August 16th is National Honey Bee Day! You can find a wealth of biology and science learning ideas and discussion topics by looking at the life of the American honey bee. Honey bees are the only insect to produce food used by humans, and they spend their entire lives working to produce sweet nectar.
Some Sweet Things to Learn about Honey and Bees
- Honey is the only food on earth that contains all parts necessary to sustain life: enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water; all created through pollination by the honey bee.
- The honey bee ‘buzz’ comes from the rapid stroke of their wings – over 200 beats per second.
- Collection trips for honey bees involve traveling anywhere from 50-100 flowers; the average honey bee produces a mere 1/12th teaspoon of honey in their lifetime – about five years.
- An entire hive of bees travels over 90,000 miles to make 1kg of honey; that’s equal to 3 trips around the Earth for every kg of honey!
- A colony of bees includes three types of honey bee: the queen responsible for laying eggs, up to 2,500 a day in the summer months; the worker bee, females who do all of the work necessary to produce honey and beeswax; and drones, male bees who are solely responsible for mating.
- An average colony consists of 20,000-60,000 honey bees and one queen.
Honey bees have been around for millions of years; the oldest recorded instance of beekeeping dates back to the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. Honey bees have a significant importance to the agriculture of the U.S. and directly impact the yield and quality of annual crops.
“The pollination work of honeybees increases the yield and quality of United States crops by approximately $15 billion annually, including over $6 billion in California.”
– Honey Bees and Agriculture
“The total number of managed honey bee colonies has decreased from 5 million in the 1940s to only 2.5 million today. At the same time, the call for hives to provide pollination services has continued to increase. This means honey bee colonies are being transported over longer distances than ever before.”
–Colony Collapse Syndrome
Africanized honey bees – are they the “killer bees” we fear?
– Africanized Honey Bees in the US
Honey bees are even inspiring STEM learning and advanced micro-robotics research. As the honey bee population declines due to africanized bees and colony collapse syndrome, scientists are close to releasing engineered robotic bees that are set to operate like honey bees to ease the decline.
–The Bees are Back as Robots