Monday, March 1, 2021

School in the Honey Bees' Hive

Have you ever wondered what school would be like in the beehive?

Let me show you how honey bees use math, history, science, and biology to keep their home

organized and travel internationally!


To build the comb out of wax, honey bees eat about 8 pounds of honey in order to make 1 pound

of wax. The wax cells are in the shape of hexagons that have 6 sides. In these cells, bees can store

nectar, pollen, and brood. The brood are the baby bees that start as an egg and then grow into an adult. 

A queen bee can lay around 2,000 eggs each day! After 3 weeks, those eggs will emerge out of

their cells and join the workforce of the hive, cleaning the hive, feeding the brood, foraging of food, and many other jobs. Each year, 1 hive can produce about 50 pounds of honey. Each worker bee makes

1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in her entire lifetime! 


Honey bees can smell flowers from a few miles away! One way that honey bees communicate is

through smells. In the hive, these smells are called pheromones. Honey bees detect different smells

that help them locate flowers, identify the age of a larva (~4-8 days old brood), and find open cells

of nectar. Worker bees will put the nectar into their honey stomach, add enzymes to it, and dehydrate it

and make the nectar into honey. To preserve the honey, worker bees will make a wax capping for the

cell of honey. Honey does not require any processing before eating, so you can buy comb honey

from many stores.


Since the beginning of time, honey bees and honey have been deeply ingrained into human culture. 

Honey bees are the only insect that produces food that humans can eat--honey! Humans have found

many uses for honey including beauty routines, wound care, and cooking with honey. Because of the

bees’ great benefit, the explorers brought beehives with them as they sailed across the ocean to find

new lands. In 1622, the pilgrims discovered the new world, which they later named America.

Whether it's making honey or pollinating flowers that grow into our fruits and veggies, honey bees

continue to serve an important role in our lives.


The biology of honey bees is different from that of humans. In order to breathe, honey bees have tiny

holes in their exoskeleton. According to Flow Hive, “These valves, called spiracles, are located on the

sides of their body."

Another feature of honey bees is their stinger. Worker bees have a barbed stinger so that they can

defend the colony from predators like bears, skunks, and mice. Since the queen bee’s only job is to

lay eggs, she has a smooth stinger to help establish herself as the only queen bee of the colony.

Since drone bees do not defend the hive, they do not have any stinger! 

Honey bees have 5 eyes: 2 compound eyes and 3 ocelli. The compound eyes allow the forager bee

to see the large grouping of flowers and the ocelli helps the bee see the details of the flower.

What kind of details can she see? Honey bees see the world in ultraviolet (UV) light spectrum,

which means that yellow and purple flowers are brighter and look more attractive to bees while red

flowers look black and unattractive. In the pictures below, the flower on the left is seen as normal

and the picture on the right is the same flower in UV light. Each flower species has its own pattern

under UV light. These patterns on the flowers are called nectar guides and help lead the bee to the

sweet nectar that she is foraging for. With the help of her eyes, honey bees can locate and pollinate

many plants.