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The Waggle Dance And Other Fascinating Facts About Bees
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The Waggle Dance And Other Fascinating Facts About Bees

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Bees are an integral part of the world's delicate ecosystem, which supports all living things on this planet. They are the pollinators, the enablers if you like, of plant reproduction.

Without effective pollination, plants die out and species further up the food chain subsequently follow. They are pretty much the 'bee's knees' when it comes to environmental sustainability.

Here are a few more reasons to love the humble bee;

Honeybees have their own special dance

Bees communicate vital information to each other via a choreographed set of moves called the 'waggle dance'.

The dance is performed by a forager or worker bee, after she returns to the hive having discovered a valuable resource, normally pollen or nectar. First of all, they must attract the attention of the hive and gather a suitable audience, which they do by jumping on the backs of the other bees.

The bee will then perform a dance sequence, moving in a circular motion to represent distance travelled and waggling their bodies to indicate the direction. It is mapped out across the honeycomb in accordance with the sun's rays and using their internal body clocks. They emit electrical fields and pheromones at the same time which communicates the quality and nature of the food source.

The direction and duration of the waggle dance correlates with the exact location of the resource. Once it's over, worker bees who have witnessed the spectacle and managed to receive all of the vital information will set off to gather more. This clever choreography, which is a coded navigational system, is essential to ensuring that they make enough food for the winter months.

Queens and colonies: The life of a honeybee

Honeybees live in colonies consisting of a queen (who is substantially larger than her subordinates) tens of thousands of workers bees and a few hundred male drones. The queen bee hibernates over the winter, reemerging in the spring to lay eggs and in doing so creates a whole new hive.

A single queen bee is biological mother to all of the bees within one colony, which can consist of within the region of 50,000 members. All worker bees are female however, unlike the queen, they cannot lay fertile eggs. Male drone bees are there to mate with the queen, to enable her to lay more eggs and keep repopulating her colony.

Not all bees live in hives and make honey

Honeybees are generally considered to be the most well known and popular of the bee species, which can lead to a misconception that all bees live in hives and make honey. In fact, many of the 250 bee species native to the UK live on their own.

For example, red mason bees make nests in tiny nooks and crannies where they store a paste of pollen and nectar in cells. This food store sustains the eggs that will be laid there once they hatch. By this point the parent bee will have already died, living only 10-12 weeks in the spring.

Things like bug hotels and leaving out a few bricks increases the survival rates of bees, like the red masons, which unlike honeybees do not have the security of a hive.

They pollinate everything

Not only do honeybees provide us with our much loved honey, which has amazing health benefits. About one third of all the food in your fridge can only be there because of the work that bees do. They pollinate our gardens, vegetable patches and the farms that produce and sustain the food we eat.

They have cute fuzzy bottoms

Credit: Pinterest

We are all sadly familiar with the fact that the future survival of bees is in jeopardy. This is in part due to intensive farming practices, habitat destruction in the form of urbanisation and some more natural causes, such as colony collapse disorder, which is when a large proportion of the worker bees suddenly abandon a colony.

This has a catastrophic impact on the surrounding habitat, for which the bee's work provides the foundation upon which all other life exists. One organisation devoted to addressing this problem, by focusing on one particular species, is the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

They advocate the vital role that these bees play in sustaining natural habitats and supporting wildlife. Though various initiatives, the Bumblebee Conservation Trust is working hard to create awareness and implement systems which aim to halt and then reverse the decline of the bumblebee.

Visit the website to see how you can get involved with projects and discover more about these intriguing insects.

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