Whenever I take time to ponder God’s creation, I am undoubtedly left feeling humbled, grateful and amazed. Such feeling especially overwhelm me when helping my children navigate Biology lessons in their high school, homeschooling curriculum. I mean, we could spend weeks just talking about single-celled bacteria, such as Salmonella and Entamoeba. Often referred to as “simple” unicellular organisms, there is absolutely nothing “simple” about them! Zoology, another branch of scientific study, is also especially fascinating, particularly within a subgroup of study called “Entomology,” which is the study of insects. Insects are complex, wonderful creatures that typically get a bad rap, especially honeybees.
Before I go on, I must confess, I used to be a honeybee hater. ::makes sad face::
Long ago, I hadn’t learned much about insects. All I knew was that my husband was allergic to bee stings. I also had a friend whose father had died from an allergic reaction to a bee sting. In my mind, this meant that honey bees were adversaries and that we should swat and kill them as often as we can.
Oh, how wrong I was! Through the years, I began to study Entomology. Not only did I quickly learn that honey-bees are critical to the ecosystem, I also learned that they are critical to our own survival! I’m happy to say that, while we’re careful to protect those who are allergic (We discovered that one of my sons also has a bee allergy.) we now welcome honeybees as honored guests on our property, especially in our garden! And, you’re going to be when you learn what they can do!
Honeybees can count to four
Bees have a distance instinct that aids them in traveling back and forth from their hive to sources of food. However, in an experiment conducted with honeybees, researchers were astounded to discover evidence of their ability to count to four! To repeatedly demonstrate the skill, researchers rewarded honeybee participants in the study with a treat each time they successfully completed a task. A series of landmarks were spaced at various distances apart.
The bees earned their reward each time they stopped at the third landmark. Distances were changed to deter the bees from using their distancing instincts. Researchers also used varying numbers of landmarks, concluding that honeybees are capable of counting up to four! As if that isn’t amazing enough, recent studies suggest they’re also capable of understanding the abstract amount of “zero”! You can read more about it, here!
Honeybees are capable of learning and remembering
You’ll be astounded to know that the Great Pollinators (i.e. honeybees) are capable observation, learning a new skill and remembering it to repeat it in the future! They apparently are fans of “life hacks” as well! Entomologists who spent countless hours observing these winged creatures discovered that some of them found a way to get nectar out flowers faster than the “usual” means. Bees have to figure out how to enter each, specific type of flower to find a food source.
During observation, scientists were surprised to witness that some bees simply bit a chunk out of a flower’s spur and sucked out the nectar. This took much less time than figuring out how to get inside the flower. Entomologists refer to this life hack process as “nectar robbing.” (Is it just me, or does this sound quite similar to biting that little tip off the bottom of an ice cream sugar cone to suck out the last bit of treat? lol)
What’s even more amazing, is that researchers also witnessed honeybees who hadn’t demonstrated nectar-robbing skills observing nectar robbers. After watching their peers make swift work of gathering food by robbing nectar, the observes began nectar-robbing, too! Not only were the bees able to immediately repeat the new skill they had learned, they also demonstrated the ability to recall what they had learned at a later date.
There’s a lot of dancing going on in that honeybee hive in your yard
Okay, everybody! Let’s do the “waggle dance”! What?! You don’t know it?! Well, you can learn how to do it by visiting your nearest honeybee hive! The waggle dance is an amazing ritual that is a means of coded communication that honeybees use in secret, inside their hives. You know how you love to tell all of your friends when you score a super great deal on a favorite product at the store? You start texting and posting on social media, sharing the item, the steal-of-a-deal price and the location of the store so that your friends can rush out and buy some, too! In short, that’s what the waggle dance is.
If a honeybee finds a particularly scrumptious food source, it will return to its hive and perform the waggle dance for all of its hive mates. To perform the dance, a bee will “take the stage,” front and center, on a vertical surface in the hive. The dance itself includes figure eight movements with coded maneuvers worked in. (Think: A third-base coaches signs to bunt, steal, etc., in baseball.) If a waggle dancer flies straight up during the repetitive figure eight gyrations, it means to fly toward the sun.
In a similar fashion, flying downward means to head south of the sun, and sideways codes mean either left or right of the sun. A waggle dance not only conveys the direction fellow honeybees should travel to find the delicacy. The amount of time it takes the dancer to complete the ritual also tells the other bees how far they’ll have to fly to get there! (“Hi, Suzie? Yeah, it’s me. Hey, listen! If you drive north for about five miles, you’ll come to a sweet little specialty shop where you can get that chocolate we love so much for a FRACTION of the price of what we usually pay!”)
Now, if you REALLY wanted to convince Suzie to NOT miss out on the great chocolate deal, you might repeat yourself a bajillion times during the conversation, right? (“I’m tellin’ ya, you really HAVE to go. It’s only five miles away. Don’t wait! It might be gone if you wait too long! It’s five miles away. You HAVE to go! Like, NOW. Go, now!”) Honeybees do this, too! If a bee repeats its waggle dance numerous times, it’s similar to shouting the news over and over again.
Please don’t kill the honeybees
Amazing, isn’t it? The wonder of God’s creation renders me speechless at times. I am in awe! Honeybees are necessary to our survival. Here are just a few of many reasons we shouldn’t kill them. Not only should we not kill them, we should each do our part to encourage their presence in our gardens. We should support local apiaries. (Eating local honey will help your allergies!) We should teach our children about them, including why and how we can help protect them and encourage their reproduction.
In recent years, honeybees have been dying off at alarming rates! There are several suspected reasons for this, including habitat loss due to increased construction development, pesticides and insecticides. You can learn more about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) here. Last but not least, here are a few ways you can encourage honeybees to visit your yard and garden:
- Become a beekeeper (unless you’re allergic!).
- Set shallow bowls with marbles and water inside at various locations (not close to your house!).
- Plant tons of flowers and flowering shrubs.
- Buy honey from a local apiary.
- Grow your own food and buy food from local farmers’ markets.
Exodus 3:8 says, “And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land unto a land flowing with milk and honey.”
Ancient peoples understood the great value of honey
The Egyptians called honey “liquid gold” — here’s why.
To save the world’s honey supply, we’ve got to save the honeybees!