World Honey Bee Day is marked on August 15 every year.
So, here are 12 more things you probably don’t know about honey bees.
1. Honey bees prefer gardens planted with flowers that are native to the UK and the northern hemisphere, a study by the Royal Horticultural Society recently found. But they can thrive in winter thanks to more exotic plants.
2. They prefer schools and gardens to farmland and countryside, according to data from May’s Great British Bee Count. This is thought to be down to pesticides used on farms.
3. Honey bees are thought to be the second biggest population of bees in the UK – after the same count revealed yellow and black bumblebees were the most common.
4. Nicotine-like pesticides can actually give bees a buzz like a smoker gets from a cigarette, according to experiments by the University of Newcastle. This shows bee populations may be harmed when they are attracted to them.
5. Honey bee colonies are at real risk from bitterly cold winters. In the winter of 2012/13 a third failed to survive but between October 2013 and March 2014 only around one in 10 were lost when it was milder, according to the British Beekeepers Association.
6. There is a spider venom that may actually protect plants without harming honey bees, University of Newcastle bee experts found. It comes from the Australian funnel web spider and was fed in high doses to honey bees by the researchers. They found while it helps plants, it only had a very slight impact on the insect’s survival. This means it could be used as a pesticide.
7. Honey bees have been known to build colonies in unusual places, including on a bedspread in a spare room and the front of a London Topshop in 2014. Trained beekeepers are used in these situations to smoke them out without harming them.
8. Scotland only has one native species of honey bee and there is a safe haven for them in Colonsay and Oronsay in the Inner Hebrides. It is an offence to keep any species except the native black bees there.
9. Honey bees have been found to get confused by diesel pollution. It makes it more difficult for them to find flowers because it changes the chemical make-up of their scent, scientists at the University of Southampton found.
10. Around 40,000 to 50,000 commercially reared bumblebee colonies are brought to the UK every year – sometimes threatening the honey bees because they carry parasites. There are tough controls in place to try to stop this happening.
11. We know pesticides are bad for bees, but they have also been found to confuse them by disrupting the learning circuits in their brains. Researchers from the University of Newcastle actually performed memory tests on bees with food.
12. Caffeine has the same effect on bees as it does on humans. Yep, scientists have found it gives them a buzz and stimulates their brains.