20 Secrets about the Mysterious World of Bees

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Updated on: Educator Review By: Michelle Connolly

Bees belong to a family of insects called Hymenoptera, and they produce white honey and beeswax as their food. It is widely assumed that there are more than 20,000 species of bees. It is distributed around different countries and regions of the world, but not in Antarctica.

Bees have large hind legs, their head and thorax are covered with hair, which is the part to which pollen is attached. The size of an adult bee ranges between 2 mm to 4 cm. As for bee behaviour, scientists have found that most types of bees are solitary. A few of them are social.

The bee feeds on nectar, which turns into honey in its digestive system, which provides it with carbohydrates and energy. It also feeds on pollen, which provides it with the rest of the nutrients, including protein. Wasps feed their larvae on animal sources such as insects and spiders, and the other difference between bees and wasps is the lack of forked hair covering the body of the wasp.

It often lives in large, cooperative and coordinated groups. But there are many species that prefer isolation and act alone. It is of all kinds very useful and beneficial to humans in one way or another, and it is also beneficial for flowers as it pollinates them, which leads to their large number. Without it, agricultural production may be affected, so humans must protect bees from extinction.

There are types of it that do not produce honey and have other benefits for sure, but the most important types are those that produce honey, which are called “honey bees”, and they produce quantities of honey that nourishes and treats humans, as well as beeswax that contains many benefits very important.

The social life of bee species

The number of bee species worldwide is more than 20 thousand, as most live alone. In contrast, bees that live a social life constitute less than 8%, and the types that live inside hives do not exceed 3%. This large number is classified. There are nine families of bees, the most famous of which is Apidae, which consists of three groups of social bees: the bumblebee group, the honey bee group, and the stingless bee group.

Kingdom of honey bee

This group includes several types of bees; the most famous among them is the European honey bee. Its scientific name is Apis mellifera, and eight other species endemic to Africa, Europe, and Asia. The honey bee kingdom includes three types; the queen, female workers, and males.

Queen bee

In natural conditions, the honey bee hive includes one queen that is produced from a fertilized egg, just like the workers. The food quality in the larva stage distinguishes it from the rest. Queen bee feeds on an abundant amount of royal jelly. However, the larvae (that will develop into workers) are fed on a mixture of honey and pollen along with a smaller amount of royal jelly.

The queen is distinguished as the only complete female in the hive. She can mate with males to produce two types of eggs: the first is unfertilized eggs that result in males, and the second is fertilized eggs that result in females.

The basic function of the queen is laying eggs, as she is more likely to lay up to 1,500 eggs per day and that is during the peak of her production. Her second function is to secrete the chemicals that help manage and organize the cell, prevent the development of the ovaries of the rest of the females, and prevent them from Breeding new queens.

Female workers

Workers are distinguished by being the honey bee hive’s smallest and most numerous members. The female worker bee can’t mate, reproduce, or lay eggs in normal conditions. However, in certain unusual circumstances, i.e., when the bee kingdom lacks a queen, it lays unfertilized eggs. Then, female workers performing all the necessary tasks for the survival of the cell depends, such as:

  1. Sucking nectar from flowers using its long tongue, collects pollen using the feathery hairs covering its body, and then transfers it to the hive.
  2. Converting nectar into honey.
  3. Wax secretion from special glands in the lower abdomen.
  4. Taking care of the queen and larvae to produce the royal jelly necessary to feed the young and queen larvae.
  5. Covering mature larvae cells so they can safely develop into a pupa.
  6. Guard the hive and attack intruders with their powerful jaws and stinging needles.


The male honey bee is distinguished from the worker by being more prominent and fuller than the worker and queen. At the same time, it depends on the honey stock in the hive for food, or sometimes the female workers may feed them.

This male has large compound eyes at the top of its head to monitor the queen while flying to mate with her; this is the only function he performs. He spends his time eating, resting, and flying to the particular sites where the males gather, waiting to mate with the queens.

Bumble bees

They live in a kingdom similar to honey bees, consisting of one queen and many workers and males. However, the life cycle of the bumblebee kingdom is annual and begins with the appearance of the fertilized queen in the spring, when the queen builds the nest and supplies it.

The wax is produced from the special glands for that. The bee lays the first batch of eggs, fertilized, and during that, male bees protect the nest and defend it, taking care of the eggs that will hatch into larvae. Then workers take care of her after her usual tasks, like collecting food, defending the nest, and caring for the brood.

The bumblebee queen begins at the end of summer and the beginning of autumn by laying unfertilized eggs, which result in males, and at this stage, the female workers begin to raise queens from the fertilized eggs, and when the new queens appear, they leave the nest with the males to mate.

Here the production of female workers stops, and the founding queen and female workers die. Only newly mated queens remain, and with the approach of winter, each queen stores an additional amount of fat in her body and takes a suitable place for her to spend the winter in it, which is often in the soil, in order to protect her cells and organs from freezing, and here are some characteristics that distinguish other bumblebees:

  1. It is adapted to live in areas with cold climates, thanks to the long and thick hair that covers its body.
  2. It builds its nests in rock cavities and among fallen wood.
  3. The kingdom of bumblebees is characterized by a relatively primitive social structure, as it does not have a communication system to guide the rest of the hive members to the locations of food availability.
  4. The novice workers are forced to learn to gather food by trial and error, unlike honey bees, which have a developed communication system that includes dancing through it.
  5. The scout bee can guide the rest of the workers to ascertain the direction and the distance to reach the source of the nectar.

Stingless bees

This name is known as stingless bees because their stingers are smaller in size, and they rarely use them to defend themselves. Non-stingless bees include nearly 300 species, most of which live in tropical and subtropical regions and build their nests in tree cavities and inside rocky crevices. Some come among the essential characteristics of stingless bees:

  1. It is distinguished by its small size, as most of its members are less than 1 cm long, with a few species similar to European honey bees in terms of size.
  2. It forms perennial kingdoms consisting of one queen, many workers and males. The queen and workers are produced from fertilized eggs, while males are made from unfertilized eggs usually laid by female workers.
  3. Stingless bees can communicate with each other by smell and make low-frequency vibrating sounds to guide the rest of the hive to the location of nectar.

Why do bees make honey?

Bees need food like other living organisms, and to obtain their nutritional needs, they collect flower nectar, pollen, and water. Pollen is the main source of protein needed for brood production and the growth of young bees. It also provides the necessary fats, minerals, and vitamins for food.

The bees, while nectar provides the bees with the minerals they need, including calcium, copper, potassium, magnesium, and sodium. The honey that the bees produce from the nectar represents the primary source of carbohydrates needed to provide it with the energy it needs for several things. Such as flying, preserving the kingdom, and carrying out the usual daily activities; without carbohydrates, the bees will die within a few days.

It is worth noting that worker bees need to harvest nectar from millions of flowers to produce approximately 453.5 gm of honey. Despite that, one kingdom produces About 36 kg of honey surplus to its needs every year.

Why do bees store honey?

Bees store honey as a source of food for the kingdom to keep it alive during periods when it can’t obtain flower nectar for several reasons, such as when flowers are not already available. It happens in the temperate and northern regions in the winter between October and March.

They also store honey in periods of drought, such as prevailing in tropical countries, as a result of the inability of bees to get out of the hive to harvest nectar due to low temperatures, precipitation, or other inappropriate weather conditions.

The beekeeper must consider leaving the honey box always full of honey when harvesting honey during the summer, given the importance of storing a sufficient amount of honey to meet the bees’ needs in the event of a crop shortage during the fall season.

Note that the standard size of the honeycomb box can accommodate ten frames of honey. It is worth mentioning that bees can prevent starving in the winter by moving the apiary to an area where there are flowers that produce nectar or by feeding the bees on white sugar or its solution.

Types of honey-producing bees

More than 20 thousand species of bees in the world differ among themselves in shape, size, nesting habits, and life cycle, as less than 8% of bees live in groups that include other individuals of the same kind. In contrast, members of the remaining species live an isolated or solitary life. The percentage of bee species that produce honey is estimated as below 4% of the total number of bees, that is, less than 800 species.

Honey Bee Reproduction

Although there are more than twenty thousand species of bees in the world, only less than 4% of them can produce honey, i.e., less than 800 species. Several types of bees live in isolation; however, the species that prefer to gather in bee communities are less than 8% of the total number of bees in the world. Despite the variation between different species in their life patterns, most have a similar mating mechanism, as male bees are only made for mating with the femail bees.

The honey bee

The queen, the workers, and the males are the three different adult bee species that make up the society. Since the queen is the sole sexually mature female in the beehive, reproduction and egg production are her main responsibilities. The queen also leaves the hive after seven days and flies away. At that time, she mates with 7–15 men that she attracts to her using pheromones from the bee realm.

The male bee highlights the male organ before inserting it into the queen’s stinger chamber and releasing sperm during mating. Because each fertilised egg has slightly different genetic features from the other egg, this results in genetic variety among the offspring, increasing the likelihood that the bee kingdom would succeed.

The queen bee saves between 5 and 6 million sperm in good condition for the following four years, and when her sperm supply runs out, the kingdom starts to raise a new queen. The queen bee uses some of the sperm she acquired to fertilise the eggs directly. It’s important to remember that male bees typically do not mate with the queen of their colony.

Scientists believe that males define their congregational areas in response to a magnetic force that forms in their stomachs six days after their birth and directs them to specific locations. Males focus on what is in these areas only to the point where they will ignore any queen that flies outside of these areas.

What is the mechanism of honey bee sex determination?

The queen bee produces two different types of eggs after mating with males: unfertilized eggs, which produce male bees, and fertilised eggs, which produce females, which will later develop into either a queen or a worker depending on the nutrition she receives while in the caterpillar stage, as it is given to the larvae that will result in her.

The larva that will become a worker is only given a modest amount of royal food for the first three days, while the queen receives abundant amounts of royal jelly during her whole feeding period. She is given a mixture of royal jelly, honey, and pollen the next few days.

What phases of development goes during a honey bee’s life?

The four phases that the honey bee experiences are as follows:

Egg: The honey bee queen typically lays one egg in each cell, which resembles a tiny grain of rice. It starts out straight before bending. On the third day, it hatches, releasing a larva.

Honey bee larva: The honey bee larva is white, glossy, and resembles a letter (C). Up until the time to cover the cells with wax, which occurs approximately five and a half days after the birth of the larva if it is grown to become a worker and six days if it is not, the adult female workers feed the larvae. It is considered a queen, and it takes six and a half days if it is raised to become a male, after which the larva then extends lengthwise within the cell and starts to spin the cocoon.

Pupa: When the larva reaches the pupa stage, the features of the adult bee start to show on it. Before the colour of the entire body changes, the compound eyes’ colour first shifts from white to a brownish-purple hue.

Adult: If it’s a working bee, it leaves the covered hive after twelve days, a queen after seven and a half days, and a male after fourteen and a half days.

Mason bees breeding

While each female constructs her own nest, mason bees are an example of solitary bees. In the spring, the men emerge from the cells two, three, or more days before the females, depending on the weather, and as soon as the female departs, mating takes place immediately.

After several days of mating, the female starts to construct a nest in which to lay eggs. She also gives the eggs food, which is made of a combination of pollen and nectar and is referred to as “bee bread.” The eggs are the size of a pea, and the queen places one in the centre of each cell before constructing a mud wall to surround and protect it.

About a week or so, the bee’s egg begins to hatch, and a larva emerges. After a month or more, the larva starts eating pollen and spinning a cocoon, at which point it enters the pupal stage. It matures into an adult bee at the end of the summer and spends the winter within the nest. The bee emerges from the cocoon and the mud wall as spring arrives. It is important to note that this type of adult bee dies at the conclusion of the nesting season.

Social bee reproduction

The mechanics of social bee mating and reproduction vary depending on the species, including:

  1. Bumblebees: When mating with the queen, male bumblebees exhibit aggressive behaviour; when mating with the queen, male bumblebees aggressively drop the queen to the ground and climb up on her chest.
  2. Carpenter bees: Carpenter bees mate while they are flying through the air, and their mating ritual starts with a wagging dance that often involves 12 males and 3–4 females.
  3. Sweat bees: The male of this species may mate with a female who has already mated. Sweat bees mate similarly to honey bees, with a few differences. For example, the female of this species does not fly during mating because she mates and lays eggs only when necessary to ensure the survival of the kingdom. This species’ male may mate with a female who has already given birth to offspring.

What do we learn from bees?

Bees are among the active animals that humans can benefit from in their lifestyle and way of living, and can be benefited from:

1.      Teamwork

A man usually searches for the lesson in everything. He finds something remarkable when he contemplates the bees and their ability to work in a team without complaining. The rest of the bees double their efforts so that work doesn’t stop and productivity does not decrease.

The public interest of bees is more important than personal interest, and the decision is always taken collectively. So that bees don’t fail to fulfil the duty that the group performs, that they can adapt to all circumstances and coexist with them, and even overcome them, and come out with a positive result from all the daily battles they wage.

2.      Seriousness and diligence at work

The bees are very active and severe creatures in their work, and they are the only ones that strive every day for the sake of benefit and seize every moment of their day. So, a person must create this positive characteristic of bees that each bee has its work, so they are organized in a good way, far from random, as each bee has something to do and there is no place for quarrels between them.

The bee focuses on its highest priority, never gets distracted by several tasks, and then finds itself at the end of the day doing nothing of it, and a person should be like the bee in focusing on one job and getting it done in a good way.

3.      Investing energy in helpful work

The bee plans its day with unparalleled intelligence, as it does not waste its energy on any work that may not be of importance or has no benefit; for example, the bee does not expand the hive unless there is a need for that, such as the need for more space due to the increase in the population, or the need to store more food, here all the bees cooperate, in order to accomplish the task in the fastest, simplest and easiest way.

A person must learn from the bee how to plan positively and beneficially invest his energy, away from squandering it in foolish things that do not work. Bees have their energy every day without getting tired or bored.

4.      Flexibility and dealing with changes positively

Change is what man fears most, and he often feels weak about moving from one area to another. Unlike bees who must follow his example, the bee transfers its activity immediately to the new environment within less than an hour and seeks to get to know the new surroundings. You start working quickly away from thinking about the past or nostalgia for old places, and the bee is loyal to work only and not to the area.

5.      Responsibility

Many people feel a high responsibility towards their work and others. Still, they can’t always succeed because of the obstacles, so they must meditate on the life cycle of bees to learn to assume responsibility accurately and correctly.

The bee’s sense of responsibility is innate, stemming from its instinct. It did not acquire it through learning, nor did it lose it with the harsh conditions because it stems from itself.

The bee always seeks to preserve the hive, even if it has to sting those who approach it and seek to tarnish its beauty. However, it dies immediately after the sting. The bee instinctively tries to understand the reason for the delay, and everyone joins together. To fill the gap caused by fatigue, a person should always try to fill the gaps around him, not search for them and try to highlight his success at her expense.

6.      Leadership

The meaning of leadership for bees is terrific, as the leader of the rest of the bees is an assignment leadership, not an honourable leadership, as it does not believe in a specific point of view, nor does it adopt an opinion. Still, instead, it knows what it has of work, and it performs it to the fullest without interfering in the creation of its subjects, as each does what is required of him without Negatively affecting the work of others.

Although the queen bee knows that she is a queen, she still behaves in the hive like a servant, not seeking to gain positions nor to prove herself at the expense of her subjects. Thus, the manager must learn from the queen bee how he can treat his employees or those under his command so that his leadership is in order to reach total success, not personal success.

7.      Time Management

The bee instinctively feels the time, so it does not waste it but instead works hard to gain every moment of its work, effort, and production. Types of flowers, the bee always lives in its presence instead of standing on the ruins.

8.      Efficiency at work

Work efficiency requires good planning and skill in implementation, which is what bees do instinctively, as they spend two-thirds of their time working hard and with high productivity, and they spend the last third resting. In order to recharge their energy, learning from bees does not mean that a person spends his life working; It means doing a good job and then getting plenty of rest.

9.      Charity

Doing good always benefits a person in one way or another, which is what a person must believe in, just like a bee. The bee inhales the nectar from flowers, pollinates them, and then the benefit returns to it later. Where flowers stay longer, and bees take nectar from them over and over.

Although the bee does not pollinate the flower as a reward for it, it did good with its family, so it returned to it again. A person must learn this by doing good and not waiting for a reward from others.

10.  Effective communication with others

Successful work requires the ability to communicate effectively with others so that it is not a reason to discourage them, nor is it always blaming them. As this would create a harmful and unsafe environment for production, the bees do not cut off communication with each other at all, but they always pass new information to each other; for everyone to benefit.

Each bee knows what it is to do, adapts to changes, and even helps its friend adapt to all the conditions it can. All these actions come instinctively, so a person should do that, and he is the one who was endowed with the mind in order to distinguish it from other creatures.

To sum up, bees are very active and severe creatures in their work, and they are the only ones that strive every day for the sake of benefit and seize every moment of their day. So, a person must create this positive characteristic of bees that each bee has its work, so they are organized in a good way, far from random, as each bee has something to do, and there is no place for quarrels between them.

If you enjoyed learning about this fascinating creature, why not check out more fantastic facts about other animals: Koalas, Land AnimalsSharksRaccoonsBaboons, BearsPandasendangered animalsMoose, and Whales?

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