I was hanging out today waiting for someone in their garden, watching as a huge number of bumblebees were taking nectar from some plants. I'm a big fan of bumblebees because of my photographic past with them (and the fact that they don't care if you pet their fuzzy bodies while they're gathering) and so I was watching them pretty closely.
At one point I watched as a bee pulled another one off of a flower, weird. Then I saw what looked like bee sex. (One bee climbed on top of the other, which I've never seen them do before. It seemed like they were mating, only, as my wife pointed out when I recounted this story, that's not how bees reproduce.
So I've been reading up online (mostly Wikipedia) and I don't know what was going on there, but I did find some amazing things. And I'm totally blown away by bees.
The queen bee determines if she's going to make a male or female. All bee eggs hatch regardless of fertilization. The queen, through a process completely not understood, cotrols which eggs receive sperm. Unfertilized eggs=male=drones. Fertilized=workers=female.
Virgin Queens is the term for a bee that's being raised to be a queen bee. It's created when the workers feed it only royal jelly during (which is secreted from the head of the bees) during development from larvae and no honey. Virgin Queens are produced when the hive needs to replace the queen. (That's right, the things sense when the queen is dying, and build a new one.)
Drone bees have bigger eyes than the females, that's because sex occurs in flight and so they need to be able to see better as they're, uh, steering.
A colony of honeybees can be—ready for this?—40,000 members strong. They can fly miles for food (up to 14 kilometers). Which means that the bees I saw today in Tarrytown in theory could be the bees that hang out in our yard. Unreal.
A swarm of bees occurs when they're looking for a new place to make a hive. If a location doesn't pan out, they usually travel a bunch of miles and look around again. In the meantime, they'll sleep hanging in clusters from under trees or roofs.
Hive temps stay consistent despite outside temperatures. Get this from Wikipedia
All bees, when they sense the hive's temperature deviating from proper limits, either generate heat by shivering, or exhaust heat by moving air with their wings.
Oh my god.
And it just gets better and better. I found out today that bees and ants all evolved from wasps, and bees evolved parallel to the development of the flower. That means that bees helped create flowers. Not just help create flowers now, they helped invent them.
Emerging queens make a noise called "piping" that can be heard clearly from outside a hive, and it's either G sharp or A natural.
The smallest bee is only a few millimeters long, the largest are up to 1.5 inches.
If you're interested, the Wikipedia articles are fascinating.