Honeybees: Nature's little helpers
Monday, May 03, 2010
Media contact: Jessica Basham
Spring floats through the air. Flowers bloom,
birds sing and honeybees buzz! Why is spring such a special
time for honeybees? It is the time of year when bees swarm to
find new homes and pollinate vegetables and fruits.
Honeybees are very social creatures. They are
just one of 12,000 species of bees in the world. They live in
a hive called a colony. The colony contains 20,000-80,000 bees
including one queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males). The
only female bee that can reproduce is the queen. She is the largest
bee in the colony.
Bees are very important insects, especially to
farmers. The fruits and vegetables farmers grow depend on
tiny pollen grains being spread among flowers, a process called
pollination. Bees and other insects are pollinators for
thousands of plant species. When a honeybee flies to
different flowers gathering nectar - the sweet liquid that flowers
produce to attract pollinators - it also collects sticky
pollen. It carries the pollen, which may be bright orange or
yellow, in special pouches on its legs called pollen baskets.
Some of the pollen it collects sticks onto other flowers and
The job of the foraging honeybee is to collect the
nectar and pollen for the hive. Bees make nectar into honey,
which gives bees energy and nutrition. Pollen feeds the hive and
gives bees protein.
How does a honeybee tell other bees where to find
nectar and pollen? While foraging, if a bee finds a good
source of food, she will return to the hive, feed some of her
hivemates, and do a honeybee dance. If she does a round dance
- small constant circles changing directions - it means there is a
good food source close to the hive. If she does a figure
eight-type dance with a wiggle of her body, it alerts other bees
that there is food, but it is farther away. This dance also
can communicate the direction of the food source so other worker
bees can find it. Bees also dance when they are looking for a new
Flowering plants are the best place to look for
bees this time of year. Join the Get Outdoors Florida!
movement and watch bees do their day-to-day job for the hive.
When you see a bee, sit quietly and watch her buzz around from
flower to flower. Look at her legs and see where the pollen
has been gathered in her pouches. But don't get too close!
Bees sting when they feel threatened, and some people are highly
allergic to their venom.
Without bees and other pollinators, our choice of
plant foods would be very boring and might contain only wheat and
rice and other grains. There would be no blueberries or
cucumbers or even nuts. Honeybees are the master of all
To learn more about honeybees, their social
behaviors, anatomy, and why they are so important to agriculture,
visit www.ifas.ufl.edu and type the word "bees" in
the search box.