Last updated on September 21st, 2023 at 12:37 pm
Bees have been helping humans for thousands of years. Pollinating plants is essential to the survival of the planet as we know it, but there are other fascinating ways bees have affected human life, in both past and present.
So here we have 5 amazing lesser-known facts about bees.
1. bees can be trained to find landmines
Alongside their fantastic sense of smell, bees are perfectly suited to landmine disposal for another reason, their weight. Unlike other animals trained to identify explosives, bees are at little to no risk of tripping the delicate mechanisms contained within the landmine. Thermal cameras are used to track the path of the bees as they seek out potential locations for landmines and when the team sees the bees congregating they begin the process of disarming and removing the landmine.
2. the Magna Carta legalised bee farming in 1215
Believe it or not at one stage in our history all of the honey in the kingdom belonged to the crown. In 1215 the Magna Carta changed that and took its place as one of the oldest facts about bees.
Every freeman shall have, within his own woods, ayries of hawks, sparrow-hawks, falcons, eagles and herons: and shall have also the honey that is found within his woods.
This short line contained within the Magna Carta meant that freemen could harvest the sweet honey found on their lands. Interestingly honey was also used in the production of ink used to scribe the pages themselves.
Check out our guide bee facts for kids with a free PDF download.
3. honeybees beat their wing 200 times a second
A honeybee can fly through the air at up to 15mph while buzzing from flower to flower. To achieve this miraculous feat honeybees need to beat their wings more than 200 times per second up to 230! This fascinating process is also put in place within the hive to both cool the interior temperature and evaporate excess water within the honey developing in cells.
Unfortunately, some honeybees and bumblebees are born with missing or deformed wings. This is caused by the Deformed wing virus or DWV, you can learn more about this in our short article bees with no wings.
4. in 1984 bees built honeycomb in zero gravity
In 1984 bees were sent into space for a fascinating zero-gravity experiment. The bees travelled into space on the space shuttle Challenger, the shuttle contained two Bee Enclosure Modules each containing approximately 3400 worker bees and a queen.
The bees struggled initially in zero gravity, attempted flight led to collisions with the containing structure and other bees. The mission lasted 7 days in total and by the end of the 7 day period, the bees were able to fly short distances successfully, create honeycomb and even produce eggs that did not manage to reach maturity. The speed and intensity of the experiment were not ideal for drawing solid conclusions but the bees apparent adaptability was clear.
5. bees can accurately diagnose several diseases with smell
By exposing bees to specific odours and rewarding them you can very quickly train bees to identify several diseases that occur in humans. As we know bees are equipped with a sense of smell better than that of a sniffer dog and are perfectly suited to targeting the chemical odours released by certain conditions.