Honey Bee Facts
Honey bees are essential to modern agriculture. These industrious social insects produce
over $100 million worth of honey and beeswax each year in the United States. Their
service as pollinators of agricultural crops adds another $10 billion to their overall value.
Due to the destruction of native habitat, native pollinators such as bumblebees and
leafcutter bees are in short supply, further magnifying the impact of the honey bee and
the work of our beekeeping industry.
In fact, honey bees are responsible for the pollination of more than 100 crops, providing
80 percent of the country's pollination services. Without the help of honey bees in crop
pollination, an estimated $15 billion in U.S. agriculture is in jeopardy affecting both U.S.
and international food supplies
There are four different species of honeybee in the world:
The Little Honeybee (Apis florea)
Native to southeast Asia
The Eastern Honeybee (Apis cerana)
Native to eastern Asia as far north as Korea & Japan
The Giant Honeybee (Apis dorsata)
Native to southeast Asia
The Western Honeybee (Apis mellifera)
Native to Europe, Africa and western Asia
Basic Honeybee Facts
Bees collect 66 lbs of pollen per year, per hive. Pollen is the male germ cells
produced by all flowering plants for fertilization and plant embryo formation.
The Honeybee uses pollen as a food. Pollen is one of the richest and purest
natural foods, consisting of up to 35% protein, 10% sugars, carbohydrates,
enzymes, minerals, and vitamins A (carotenes), B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin),
B3 (nicotinic acid), B5 (panothenic acid), C (ascorbic acid), H (biotin), and R
Honey is used by the bees for food all year round. There are many types, colors
and flavors of honey, depending upon it's nectar source. The bees make honey
from the nectar they collect from flowering trees and plants. Honey is an easily
digestible, pure food. Honey is hydroscopic and has antibacterial qualities.
Eating local honey can fend off allergies.
Secreted from glands, beeswax is used by the honeybee to build honey comb. It
is used by humans in drugs, cosmetics, artists' materials, furniture polish and
Collected by honeybees from trees, the sticky resin is mixed with wax to make a
sticky glue. The bees use this to seal cracks and repair their hive. It is used by
humans as a health aid, and as the basis for fine wood varnishes.
The powerful, milky substance that turns an ordinary bee into a Queen Bee. It is
made of digested pollen and honey or nectar mixed with a chemical secreted
from a gland in a nursing bee's head. It commands premium prices rivaling
imported caviar, and is used by some as a dietary supplement and fertility
stimulant. It is loaded with all of the B vitamins.
The "ouch" part of the honeybee. Although sharp pain and some swelling and
itching are natural reactions to a honeybee sting or most, a small percentage of
individuals are highly allergic to bee venom. "Bee venom therapy" is widely
practiced overseas and by some in the USA to address health problems such as
arthritis, neuralgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even MS.
There is only one queen per hive. The queen is the
only bee with fully developed ovaries. A queen
bee can live for 3-5 years. The queen mates only
once with several male (drone) bees, and will
remain fertile for life. She lays up to 2000 eggs
per day. Fertilized eggs become female (worker
bees) and unfertilized eggs become male (drone
bees). When she dies or becomes unproductive,
the other bees will "make" a new queen by
selecting a young larva and feeding it a diet of
"royal jelly". For queen bees, it takes 16 days from
egg to emergence. The Queen bee’s stinger is
curved with no barbs on it and she can use it many
All worker bees are female, but they are not able
to reproduce. Worker bees live for 4-9 months
during the winter season, but only 6 weeks during
the busy summer months (they literally work
themselves to death). Nearly all of the bees in a
hive are worker bees. A hive consists of 20,000 -
30,000 bees in the winter, and over 60,000 -
80,000 bees in the summer. The worker bees
sequentially take on a series of specific chores
during their lifetime: housekeeper; nursemaid;
construction worker; grocer; undertaker; guard;
and finally, after 21 days they become a forager
collecting pollen and nectar. For worker bees, it
takes 21 days from egg to emergence. The worker
bee has a barbed stinger that results in her death
following stinging, therefore, she can only sting
once. Unlike the stingers in wasps, the Worker
bees in the hive have a stinger that is barbed.
When the bee pulls away, the barb anchors the
stinger in the victim's body. The bee leaves the
stinger and venom pouch behind and soon dies.
Honeybees communicate with each other by
“dancing.” Scout bees dance to alert the other bees
to where nectar and pollen are located. The dance
explains direction and distance relative to the sun.
Bees also communicate with pheromones. While
bees cannot recognize the color red, they do see
These male bees are kept on standby during the
summer for mating with a virgin queen. Because
the drone has a barbed sex organ, mating is
followed by death of the drone. There are only
100-300 drones in a hive. The drone does not have
a stinger. Because they are of no use in the winter,
drones are expelled from the hive in the autumn.
Drones come from an unfertilized egg. They have
no father…..just a grandfather on their mother’s
Additional Facts...About Honeybees
Did you know that bees have 4 wings?
The honeybee's wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their
A bee flies at a rate of about 15 miles per hour.
How many eyes does a honeybee have? Five. Two compound and three simple.
The queen bee is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at
its maximum strength. She will lay about 1,500 to 2,000 eggs per day.
In the cold winter months, bees will leave the hive only to take a short cleansing
flight. They are fastidious about the cleanliness of their hive.
Honeybees do not die out over the winter, neither do they hibernate. They feed on
the honey they collected during the warmer months and patiently wait for spring.
They form a tight cluster in their hive to keep the queen and themselves warm and
vibrate the base muscles of their wings to generate heat.
It takes 60 pounds of honey to provide enough energy for a small colony of bees
to survive the winter in Indiana.
Honeybee colonies have unique odors that members flash like identification cards
at the hive's front door. All the individual bees in a colony smell enough alike so
that the guard bees can identify them.
Honey Bees are the highest form of insect life.
Facts...About The Work of the Honeybee
The honeybee is not born knowing how to make honey; the younger bees are
taught by the more experienced ones.
A honeybee visits between 50 and 100 flowers during one collection flight from
In order to produce 1 pound of honey, approx. 2 million flowers must be visited.
A hive of bees must fly 55,000 miles collectively to produce a pound of honey.
One bee colony can produce up to 400 pounds of honey per year and 60 pounds of
An average worker bee makes only about 1/12 teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
At the peak of the honey-gathering season, a strong, healthy hive will have a
population of approximately 60,000 to 80,000 bees.
It would take approximately 1 ounce of honey to fuel a bee's flight around the
Honey is the primary food source for the bee. The reason honeybees are so busy
collecting nectar from flowers and blossoms is to make sufficient food stores for
their colony over the winter months. The nectar is converted to honey by the
honeybee and stored in the wax honeycomb.
Mathematically, honeycomb is the second strongest structure in the world after
Facts...About Honey and Your Health
Honey contains vitamins and antioxidants, but is fat free, cholesterol free and
One antioxidant called "pinocembrin" is only found in honey.
Honey is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life,
Honey has the ability to attract and absorb moisture, which makes it remarkably
soothing for minor burns and helps to prevent scarring.
Honey speeds the healing of open wounds and also combats infection.
As recently as the First World War, honey was being mixed with cod liver oil to
dress wounds on the battlefield.
Modern science now acknowledges honey as an anti-microbial agent, which
means it deters the growth of certain types of bacteria, yeast and molds.
Honey and beeswax form the basics of many skin creams, lip-balms, and hand
According to Dr. Paul Gold, a Professor of Psychology at the University of
Virginia, "people remember things much better after they've consumed glucose, a
form of sugar found in honey."
Honey is nature's energy booster! It provides a concentrated energy source that
helps prevent fatigue and can boost athletic performance.
Recent studies have proven that athletes who took some honey before and after
competing recovered more quickly than those who did not.
Honey supplies 2 stages of energy. The glucose in honey is absorbed by the body
quickly and gives an immediate energy boost. The fructose is absorbed more
slowly providing sustained energy.
Bees gather 10 lb nectar for 1 lb honey.
Cave paintings in Europe indicate that early peoples were harvesting honey 8,000 years
ago. The next step in human/honeybee relations came when people started keeping bees
in man-made structures rather than just going out and searching for wild hives. The
ancient Egyptians were beekeepers and their methods were copied throughout the
Mediterranean and Middle East. They used the Western Honeybee, and that is the most
widely used species today. The Eastern Honeybee was also domesticated long ago in
China. The other two species of honeybee do not nest in cavities and so were not suited to
being put into hives. The subject of beekeeping is beyond the scope of this web page.
More Bits of Information
Honeybees are not native to the USA. They are European in origin, and were
brought to North America by the early settlers.
Honeybees are not aggressive by nature, and will not sting unless protecting their
hive from an intruder or are unduly provoked.
Honeybees represent a highly organized society, with various bees having very
specific roles during their lifetime: e.g., nurses, guards, grocers, housekeepers,
construction workers, royal attendants, undertakers, foragers, etc.
The queen bee can live for several years. Worker bees live for 6 weeks during the
busy summer, and for 4-9 month during the winter months.
The practice of honey collection and beekeeping dates back to the stone-age, as
evidenced by cave paintings.
The honeybee hive is perennial. Although quite inactive during the winter, the
honeybee survives the winter months by clustering for warmth. By self-regulating
the internal temperature of the cluster, the bees maintain 93 degrees Fahrenheit in
the center of the winter cluster (regardless of the outside temperature).
Worker bees make 10 to 15 trips per day in the summer.
Nurse bees heads exude Royal Jelly to feed larvae and the queen.
Wax bees secrete beeswax to build hexagonal honeycomb cells.
Modern science says it is aerodynamically impossible for bees to fly.
An estimated 220,000 U.S. beekeepers manage 3.2 million bee hives.
Bees are insects in the scientific order Hymenoptera as Apis mellifera.
Honey consumption per capita in the U.S.,1.1 lbs., in Germany 9.5 lbs.
Honey has been delighting humans for over 40 centuries. In ancient Egypt taxes
were paid with honey. In early Greece and Rome honey symbolized fertility, love,
and beauty. In the Bible this sublime nectar is called "the heavenly food".
North American Indians called honeybees "white man flies" because Colonists
brought them from Europe.
South Dakota, North Dakota, Florida, and California being the biggest honey
Utah is known as the Beehive State.
To make honey, bees drop the collected nectar into the honeycomb and then
evaporate it by fanning their wings.
The fructose in honey makes it sweeter than sugar. At 21 calories a teaspoon it is
one and a half times sweeter than sugar.
Honey makes baked goods brown faster, and improves their shelf life.
Honey varies in color from almost clear to very dark, depending on the floral
source and it's location, as well as the climate.
Recently, over 21,900 species of bees have been identified throughout the
world……..more than all mammals and birds combined!