Bees are fascinating creatures that never cease to amaze. You could study bees for years and still learn new things about them each day!
Here are 5 fun facts about bees that will surprise you – and definitely spice up your office water cooler talk!
1. BEE POOP WAS MISTAKEN FOR A BIOWEAPON
In the late 1970s, there were reports of a mysterious, sticky, yellow substance falling from the sky in parts of Southeast Asia. This launched a United Nations investigation known as the “Yellow Rain” incident.
Some claimed the yellow substance was a toxic chemical or biological weapon. This caused the United States to accuse the Soviet Union of chemical warfare.
When scientists sampled the substance they discovered it was actually honey bee feces from passing swarms.
2. BEES DON’T PEE
On the topic of bee excrement – they don’t pee. Instead, bees excrete waste in the form of uric acid mixed with their feces (similar to bird droppings).
It’s a more efficient way for bees to get rid of waste while holding on to their stored water (which they need to keep from drying out).
3. BEES LIKE CAFFEINE
Just like us, bees love starting their day with a caffeine kick.
Certain plants, like coffee and citrus, use caffeine as a natural defense mechanism. It deters harmful insects to protect young leaves, seeds, or fruit.
Unlike those unwanted insects, bees are actually attracted to the caffeine-infused nectar. Caffeine has a similar effect on bees as it does on humans. It makes them more alert, increases their energy, and improves their memory.
Caffeine’s addictive properties also work on bees. When given the choice, they’ll end up choosing caffeinated nectar over decaf!
4. BEESWAX STUMPED SCIENTISTS FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS
It wasn’t until 1792 that Swiss entomologist François Huber discovered how beeswax was produced.
He determined that honey bees produce wax by secreting it from specialized wax glands on their abdomen.
Before this breakthrough, it was believed that bees collected resin from trees.
5. HONEY BEES GOT THEIR NAME BY MISTAKE
The scientific name for the honey bee is Apis mellifera, coined by Carolus Linnaeus in 1758. This means “honey carrying bee”, because at the time, it was believed that bees collected honey from flowers.
Upon realizing that bees collect and carry nectar (not honey), Linnaeus tried to change the name to Apis mellifica, which means “honey making bee”. But Apis mellifera had already stuck.
Keep learning: 7 things you can do to help bees
Despite playing an essential role in the ecosystem, pollinators are in trouble. The good news? There are many actions, both big and small, that you can take to help them!