly connected to goddesses and priestesses, with bees often appearing in connection with the goddess or healer archetype, and hallucinogenic honey has long been linked to higher states of consciousness.

Hunting for Hallucinogenic Honey in 360° www.youtube.com

The Celts believed that bees were messengers between realms, and they also believed that humans' souls transformed into bees during trances, thus allowing people to walk between worlds. According to Welsh folklore, it was customary for heads of families to report deaths (in whispers) to their local beehives; and during funerals, hives would always be turned around. In Egyptian mythology, bees were said to be guides that helped humans on their ways to the underworld.

Bees also seem to be intertwined with stories of creation and human development. According to the San people of the Kalahari Desert, a bee once carried a mantis across a river so it could survive. The exhausted bee planted a seed in the mantis's body and died, and the seed grew to become the first human. In many Hindu myths, bees are symbols of nirvana and fully enlightened beings are portrayed as bees perched on top of flowers.

8. Queen bees fight each other to the death—and live insane lives

There can be only one queen bee. Queen bees have incredibly powerful stingers that can be used over and over again, and rival virgin queens will use these stingers to fight each other to the death until one is victorious.

Potential queens spend their early years locked inside special cells sealed with beeswax. Before a queen is born, the old queen usually leaves with a swarm to start a new hive. When the new queen is born, she leaves the hive to mate with 12-20 drones, then lays over 2,000 eggs per day.

If a queen becomes infertile or dies prematurely, worker bees will create an "emergency queen" by flooding new larvae with royal jelly, which results in a new, albeit typically smaller and less prolific queen.

9. Bees are extremely profitable and vital to our agricultural industry

Bees add $12 to $19 billion to the agricultural industry each year just due to their pollinating abilities. Their pollination is vital to the survival of many plants and forests, and about one-third of the food we humans eat can grow thanks to the help of bees. Without bees, we'd lose most of the fruits and vegetables we eat. (And of course, we'd also lose our beloved honey).

Honeycomb Stockr - Fotolia

10. Bees are at risk, but could help us fight climate change and hunger

The bee population is rapidly decreasing due to a combination of environmental destruction, climate change, and disease. (Sound familiar?)

Bees are also threatened by deforestation and agricultural disruption, pollution, pesticides, and climate change, all of which can irreparably damage their carefully coordinated lifestyles. The main causes of bee death are habitat destruction, pesticides, and changing global temperatures. Ecologists advise that we immediately ban the most dangerous pesticides and restore ecological agriculture and wild habitats so that bees can continue doing what they do best.

Bees are also currently being threatened by a disease called American Foulbrood, which can destroy entire colonies with one fell swoop. Currently antibiotics are being administered to hives in an effort to stop this disease.

The good news is that bees can also help fight climate change, as they're vital to the preservation of our ecosystems and they help sustain entire food chains. With more bees and healthier natural landscapes, ecosystems will flourish and humans will have more food security. The answer isn't just as simple as farming more honeybees, though. We need wild bees just as much as honeybees, and each plays their own important role in keeping the world running.

Read More from Journiest

Subscribe now

Related Posts
Travel Tips

Three Things to Consider When Planning Your Vacation

There are plenty of things to consider when planning your vacation. Make sure you have all your bases covered by the time you buy your plane ticket!

Going on vacation is wonderful after months of stress and work. There's just one last hurdle before hopping on that plane: planning.

There can be an overwhelming number of things to consider when planning your vacation (COVID-19 not least), but putting them in an itemized list helps. Here's a quick cheat-sheet for you to get a jump-start on that.

Vacation VacationUniversity of Kentucky

Remember Your Budget

If you make a budget, which you definitely should, stick to it. Don't spend more than what you can afford when you start vacationing. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, so saddling yourself with debt will only dampen the fun of your trip. How much are you spending on living accommodations, food, activities, travel? How much are you setting aside in emergency funds in case something happens?

Plan for the Length of the Trip

Are you going out of town for a few months, or do you only have a week off? How much time you have can affect where you can go and how much you can enjoy it. If you only have a week and a half for a trip, then it's best not to go somewhere that's a 16-hour flight away. Half the trip is going to be spent on planes, and the other half will be spent being jet-lagged.

Trip length can also affect how you have to deal with your home while you're away. If you're away for long periods of time, do you need to hire people to cut your grass? Do you need to hire house sitters or babysitters? There are even things to know if you need to board your dog. Keep all these in mind for extended vacations.

Consider the Weather

You never want to ruin your vacation by heading somewhere beautiful in its offseason. Depending on the time of year, most activities could be canceled due to weather restrictions. Some places are ideal for winter trips, and other destinations are made to be enjoyed during the summer heat. Plan accordingly, and don't show up in a swimsuit when it's 50 degrees outside.

That rounds up the basics, but there are plenty more things to consider when planning your vacation. Give yourself wiggle room if any unique considerations pop up in your planning process.

There has never been a better time to learn a language than right now. While we can't really travel, we can still get ready to explore the world and other cultures through film, music, and food. But the key to all of this is language. It can be hard getting started on your own and so we found the perfect solution: Rosetta Stone.

We've been loving hunkering down and digging into Rosetta Stone, a language learning app with many different languages, the best lessons, and an affordable subscription. It's flexible and made to work for you, no matter what level you're starting at. Jump back into French without dusting off your highschool books or pick up Mandarin with a clean slate.

Thinking about Rosetta Stone for your language lessons? Here are the answers to your most pressing questions:

What languages do they offer?

With Rosetta Stone, you can choose from 25 different languages including Spanish, Arabic, and Japanese. When you get the Unlimited Languages subscription you gain access to all 25 and can switch between languages. While you may be intensely learning German, you can take a break and pick up some conversational Korean — all in one app.

What are the features?

What makes Rosetta Stone's lessons really work are the incredible learning features.

Phrasebook will teach you short, useful expressions that are sure to come in handy during your travels, letting you see the practical application of what you're learning. Seek & Speak brings the fun back into learning by having you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and taking photos of them to get the translated name. Even in an app, Rosetta Stone turns any environment into a classroom.

TruAccent is a speech engine within the program that provides instant feedback on your pronunciation so you know if you're on the right track. You'll grow more confident about speaking aloud and it's like having an accent coach in the room with you.

How long does it take every day?

Rosetta Stone's lessons are bite-sized, so all you need is 5 -10 minutes a day to sneak in some practice and work towards your language goals. Of course, you can do more if you want but there's no regimented schedule or pressure to speed ahead.

How does it compare to in-person classes?

With the Rosetta Stone app, your learning is within your control and designed to move at your pace. The app will tailor to your particular interests, strengths, and weaknesses! Plus, with the recent explosion of online classes, most people have fallen away from in-person instruction anyway.

Rosetta Stone brings you expert teaching, fun engaging lessons, and a multitude of language options all on-the-go. Take your classes whenever and wherever works best for you, conveniently on the app.

Is it suitable for all levels?

Absolutely. When you first start, the app allows you to choose a study plan based on your experience level. So, if you're a beginner you can start from scratch and those with some proficiency can advance to where they're comfortable.

How much does it cost?

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month and grants access to all 25 languages, cheaper than Netflix. You get an education at a great value and the best part is no ads while you learn!

We look forward to our Rosetta Stone lessons and highly recommend it to anyone eager to learn a new language or even brush up on an old one. This program makes learning fun, practical, convenient, and most importantly affordable.

Say bonjour, to the go-to language learning app and have the world right at your fingertips!

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!

Like so many out there I haven't been traveling. With everything going on these days I've been staying home, which I love, but it does have me itching to travel. The international section of Netflix just isn't satisfying my travel bug like it used to (trust me, if it's been recommended I've watched it).

I was looking for another way I could travel without leaving home so I did the rounds of take-out food: Chinese, German, Italian, and Mexican. This was fun and tasty but a pricey way to explore the world.

A friend of mine suggested taking a prepping approach to travel and try Rosetta Stone: a language learning program that offers an annual plan with access to 24+ languages.

I've always wanted to learn a new language but have had trouble committing. I was a bit wary about starting Rosetta Stone but ultimately decided to give it a shot.

The Unlimited Languages plan works out to be $7.99 a month for 12 months (what a deal). While I was determined to learn Spanish in anticipation of my dream trip to Spain, this plan allows me to switch to any of the other 24+ languages.

I was excited to get started and use the app. I figured with all of the extra time I had until I could actually go on my trip, I'd aspire to be near fluent by the time it happened.

Jumping right in, I took a ton of lessons through their app and really binged the language. I loved the focus on conversational language, phrases, and vocabulary but after about a week I had burned myself out a bit.

I ended up pulling back and doing 10-minute lessons a day. This was manageable and easy to incorporate into my schedule whether it was by doing a lesson over my morning coffee or winding down right before bed. Learning in bite-sized amounts helped me digest the information and really process what I was being taught.

After a couple of weeks, I was getting really comfortable with Rosetta Stone and was actually enjoying the learning process… even though I wasn't a big fan of language when I was in school. What really set this experience apart for me was the Phrasebook and Seek & SpeakⓇ features.

Phrasebook teaches short, useful expressions that I know will come in handy on my trip. Seek & SpeakⓇ definitely brought the fun back into learning for me, as it has you do a scavenger hunt for everyday household items and take photos of them. Once you do this it gives you a translation of each item (I've never enjoyed looking for cucumbers in my fridge before).

Watching so many telenovelas I knew how important the accent is (in any language) but difficult without an in-person instructor. Rosetta Stone realizes that too and uses TruAccentⓇ. The speech engine within the program gave me instant feedback so I knew that my pronunciation was on the right track and it made me more comfortable speaking aloud.

Rosetta Stone turned out to be a great choice for me. Now I'm daydreaming about traveling and feel like when the time comes I'll be ready to. I'm so confident in my learning that I've branched out and have done some lessons in Italian and French! I'm thinking, after Spain… maybe Rome and Paris? My destinations list is endless now!

Honestly, with Rosetta Stone, I feel more inspired than ever to travel and all this inspiration is happening right in my home. I can't wait to take what I've learned on the road but until then the preparation is still incredibly fun and useful.

Update: The folks at Rosetta Stone are extending a special offer to our readers: Up to 45% off Rosetta Stone + Unlimited Language Access!