16 Honey Bee Facts: Males Die After Mating with the Queen

There are many unique bee species worldwide (around There are 20,000). Among them, honey bees are possibly the most well-known bees. Let’s find out some interesting facts about honey bees.

Honey bee
Scientific name: Apis mellifera Kingdom: Animal
Phylum: Arthropod
Class: Insects
Order: Hymenoptera

1. Bees are hard workers

Bees are one of the hardest workers in the whole world. A worker bee can approach up to 10,000 flowers to collect nectar in a single day. A single bee will generate less than a teaspoon of honey in her lifespan despite her efforts. And bees must travel around 55,000 miles to produce less than half a kilogram.

During the worker’s six to eight-week life span, she will travel around 36,000 miles – nearly 1.5 times the diameter of the planet. In a season, the bee hive can make approximately 11kg of honey which equates to approximately 24 jars.

Western Honeybees (Apis mellifera) are also called European honey bees

Honey bees work at night too. Most bees are diurnal, they fly and visit flowers during the day. This is because bees hardly perceive or avoid obstacles in the dark or in the low light. But not flying at night doesn’t mean bees don’t work at night.

They feed each other at night, they look after larvae, generate honey, and sleep. Although being hard workers, bees still need to sleep. Honey bees sleep within their hives for an hour at a time, in 10- to 15-second periods. Older bees require more sleep than younger bees.

2. Bee is fast

240 times per second is the rate that a bee can beat its wings. It’s quite an astonishing rate. Bees can flap their wings so quickly like that because they have strong muscles that squeeze their thorax up and down as well as left and right. It is one of the most unusual flight methods used by an insect.

Bees have four wings, not two; when flying, they connect them to create one large pair. Each pair of wings is kept together by tiny teeth known as hamuli. This enables the two wings to work together as one. These wings allow them to complete their mission.

Although bees can fly in the gentle rain, they don’t like to. They rely on the sun for orientation, so overcast, rainy weather is not ideal for them. A strong rain might cause their wings to become wet, slowing them down, or even break their wings.

How Fast Do Bees Fly? The flight speeds of different types of bees will be varied.

  • Honey bees: A worker honeybee’s typical speed is 15 mph (21 km/h). When carrying nectar, pollen, or water, their speed is slowed down to 12 mph (17 km/h). A honeybee’s fastest reported speed is 20 mph (32 km/h).
  • Bumble bees fly at an average speed of 6.75 mph (10 km/h).
  • Africanized Honey bees fly at approximately the same pace as a honey bee – about 12 and 20 mph.

However, the bee is not the fastest bug on earth. To know the other quickest flying insects in the world, you can read some articles below:

  1. Dragonflies
  2. Ladybugs
  3. Horseflies
  4. Moths
  5. Skippers
  6. Hornets

3. Honey bees dance to show mates places to find food

Honey bees can dance. They came up with the “round dance” and “waggle dance” to communicate with one another about the best places to find food. When flowers are no more than 100 meters (328 feet) from the hive, they do the “round dance”, and when nectars are more than 6 kilometers, the “waggle dance” is used.

Honey bees even consider the position of the sun, and by moving their body at appropriate angles, they indicate the length and the place of the forage to their mates.

Bees also communicate through pheromones. And these pheromones can trigger various responses.

  • To warn of the potential dangers to other workers, bees release the alert pheromone.
  • To control the population in the hive, queen bees release their special pheromones, If she’s healthy and alive, she will release a pheromone which motivates other hive members to keep active and working.

4. Honey bees live on pollen

Pollen is the primary source of food for bees. Older workers with muscles are in charge of seeking food (called forages). They will leave the hive and collect nectar and keep them in “honey stomach.” Other forages gather pollen in “baskets” on their back legs.

After gathering enough nectar and pollen, those workers come back to the colony. They give their nectar load to “receiver bees” to keep them as honey, while pollen loads are discharged into cells to produce bee bread.

Honey bee workers use them to feed the colony and to convert pollen into royal jelly. The jelly offers nutritional supplements, B vitamins, reproductive stimulants, and other medicines.

This superfood will be provided to larvae, as well as the queen, male honey bees, and older workers. During the first several days of larval development, workers and male bees are fed royal jelly, whereas potential queen larvae receive royal jelly throughout their growth.

Pollen is one of nature’s cleanest and richest meals, providing everything honey bees need. This bee food includes a high concentration of protein, iron, zinc, vitamins, minerals, potassium, natural sugars, and enzymes. It even has a little fat in it to keep the bees plump during the winter. Without pollen, bees can die.

Honey bees obtain pollen and nectar from a wide range of flowering plants, including milkweed, clover, dandelions, goldenrod, and other fruit trees.

5. Bees don’t want to sting you

Not all bees have the ability to sting. To sting, bees need a stinger which is a specialized egg-laying tool. This means only female bees can sting. However, there are a few female bees that don’t have this ability.

Bee workers will only attack you if they believe you are a danger to the colony, which is one of their tasks as workers. To eliminate the thread totally, bees will release a pheromone to attract other bees to join the attack. In huge quantities, bees can be quite deadly.

After stinging, honey bees will die. When a bee stings you, the stinger is stuck in your flesh. This immediately kills the honey bee because the discharge of the stinger also rips out the bee’s bottom body.

Honey bees are the only bees that die after stinging. Hornets and other bees like bumble bees or carpenter bees do not lose their stingers and die after stinging. This means they can sting you multiple times.

Bee’s stinger of the end of its body

So how to avoid being stung by bees? Bees will rarely sting you unless you are food or a thread:

– Make sure your cent or perfume doesn’t attract bees. Your brilliantly colored clothes can mistake you for a flower. Bees will fly away once they realize you are not food.

– Don’t disturb bee hives, and be careful not to smash or step on one. Don’t try to remove or get rid of a beehive by yourself; instead, contact a professional beekeeper.

As we mentioned before, when a bee stings you, the stinger remains in your skin. You must remove the stinger since it can shoot poison into your body for 10 minutes after a sting, and causes pain. A bee sting is merely an annoyance for most people. There may be some temporary discomfort, as the sting area will be red or itchy, but there are no dangerous complications.

Bee stings and cannot kill you unless you are allergic to the bee’s venom or are suffering symptoms of a serious allergic reaction. Like you, your cats and dogs can get hurt and can be killed by bee stings if they are allergic to bee venom.

The majority of bee stings may be treated at home. Because bee stings are acidic, you can smooth them with bicarbonate of soda. This is in contrast to wasp stings, which are alkaline and require the application of vinegar. You can follow the steps to avoid bee stings getting infected.

If there is a bee hive in your yard, there’s more chance you’ll be stung by bees. Why all know these insects are very important. So, how to repel bees without hurting or killing them? You can follow our tips to deter bees here.

6. Honeybees have a strong sense of smell

Sense of smell is very important to many insects, including honey bees. Security bees fly near the entrance to their hive and scent other bees attempting to enter. On the other hand, queen bees utilize smells to help them find their hive or new home after swarming.

When a bee stings, it emits an odor that alerts other bees to the impending threat, attracting other bees to the hive’s defense. The honey bee’s sense of smell is so great that it can perceive a smell while flying. This capacity enables bees to discover and pollinate flowers in an effective way.

Bee can smell through its antenna

Bees can recognize scents via their antennae, their mouths, and the tips of their legs. These places have sensilla which are small, hair-shaped structures with receptor nerve cells. According to one study, bees contain 170 smell receptors in their antenna, which is twice the amount of mosquitoes have.

Whereas bee legs play an important role in finding food. Bees can detect salt and sweetness thanks to receptors in the tarsi and tarsomeres. According to scientists, bees’ sense of smell is strong enough to spot bombs by sniffing them.

Facts: Bees can hear
Bees, unlike humans, hear with their entire body, not their ears. Bees particularly use their antennae and sensitive body hair to hear. 

7. Bee vision is phenomenal

– Bees have 5 eyes

If you look closely at a bee, you’ll see three black dots on the top of its head. These are eyes! Besides two large eyes on either side of its head, a bee has three ‘simple’ or ‘ocelli’ eyes on the top of its head. These eyes help bees perceive light. This helps a bee notice predators approaching from above.

Their two enormous compound eye are made up of many microscopic lenses that work together to form a larger image of what bees see. They specialize in seeing patterns, which can aid in the identification of plant types and other bees.

The compound eyes are covered in microscopic hairs, which detect wind direction. Bees utilize the sun to navigate as well. They can see the sun even when it’s overcast.

– Bees can track movement in a fraction of a second

Bees are extremely sensitive to movement, even if it occurs in a fraction of a second (about 1/300th). This number in humans is more than 1/50th of a second. If honey bees were to watch a movie with us, they would see it one frame at a time, whereas for us, all the frames run together.

– Bees can see colors

Honey bees can see colors, although their color vision is quite different from the way we see colors. Blue and purple are more visible to their eyes. Not only that, bees can see ultraviolet light, which is useful because flowers reflect a lot of UV light. This helps flowers stand out against their environment and is particularly attractive to bees!

Purple, violet, and blue are said to be bees’ favorite colors. This could explain why lavender and forget-me-nots are two of bee-friendly flowers.

8. They are extremely cleaners

Pollen falls all over honey bees as they visit flowers, sticking to their body hairs, including their eyes. And it’s time to clean!

They clean off most of the pollen with their legs and fill pollen baskets on their back legs. Their grooming procedure is very effective. Researchers discovered that a bee can brush itself clean and shed over 15,000 pollen grains in two minutes. You can see how good a bee is when it cleans itself on the video below:

9. Bees are smart

– Bees can remember your face:

Honeybees can recognize and recall unique human faces despite having only 0.01 percent of the neurons that humans possess. In a study, researchers matched sugar water with photos of human faces. They discovered that bees could identify and remember faces connected with the sweet water – even when the sweet reward was not there.

This precise perception assists these creatures in recognizing their hive mates and helps them identify and return to flowers that generate more pollen.

– Bees can count:

Compared to other insects, bees are fairly competent at math. They can count up to four and more. Not only that, they can comprehend the notion of zero.

– Bees can perceive time, but they can get jetlag sometimes.

10. Honey bees need honey to survive through winter

In the winter, everything is harder for bees. There are fewer flowers for bees to obtain nectar during these cold months. To survive through the winter, the queen bee of most bumblebee colonies has to hibernate underground. However, honey bee colonies can overwinter thanks to their supply of honey.

Honey is an important food supply for honey bees and it is the result of hard work. That’s why bee workers protect it that much.

Honey bees are eating honey

The honey industry, however, manages almost all of the fruits of their labor, replacing it with a sugary syrup with no critical nutrients. Honey is the only insect food that is consumed by humans.

How bees make honey:

They take nectar via a long, thin tube (proboscis) and store it in a particular honey stomach that can carry up to 80% of a bee’s weight in nectar. Inside, enzymes, such as invertase, start to break down the complex sugars into simpler sugars that are less likely to crystallize.

When the forages come back to the hive, they pass the nectar to each other through the mouth. Younger workers put the nectar into cells in the honeycomb that are made from beeswax. Honey bees then beat their wings to fan the nectar in order to boost evaporation. This process will lower the water contained in nectar to about 18%.

The decrease in water content converts the nectar to honey. Meanwhile, the high sugar level prevents bacteria and fungi from growing, allowing honey to be stored permanently without deteriorating. The honey is collected, wrapped in new beeswax, and preserved in the hexagon-shaped cell until needed.

Not all honey are made from nectar. In some areas, bees consume honeydew secreted by insects such as aphids, which feed on plant sap.

11. When bees die, humans die

Bees are so important!

When bees, as well as other pollinators, pollinate oil seed crops and fruits, they promote fruit sets, and make crops and fruits more nutritious and flavorful. Plants are more tolerant to diseases and harmful environmental factors.

Many fruits and plants we eat are pollinated by bees. Bees create one-third of the world’s food supply. The value of global food production pollinated by bees is about $577 billion. Pollinators add $20 billion to the agricultural business in the United States. In California alone, almond crops are worth more than $3 billion and they rely totally on bee pollination.

Their pollination is also critical to the survival of several plants and animals. Without them, tremendous biodiversity wouldn’t exist. Many animal species rely on bees for existence. Bees create their food sources, like berries, nuts, seeds, and fruits. Pollination provides on only food for other species, but also habitat (plants and flowers) for animals such as other insects and birds.

So how do bees pollinate? Let’s watch the video below:

Bees are endangered. Bee populations fell by about 25% between 2006 and 2015. Thousands of bee species have already gone extinct, which can have a huge impact on the pollination of wild plants and crops. The ecology and economy will be widely affected too.

There are many reasons why the number of bees is decreasing. It can be habitat fragmentation, colony collapse disorder (CDC), increased use of chemical insecticides, and climate crisis. It is not too late to save the bees before they become extinct.

12. Male honey bees die after mating

Each type of bee will reproduce in a unique way:

• Bumble Bees: When mating, the male bumble bee is really hostile. He throws the queen to the ground and climbs on her thorax to mate.

• Carpenter Bees: Carpenter bee mating normally starts with a dance in the air. 12 drones and 3-4 females will dance together. A male will next attempt to climb on the female’s back in order to breed.

How about Honey Bees?

Similar to Carpenter bees, honey bees mate in the air. A queen will join the mating flight when she is 6-16 days old. She will fly to the skies to meet thousands of male honey bees before mating with 10-20 of them.

The queen bee mates with male honey bees one after another. The male bee (drone) will hover over a queen with his thorax higher than her abdomen. He then enters the queen and ejaculates semen through his endophallus.

In less than 5 seconds, the drone’s sperm practically shoots through the queen’s reproductive system. It’s so powerful that his endophallus is ripped off from his body and attached to the queen. The drone is thrown off from the queen with an abdomen that is ripped open. The male then dies. The explosion is loud enough to be heard as a popping sound. Some male honey bees, however, survive the mating thing.

When the next male honey bee mates with the queen, he will take out the previous endophallus and repeat the process. Male honey bees can only breed 7 – 10 times during a mating flight.

Although a queen bee can keep up to 100 million sperm inside her body after multiple matings, only five to six million of them are deposited in the queen’s spermatheca. Throughout her life, the queen only uses some of these sperm at a time to fertilize eggs. This sperm can live for up to four years in good health. If a queen bee’s sperm runs out during her lifetime, future queen generations will breed and start their own colonies.

However, this frequently occurs before the four-year mark. When colonies discover that their old queen’s egg-laying production is declining, they requeen their hives. If the original queen has a flaw that causes her production to decrease or if her pheromone begins to diminish with age, worker bees will suffocate the queen to death by balling around her until she overheats and dies or sting her to death!

The colony is entirely dependent on the queen. When she is no longer able to execute her job efficiently, the colony must do whatever it takes to survive. To requeen, workers choose a young larva and give it royal jelly, and the caterpillar matures into a productive queen.

13. The fate of male honey bees (drones)

Drones are generated from the unfertilized eggs of the queen. In some cases, these eggs can be laid by worker bees, which is not a good sign.

a. Drones after mating

Drones occasionally help maintain the temperature within a hive, but their main job is mating. They don’t have stingers to protect the hive and they don’t offer food to their colony.

Drones live day by day in the hope of being mated with a queen. However, when the drone gets to mate, he is not always successful. If he succeeds, he will face death or luckily survive.

Drones rarely mate with queens from their own colony. They fly to Drone Congregational Areas (DCAs) in search of other queens.

Drone Congregational Areas

When drones are older than 6 days, magnetite levels in their abdomen suddenly rise. This drags them to specific spots. They come to these DCAs annually to visit several congregational sites in a single day. These places contain hundreds to thousands of drones at a time. Drones emit a specific pheromone that attracts queens comes to them.

b. Male honey bees that don’t mate

The queen only mates with 10 – 20 drones among thousand ones. So what happens with the males that don’t mate?

Drones that are unable to mate or who miraculously survive the mating process are permitted to stay at the hive until the fall. When winter comes and bees must rely on honey to survive, drones become a burden. Honey is too precious to share with males.

At this moment, worker bees will gather them and expel them from the hive.No stingers, drones don’t have a defensive system and cannot take food for themselves. They die from the cold or lack of food.

c. The real purpose of a drone

Are drones just sperm donors? Yes, but beyond that, they also offer genetic diversity. The female bee has 32 chromosomes: 16 chromosomes from the dad and 16 chromosomes from the mom. Eggs can only carry half of the queen’s genome. This is crucial because genetics influence how efficiently and successfully a hive functions, as well as disease resistance.

When the queen breeds with drones, she gains genetic diversity. Based on its DNA, each egg hatching will have differences. As a result, the colony has a better chance of success.

14. Life cycle of honey bees

a. Egg

Honey bee queens have the power to decide the sex of their eggs: male or female bees, fertilized or unfertilized eggs. Unfertilized eggs develop into male honey bees (drones), whereas fertilized eggs become female workers and queens.

The direction of the cell where the queen lays eggs is another factor deciding the gender of the egg. A queen will live in a vertical cell, whereas a worker bee or a drone will live in a horizontal cell.

Based on the size, the nursing bees know which horizontal cell for a worker and which horizontal cell for a drone. These decisions are made by the queen and worker bees, depending on the needs of the colony.

Worker bees can lay eggs too. However, they only laid unfertilized eggs because they do not mate. Queen is the only bee capable of producing both male and female bees.

The queen bee lays eggs in a second and she will lay approximately 2,000 eggs each day when she is at her peak. The eggs are approximately as small as the half size of a grain of rice. The stomach and neurological systems of those eggs develop in a few days.

b. Larvae

The eggs hatch into larvae in about three days. They are blind and have no legs. The nursing bees will then feed them and assist them in their development. The future worker

larvae are fed royal jelly for the first two days, whereas future queens will eat royal jelly for the whole of their larval life.

c. Pupa

The larva begins to construct a cocoon around itself and pupate inside the enclosed egg cell.

During this stage, the larva grows into a fully formed bee, complete with head, legs, thorax, abdomen, and wings.

d. Adult

By munching the wax capping, a young adult bee will eventually emerge from the egg cell. The formation of each member of a colony varies based on their roles: queens need only 16 days to grow from eggs, workers require 21 days, and drones need 24 days to fully develop.

15. How Long Does a bee Live?

Honey bee lifespan is different, depending on their job in the hive and the time of year they are born.

– Drones: Male honey bees live a short life. Their sole purpose in life is to mate with the queen, and they die after that. If they are alive, they can go back to the hive but then will be kicked out when winter’s coming. And again, they die from cold and starvation.

– Worker bees: A worker bee collects honey from foraging bees and serves as a nurse bee, caring for bee larvae. She becomes forages when growing older. For a small creature, this is too much and exhausts her rapidly.

They may live for 6 weeks or fewer. If they are born outside of peak season, they may live to be 7 weeks. However, winter bees can live longer, for 4-6 months. This is because they have more blood protein and a bigger body to provide heat for the queen.

– Queen honey bees: Except for mating, the queen bee spends most of her life within the hive and lays eggs. The mating flight time is her biggest threat, as well as the chance of sickness. If these risks are minimized, she can live for at least four years or more.

Facts: Bee's meaning spiritual
Since prehistoric days, bees, particularly honey bees symbolize industry and are related to the soul, and provide the benefit of reproduction.

16. The bee life in the hive

A hive is made up of 3 kinds of bees: the drones, the workers, and the queen. During the warmer months, the bee hive is larger. The reasons behind this are:

  • There will be more food because there are more labors.
  • The hive will also be more protective to hive beetles and mites.
  • There will be more bees to assist with wax generation, which is beneficial to the queen because she loves to lay eggs in fresh comb.

For these reasons, the larger hive means the better the hive’s condition. But when the hive enters winter, they will reduce their population so that they don’t have to feed so many mouths.

Fun facts: Bees love caffeine too
Caffeine, according to science, is a chemical that plants create to repel hazardous insects… except for bees, which are attracted to it and thus help the plant with pollination. Caffeine assists bees in finding flowers to pollinate.

17. Different bees have different personalities

There are 20,000 unique bee species worldwide, 4,000 in the US, and over 270 in the UK. Honeybees and bumblebees, and other social bees, dwell in hives above or below ground.

However, not all bees make honey. Solitary bees, as the name implies, prefer to live alone and nest in the ground. Solitary bees are typically smaller, with a single couple as their family unit. Although there are many solitary bees in one region, they all work independently. Bees can also live in many locations, such as sand dunes, sea walls, marshes, or post-industrial land.

There are seven separate bee families found all over the world. They are Melittidae, Colletidae, Apidae, Andrenidae, Megachilidae, Halictidae, and Stenotritidae.

– Andrenidae family contains over 2,700 species of small and ground-nesting bees known as mining bees. The world’s smallest bee, Perdita minima, which measures just under 2mm long belongs to this family. Some of bee species in this family are Ashy mining bees, Tawny mining bees (Andrenidae fulva).

Ashy mining bee

– Apidae family includes social bees and solitary bees. This is the biggest family with at least 5,700 species including honeybees, bumblebees, hairy-footed flower bees, orchid bees, and vulture bees (meat-eating bees).

Bumble bee (Bombus) gets its name from the noise they create inside a flower

– Colletidae family: There are 2,000 species in this family. These bees are also known as cellophane bees or plasterer bees. You can name some of their species: Ivy bees, Yellow-faced bees…

Yellow-faced bee

– Halictidae family has about 3,500 species (Furrow bees, Box-headed blood bees). Some species are drawn to sweat, earning them the nickname “sweat bees.” These bees, unlike other bees, have a dark metallic color and are quite lovely, resembling small jewels soaring over the sky.

– Melittidae family has just about 200 species (Pantaloon bees) and is limitedly available in Africa.

– Megachilidae family contains over 3,000 species of largely solitary bees. It includes the largest known bee (Megachile pluto, or Wallace’s Giant Bee), as well as leafcutter bees, mason bees, and carder bees (Wool carder bees).

– The Stenotritidae family is even smaller with only 21 species found in Australia.

Carpenter bees (Xylocopa) is also sometimes known as wood bees. These bees do not eat wood, but instead, cause structural damage by drilling round holes in wood to make tunnels. They’re also notorious for robbing nectar from other bees.
Squash bee (Eucerini): is one of the few bees that fly before sunrise. They’ll fly until mid-morning and will return to the skies towards around dusk when squash and melon flowers bloom.

Animal Facts 276

We are passionate animal enthusiasts with over a decade of experience studying animals. With a degree in zoology and conservation biology, we've contributed to various research and conservation projects. We're excited to bring you engaging content that highlights the wonders of the animal kingdom. We aim to inspire others to appreciate and protect wildlife through informative content grounded in expertise and passion. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of animals and discover the incredible stories they have to tell.

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