There’s a good reason why humans love to visit the zoo. Every animal is unique, with a body designed to perform a particular function, such as seeking or making food. While elephants and giraffes are fascinating, most guests ignore the most exciting creatures—the busy honey bees in the zoo’s flowerbeds.
We know bees spend their time making honey, but that’s only part of their job. These fascinating fliers also cook up a substance called “bee bread.” It’s a protein-packed snack that keeps the hive buzzing and your flowers blooming.
What exactly do those fuzzy friends do when they head out for a day of work, and how does it keep the whole crew fed? We’ve created this guide to help demystify the job of these often maligned creatures. You’ll understand why these little friends love your flowers and what they do with their bounty.
Keep reading to learn some fascinating facts about these peaceful pollinators.
What Is a Honey Bee?
The honey bee, or Apis mellifera, is a social insect that lives in a hive structure. Every bee has a job that helps keep the community afloat. They communicate through physical behaviors called “bee dances,” which allow them to share information about food sources.
Bees can be either male or female. Within those groups, bees have a role. Some female bees are egg-laying queens, while the rest are workers—the type we see out and about, inspecting our flower gardens.
Workers produce the wax used to form the comb-shaped beehives we’ve come to associate with the species. That’s where they turn nectar into honey, store pollen, and create food. Their most important role is pollinating the local plants, keeping our world beautiful and our bodies fed.
A Day in the Life of a Honey Bee
Worker honey bees spends most of her day outside of the hive. While humans view her as a pollinator, she has a different task in mind. Her goal is to bring as much pollen as possible to the hive.
A honey bees body is ideal for this task. Even its eyes have hairs growing from them! It has specialized coarse fibers on its six legs, designed to capture every pollen particle it encounters.
Her back legs also contain corbiculae (or pollen baskets). As honey bees flits from flower to flower, they transfer the pollen from its head to its front legs and back to its pollen basket. It can carry 35% of its body weight in pollen before returning to the hive to deposit it.
It brings the pollen to the honeycomb structures, which serve as the honey bees’ “kitchen.”
“Baking” Bee Bread
When the bee returns to the hive, some honeycomb structures will already have occupants. They are where queen bees deposit their larvae while they grow and develop into new colony members. The caverns on the opposite side may be empty.
When the worker bee removes the pollen from her basket, it will be in the form of a ball, held together by nectar and a little bit of bee saliva.
The hive bees pack their pollen into a cavity and let it marinate. Often, some honey seeps through. After some time, the pollen, honey, nectar, and saliva form a protein-packed bee food.
This “bee bread” is for baby bees to nibble on. It also feeds the adult members of the colony. While nectar is an ideal source of sugar, bees need protein to continue the hard work of keeping the hive productive.
Thus, the process of pollination helps honey bees and humans alike. We get our plants pollinated, and the bees enjoy a hard-earned feast.
What Else Do Honey Bees Make?
Humans know much more about bees now than we did when we began domesticating them. Did you know that bee honey was one of huanity’s first (and temporarily only) source of sugar? Today, savvy beekeepers gather and sell a plethora of bee-based products.
Honey bees produce six products for humans: honey, pollen, royal jelly, beeswax, propolis, and venom. Some products, such as honey and beeswax, have been popular since antiquity.
Honey bees make pollen that is mineral-rich and full of vitamins and antioxidants, which makes it an effective dietary supplement. Royal jelly is a popular additive to many skincare products and cosmetics. Likewise, some humans use bee propolis as a supplement and believe it can boost the immune system.
The honey bees venom has applications in the pharmaceutical industry. Researchers discovered that it treats inflammation. Scientists are even researching whether it might be a tool for treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
What to Do if You Have Buzzing Houseguests
While bees and their products are helpful, they sometimes build hives in the wrong place. Worker and drone bees can sting if they feel threatened. Though they may keep your garden pollinated, their sting is a common allergen and can be dangerous for some humans.
Most of the time, we do not need to exterminate bees to get rid of them. Professions can subdue and move most colonies. Many beekeepers will happily “adopt” bees and keep the colonies safe.
If you have bees on your property, you should contact a pest management specialist for assistance.
Keep Busy Bees at Bay With Pest Management Systems
Honey bees are adorable, productive creatures, but that doesn’t mean you want them living on your property. If you have unwanted bees buzzing in your home, your best option is to rehome them. Bees are adaptable, versatile creatures, and any local beekeeper would be happy to have your pests join their hive.
If you need help, an expert with Pest Management Systems can offer advice and support regarding how to coexist with your fuzzy friends. While this will help reduce the likelihood of a bee colony moving in for good, there is no guaranteed way to eliminate all risks. Contact us today to discuss the best next steps for your situation.