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Updated on Apr 24, 2020. Posted on May 8, 2018

16 Facts About Bees That'll Probably Make You Want To Start Your Own Hive

Um, bees can tell individual people apart.

Don't let their stingers fool you — bees are actually really awesome (and no, the bees didn't write this).

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About one-third of the world's food supply is made possible by bees' pollination, and that includes pretty much all of your favorite fruits and veggies, from apples and oranges to onions and avocados. That's especially impressive when you consider how small, but mighty, bees are. With their numbers being threatened by colony collapse disorder, it's more important than ever to understand a little more about the buzzy insects and all the work they do.

1. The average worker bee produces only about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

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2. That sounds tiny, which it is, but an average bee's lifespan is only about six weeks.

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That's the official lifespan during honey production season; they technically can live much shorter or longer, depending on the time of year.

3. And it takes a group of honeybees two million flowers to make one pound of honey.

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Two. Million. They also travel more than 55,000 miles to get the job done, so it's time to put even more respect on their name.

4. Bees are the only insects that produce something humans can actually eat.

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There are so many insects out there, which isn't news to you if you've ever been outside....or inside, for that matter. Beetles, ants, and butterflies may have their own benefits to the ecological systems, but honey is a pretty unique substance, and it's all possible because of our buzzy little friends.

5. They've been producing honey the same way for 150 million years.

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To put that in perspective, the earliest fossils of homo sapiens date back to about 315,000 years ago.

6. Only female bees have stingers, because the stinger is essentially an ovipositor.

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There are three different kinds of bees — worker bees, queen bees, and drones. All worker bees and queen bees are female, and so they have stingers, which function as modified egg-laying devices. So if you get stung (which tbh is only ever done out of defense), you a have a woman to thank for that.

7. And yes, honeybees do die after stinging you.

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The barbed stinger gets so stuck in human skin after a sting that it disembowels the bee, leading to a relatively quick death. (And it's assumed that bees don't know that their sting will be fatal.)

8. Not only do male bees not have stingers, they also don't gather nectar or pollen.

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I promise I'm not out here dragging male bees, aka drones, but literally their only purpose in life is to mate with the queen bee. And male honey bees in particular die after mating. "The genitalia of honey bee drones pop out explosively at mating with a sound one can hear, paralyzing and killing them," the UC Berkeley Honey Bee Lab says.

9. Queen bees can select the sex of their larvae.

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Not even human queens can do that!!!! In a study, queen bees laid nearly three times as many drone eggs as usual when given the choice.

10. Bees, along with wasps and hornets, are the most deadly creatures — they kill more people a year than bears, alligators, and sharks combined.

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Those flying fiends caused 58 deaths a year in the U.S. between 2001-2013, while bears, alligators, and sharks all killed one person each.

11. Oh, and bees can also tell us apart.

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They can recognize individual human faces, and I'm not saying that's the main reason you should be nice to bees, but it's definitely a big one. And btw, they do this all with a brain the size of a sesame seed!

12. That buzzing sound they make is caused by them flapping their wings around 11,000 strokes a minute.

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YEAH, THAT'S A LOT. The super fast flapping creates vibrations, which are picked up by human ears as buzzing.

13. And according to all known laws of aviation, there is no way that a bee should be able to fly, but scientists now understand that it's due to the shape and motion of their wings.

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Bees have four wings — two large and two small — that work together to lift their round little bodies into the air. The wings twist and rotate, making short, sweeping motions, helping lift the insects off the ground and into the buzzing, flying mode that we know so well.

14. Honeybees do a move called the "waggle dance" to communicate with each other.

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The dance is used to let other hivemates know where the best source of food is.

15. If you really want to be a friend to the bees, plant a garden with at least three kinds of flowers.

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Ideally, those different kinds will bloom in separate seasons, making for extended pollination. The Honeybee Conservancy suggests crocus, hyacinth, and wild lilac for spring; cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons, and foxglove for summer; and zinnias, witch hazel, and goldenrod for fall. Bees also love single flower tops like daisies and marigolds.

16. Oh, and keep in mind that they really like caffeine.

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When researchers added caffeine to a nectar solution, bees responded really positively to it, and made a point of going back to the caffeinated nectar instead of the decaf version. Bees: they're just like us!

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