Okay, hive mind: what is the most important insect on the planet? You probably already guessed it’s the bee, but do you know why? To answer that, we need only go as far as our refrigerators. It’s a known fact that bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food we eat. That’s a big responsibility for such little guys but don’t worry, they’re up to the challenge. So, what’s all the buzz about? Keep reading to find out a few amazing facts about Earth’s little heroes.
- Keep feeling pollination
Most crops that yield fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, nuts, even fiber (cotton) and hay (alfalfa) require pollination by insects. Think of pollination as plant love – passion burning and love so strong. Pollen hitches a ride on the bee’s tiny hairs and is transferred from a male to a female of the same species, resulting in fertilization and seed production. Voila, food! The honey bee, specifically the European honey bee, is responsible for most of the plant pollination on earth for no other reason that they’re so darn good at it. They spend most of their life collecting pollen as a source of food for baby bees. At the end of the day, bees are responsible for roughly 80% of the food on the planet.
- Bees are incredible navigators
Ever wonder how a worker bee finds its way back the hive despite traveling vast distances? Bees are amazing at navigation. Like tiny Magellans, they use the position of the sun to help them know where they are and how to return to their hive. Researchers attribute this to a bee’s sensitivity to the earth’s magnetic field. In addition, their eyes are sensitive to polarized light and can see where they’re going even through thick clouds.
- And speaking of eyes, bees have five
Yep, you read that right – five. They have two large compound eyes and three ocelli eyes in the center of the head. Does this mean they have superhero vision? Hardly. These simple eyes assist bees with sun orientation and help them navigate during the day. Some bee species are crepuscular or active from dusk until dawn. These species have enlarged ocelli which detect minute differences in light and assist in navigation in the dark. One example of this would be a bee living in the desert where extreme day temperatures prohibit food collection and forces the bee to forage at night. A second example would be pollination of evening primroses which occurs at night. In addition, bees are totally red blind and more sensitive to the blue end of the light spectrum as well as ultraviolet light. Flowers reflect large amounts of ultraviolet light and appear very bright to a bee.
- Girl power
As with everything else on Earth, female bees do all the work. Sadly, or not, male drones live only to mate with the queen. Once they’ve served their purpose, they meet their maker. Fun fact – if there’s a food shortage in the hive, the female worker bees kick the drones out first. Un-bee-lievable!
- Let’s face it, bees are intelligent
As incredible as it may sound, bees can recognize faces not only of other bees but humans! Researches trained bees to associate pictures of human faces with sugar (no surprise there). The bees recognized the arrangement of human facial features and would receive a reward of sugar water each time they selected the picture of the human. But don’t get too excited, if you do befriend a bee, it’s doubtful she’ll remember you. One can only hope.
Bees are one of the most important (and fascinating) creatures on the planet but unfortunately, they’ve found themselves in times of trouble. Since 2006, honey bees have faced Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), which is a dead colony with no dead adult bee bodies but a live adult queen, honey, and young bees still present. But thanks to heroic research efforts by organizations like the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab, the future of these winged wonders is looking a less bleak.
So, the next time you sit down to enjoy your avocado toast or almond milk smoothie give a little hat tip to our little buzzing buddies.
And now here’s something I think you’ll really like →
Honey Lavender Shortbread Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
3 Tbs honey
2 cups flour
Pinch of salt
2 tsp dried organic lavender (you can find it on Amazon)
In a large bowl, cream butter, sugar, and honey until fluffy. Add the flour in stages, then add the salt and dried lavender. Mix well until combined. Divide the dough in half between two sheets of parchment paper. Form 2 logs that are roughly 1 ¼ “ in diameter. Shape the logs into rectangles either with your hand or the edge of a cookie sheet. Refrigerate the dough for 1 ½ to 2 hours or place in the freezer for 30 minutes until firm.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator (or freezer) and slice into ¼” slices. Place the slices 2” apart on a cookie sheet either lined with parchment or lightly greased. Bake 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. Enjoy!