The bee population is in serious danger, and that means our entire food system is too.
Did you know that a Berkeley study found pollinators to be responsible for over a third of the food we eat? Apples, peaches, coffee, and chocolate – all products of hard-working crews of pollinators. That’s why the decline in their population has us seriously worried.
I mean … a world without coffee and chocolate? We can’t let that happen.
Though the buzzing of bees may still feel to many of us like the uneventful, familiar sound of a blooming Spring; the bee populations behind them are actually in rapid decline. Things like the wide-spread use of pesticides, habitat loss, and climate change are all significant threats to this fragile community of crucial pollinators. That’s why we use urban beekeeping as a way to foster important conversations about the broader dangers facing our delicate ecosystem. Because fundamentally, no bees means way less food worldwide; it’s truly in our best interest to make sure we keep them healthy, happy, and thriving. So to tickle your curiosity about these fascinating busy-bodies, here are 6 cool bee facts you can pull out at your next party.
1. Worker bees live for about 30 days
Bees are nothing if not dedicated. Not only do they always know where to find their colony, but they’re also fiercely loyal: they almost never jump ship for greener pastures and head to another hive, at least not intentionally – but we’ve all been blown a little off course now and then, and bees can be taken off course by a strong wind and accidentally land in a neighbouring hive. Though lifespan can vary by type and role, most bees live an average of 30-45 days after they’re born. That’s 30-45 days entirely dedicated to sustaining and feeding the colony. A rather heroic feat.
2. Bees talk to one another
But perhaps not in the way you’d think. In fact, their trademark buzzing isn’t communication at all. Instead, bees communicate with one another using pheromones, which emit a particular “smell” and cause other members of the hive to modify their behaviour. So if you ever hear one of our passionate beekeepers talking about “smoking” a hive – this is why they’re doing it; smoke calms the bees by temporarily hindering their ability to communicate with one another.
3. One queen reigns supreme
Think Queen Bey knows how to draw a crowd? Well, consider that each hive has only one queen, and she makes all of the rules. She also has an entire court of bees whose sole purpose it is to feed, hydrate, and clean her. To be fair, she’s too busy laying up to 2,000 eggs every day to do it herself. Talk about a full schedule.
4. And she reigns over 50,000 bees
Oh. And did we mention that at the peak of bee season, an individual hive can contain up to 50,000 individual bees? Of those, 90% are typically female worker bees, while the other 10% are male drones bees. That’s quite the team.
5. Things heat up in the winter
Though you might not hear them buzzing about, bees are still very active in the winter. In order to keep the hive alive and thriving throughout their hibernation period, they work incessantly to maintain heat in the hive through constant activity. With all that movement in the hive, temperatures can rise up to a whopping 35 degrees Celsius – that’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit!
6. Stinging sucks – for you and them
Though many people are still afraid of getting stung, few know that bees will avoid stinging at all costs unless they feel their safety or that of their hive is being directly threatened. Why? Because when they do strike, their stinger gets physically stuck and will tear off – taking part of their abdomen along with it; a fatal blow. That’s a rather final consequence for a petty or leisurely sting.
Let us guess – you’re probably wondering about the actual danger of bee stings at this point, right? The good news is, the Italian bees we work are known for being incredibly docile and lovely neighbours. These aren’t the bees you would stumble upon in your yard. Plus, it turns out if you handle bees thoughtfully and carefully, they basically present no risk at all.