1. They can sense the electric fields of flowers.
Electroreception helps bees figure out which flowers have already been raided for their nectar, so they can target the ones that have plenty left. Oh and did you also know flowers have electric fields?!
2. They withstand forces 30 times greater than gravity as they shake flowers to get pollen out.
3. They can sniff out landmines.
Researchers in Croatia trained a team of honey bees to sniff out landmines by making them associate the smell of TNT with sugar (poor bees). Their super sniffing power means they can detect odours from up to 4.5km away.
4. And they’ve been known to work as “biodetectives”, keeping tabs on pollution at German airports.
Honey made from bees that patroll Düsseldorf International Airport, as well as 7 others, is used to test for things like hydrocarbons and heavy metals in the air.
5. They could FLY OVER MOUNT EVEREST if they wanted to.
In a paper in Biology Letters, scientists worked out that alpine honey bees can sustain hovering flight at elevations in excess of 9000m – higher than Mount Everest. That’s above and beyond what they need to do for standard foraging, raising questions about why exactly they can do it.
6. They can carry almost half their own weight in pollen.
With great determination.
7. They take advantage of the laws of physics to make their honeycomb hexagonal.
Honeycomb starts out circular, and then surface tension moulds the cells into a hexagonal shape without the bees putting in any more hard work themselves.
8. Magnets are their kryptonite.
By attaching small pieces of steel to bees and waving magnets over them three times a minute, scientists wanting to study the effects of sleep deprivation on bees were able to keep them awake all night. Not getting enough kip prevented the bees from properly doing their “waggle dance” to show other bees where the best flowers were. 🙁
9. Their brains work faster than a computer on some maths problems.
When bumblebees encounter a number of flowers they appear to solve the “Travelling Salesman Problem” for that specific set of circumstances, working out the quickest route between all the different flowers.
10. Honeybees can recognise and distinguish between human faces.
Scientists trained bees to pick out a photo of a particular face by giving them a sucrose reward. Once the reward was taken away they still got it right nearly 90% of the time – even though they only have 0.01% of the neurons that humans do.
11. Their wings beat at 230 strokes per second.
12. They can taste with their feet.
And also their mouths and antennae. When scientists dabbed honeybees’ feet with solutions containing sucrose, salt and bitter tastes, salt was what got them going the most.
13. They are merciless towards their enemies.
Stingless bees in Australia mummify alive any beetles that break into their hives. Yikes.
14. And they save us from starvation EVERY SINGLE DAY.
One third of the food we eat directly or indirectly relies on bees.