5 reasons to love bees on World Bee Day
Bees are crucial for growing many of our favorite and healthiest foods as they move pollen from plant to plant.
Unfortunately, many bee populations are threatened as a result of changes in land use, pesticides, intensive agriculture and climate change.
There is a lot to love about bees, but here’s five reasons why you should appreciate the mighty pollinators.
1. Bees like to ‘waggle dance’
Bees can communicate and make decisions by dancing.
When a honeybee scouts out and inspects a new nest it usesa waggle dance to advertise and debate its merits. The better the site, the longer and harder the bee dances. If another bee bumps into a dancing bee, she will go off to inspect the site and if she likes it, she, too, will waggle.
The dancing can cause a flash mob of sorts with about 20 to 30 bees agreeing — with dance — on the best nest side.
2. Bees can use tools
Honeybees in Vietnam and other parts of Asia are under attack of giant hornets that kill adult bees and prey on the young.
To ward off the attacks, the bees will collect fresh animal dropping and smear it around the entrance to their hive.
Researchers, who published their findings last year, call it “fecal spotting.” The study team believe the poop repels the predatory hornets from the nest by reducing time hornets spend attempting to breach the nest.
“Fecal spotting stands out as extraordinary for several reasons. It marks the first report of honey bees of any species foraging for materials that are not derived from plants or water-based fluids. It is also the first clear-cut example of honey bees using a tool in nature,” the study said.
3. Bee poop nearly caused a Cold War confrontation
In the 1980s, “yellow rain” — tiny splotches of yellow found on jungle foliage in Laos and Cambodia — were thought to be the residue of chemical weapons. Refugees said that the yellow rain caused illness and death.
The allegations prompted the United States to accuse what was then the Soviet Union and its allies of chemical warfare.
Bee experts later found that the yellow dots were excretions by massive swarms of wild honeybees.
4. Bumblebees get hangry
Plants produce dazzling flowers laden with nectar to attract pollinators. But what’s an impatient, hungry bumblebee to do when those flowers haven’t bloomed?
When pollen is scarce, bumblebees damaged tomato and mustard plant leaves in a unique way that resulted in the plant flowering up to 30 days earlier than unnibbled plants, scientists in Switzerland and France found.
For bees, the pollen is a protein source they need to raise their young.
However, warmer temperatures as a result of the climate crisis means that bees are waking up earlier after hibernating for the winter to find the flowers they need for food haven’t yet bloomed. Flowering time, which relies on exposure to light, is less affected by climate change.
5. Humans have been exploiting honeybees for thousands of years
A cave painting in Spain thought to be 8,000 years old depicts a human gathering honey from a ladder. Traces of beeswax on pottery also suggest that early farmers kept bees 9,000 years ago. Honey has also been found in ancient Egyptian tombs.
Honey was likely a rare treat in a prehistoric diet that had few sweet foods, and it could have had medicinal uses.
Today, honey may offer fresh hope in the fight against antibiotic resistance. It contains natural antibiotics to help the body battle infection.
Scientists are working on ways to make the sticky substance easier to apply on wounds, and it could be used in surgery, war zones, and our own homes.
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