The Marvellous World of Bees.
The Marvellous World of Bees.
A vibrant buzz in hedgerows, gardens, parks and meadows is an all too familiar sound of summer. Thousands of insects move between bushes, flowers and trees during long sunny days in search of food and shelter; filling our countryside and beyond with a lively hustle and bustle.
The most commonly recognised ‘buzz’ to be heard is likely that of the beloved bee. Honeybees, Bumblebees, Solitary bees and more dance about in search of pollen and nectar all day long, making them a frequent sight in a variety of habitats. However, this seemingly small and humble insect holds a lot more than what meets the eye.
Bees take their day-to-day work very seriously and play a vitally important role in pollination; even if the pollination they do is relatively unintentional. By hopping from flower to flower a single honeybee can visit and pollinate up to 5000 flowers in a single day meaning a whole colony of bees could potentially pollinate hundreds of millions of flowers in one day.
When bees go from flower to flower, they are in search of pollen and nectar.
Pollen is bees' main food source of fat and protein. It is eaten by bees, and they will also take it back to the hive so it can be mixed with honey and used to nurse young bees. When bees land on a flower pollen will stick to the tiny hairs all over their body, they then use their middle legs to comb the pollen back into pollen balls on their back legs so it can be carried back to the hive. Pollination occurs when they transfer pollen from one flower to another which could be described as accidental since the bees are only travelling in search of food. Nonetheless this transfer of pollen is one of the most important natural processes that occurs and means that all plants can keep growing and reproducing.
Nectar is bees' source of sugar due to its very high sugar content and provides foraging bees with the energy they need while out collecting. Nectar is also used to make honey back in the hive. Foraging bees will drink the nectar using a straw like tongue called a proboscis and store any excess nectar in their stomach. When they take it back to the hive it will be stored in the honeycomb (made from bee's wax) where worker bees will fan it with their wings to evaporate all the excess water until the nectar becomes honey.
Bees use their ultraviolet vision and incredibly powerful sense of smell to find the flowers with the best quality pollen and nectar. Bees, when travelling slowly, see in ultraviolet light and can spot blooming colourful flowers that will likely have lots of pollen and nectar. Pollen and nectar also have very strong smells which bees can sniff out using their antennae. If bees find a good location with lots of high-quality flowers, they will be very quick to inform other foraging bees when they arrive back at the hive to deposit their goods. They do this by communicating using pheromones or specific movements known as a ‘waggle dance’. If you're lucky enough to ever look inside a beehive you will likely see arriving bees using this dance to tell others where the good flowers are.
Next time you hear a familiar ‘buzz’ wherever you are, take a minute to look a bit closer at these very small but very complex little creatures. What you may see will never fail to surprise you.