Friends of the Earth are doing a Great British Bee Count until 30 June. I’m sure a week of data would be better than none.
Physiological bee facts
- The Garden bumblebee can stretch its tongue to the length of its whole body! This helps it feed from deep flowers like honeysuckle and irises. It tucks its 2cm long tongue under its belly when resting
- Tomato flowers hold their pollen very tightly, so bumblebees grab hold of them and buzz to shake out the pollen. This special method is called ‘buzz- pollination’ and honeybees cannot do it
- Honeybees have 170 odorant receptors, compared with only 62 in fruit flies and 79 in mosquitoes. Their exceptional olfactory abilities include kin recognition signals, social communication within the hive, and odor recognition for finding food. Their sense of smell is so precise that it could differentiate hundreds of different floral varieties and tell whether a flower carried pollen or nectar from metres away.
Ecological bee facts
- The European Commission has voted in favour of a ban on bee-harming neonicotinoids on all outdoor crops. But now we have to get farmers working how how to encourage pollinators without encouraging pests.
- Only Honeybees live in beehives. Most bumblebees nest in small mammal burrows and solitary bees may nest in many places –some even use empty snail shells.
A bee is not a bee (from FOE) when it is a
- hoverfly: small short antennae, one pair of wings, often hover. Some hoverflies are hairy enough to resemble bees very closely
- bee-fly: long tongue permanently stuck out, single pair of wings, long thin legs, often hover.
- parasitic flies: bristly rather than hairy, single wings never folded.
- wasps: bald, brightly coloured, some roll their wings at rest. Some bees mimic wasps, but bees are never attracted to dead animal matter – wasps love it, and take it home to their young.
- bee beetles (scarce in UK): look much more like beetles in a bee suit – their wings have a beige & black pattern resembling a bee.
More than 270 species of UK bee are classified according to Friends of the Earth’s Bee guide.
Psychological bee facts
- Bees understand the concept of zero. Read more here.
Thanks to Friends of the Earth UK, Earth-sky.com and Benefits of Honey.com for these facts! Pictures from FoE and my garden.