Bees and Butterflies

Bees and ButterfliesBees and Butterflies are amazing little insects, that have an essential part to play in our gardens and throughout nature worldwide. As they move from plant to plant, they collect pollen as they go, which they drop off to the next flower.  By transferring pollen between plants and flowers they assist in the fertilization of these flowers, by transferring from male to female, and this allows for the reproduction of these plants and allows seeds and fruit to develop.

Interesting Facts About Bees

Bees are creatures that have intrigued humans for a millennia and they are a critically important part of the world’s ecosystem, directly impacting food sources for humans and animal life. At least one-third of the food we consume worldwide relies on honeybees for pollination.

Bees have existed for thirty million years, and humans have maintained a wonderful relationship with honeybees for many thousands of years. The practice of beekeeping dates back at least 4,500 years and is considered by many to be the world’s second-oldest profession.

Here is just a small snippet of the vast array of amazing facts about bees.

  • Honey bees are the only insect to produce food that is consumed by humans. Honey is the only known source of pinocembrin, an important antioxidant potentially effective to treat cardiovascular disease.
  • The average individual bee will make only one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. This doesn’t seem like a lot – but consider this: To make one kilogram of honey, bees must gather the nectar of four million flowers. To make this amount of honey, a single bee would need to fly about 94,000 miles – this is the equivalent of three trips around the globe.
  • A honey bee can fly for almost six miles, and it will visit between 50-100 flowers during a single collection outing. During its lifespan, the average honey bee will fly about 47,000 miles.
  • Interesting Facts about BeesHoney bees never sleep! They instead conserve their energy overnight by remaining motionless.
  • Bees eat nectar from plants and flowers and they have two stomachs. One of these is for eating, while the other is exclusively used to store nectar. Bees create honey by digesting nectar, then regurgitating it into honeycomb. They then fan it with their wings.

Bee Anatomy and Life Cycle

  • Bees are insects with six legs; though they have joints in their legs, they do not have knees. They have long tubular tongues (called a proboscis) to suck liquid nectar from flowers.
  • A bee’s trademark “buzz” is the result of it beating its wings two hundred times per second.
  • A honeybee’s lifespan is just six to eight weeks.
  • A bee’s sense of smell is fifty times more powerful than that of a dog. Each colony also has its own distinct scent.
  • Bees communicate through dance, and each species performs these dances in a different way.

Bee Habitat and Reproduction

  • A bee lifespan has four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
  • Honey bees live in hives. These are formed with hexagonal honeycomb; these perfect hexagons hold the highest volume of honey with the smallest amount of wax possible. Hives produce honey, beeswax, royal jelly, pollen, and propolis. The honeycomb is not only storage space but also a nursery for bee larvae.
  • Each hive will contain a queen bee, drones, and worker bees.
  • A queen will leave the hive to embark on a single “mating flight”. She will mate with 5-45 drones, thereafter storing their sperm for life.
  • A productive queen may lay as many as 2,500 eggs per day.
  • The queen bee eats royal jelly, a milky substance produced in the head of a worker bee.
  • Drones are the male bees which mate with the queen. They die after they have done so.
  • Worker bees are all female – they collect nectar to make honey and also build and maintain the hive. A worker bee can carry pollen or nectar equivalent to 80% of its body weight back to the hive.
  • Newborn baby bees stick their tongues out at worker bees to request food. Bees are taught by older bees in the hive how to make honey.
  • A worker bee will die after it stings, however, the queen may survive stinging. She uses her smooth stinger to predominantly kill other competing queens.
  • Bees swarm when the colony outgrows its current hive and separates into new hives.
  • Hives become dormant in winter; bees will take short flights then to remove hive debris and defecate. Some worker bees have the role of removing dead bees from the hive.

Attract BeesOther Interesting Facts

  • Caffeine attracts bees. Human breath repels bees.
  • Bees react very strongly to dark colors and furry textures. They can also recognize human faces.
  • Bears really do like eating honey – but they prefer eating bee larvae.
  • Many African farmers use a “bee fence” of hives to keep elephants away from their crops.
  • Bees can even be trained to locate buried land mines.

Bees and the art and science behind beekeeping are truly fascinating, and even if you don’t have backyard hives, there are huge benefits from actively encouraging bees (and butterflies!) to visit your back yard.

Facts About Butterflies

Not only are butterflies lovely visitors to welcome to your garden, they are also incredibly helpful when it comes to helping your plants thrive.

The term “busy little bees” could just as easily be applied to butterflies – they also are pollinators and play a critical role in our gardens. You actually want to attract them and have them set up residence in your garden, whether you grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, or flowers. Plus, they are so pretty to have fluttering about!

Beautiful Butterflies…

  • Butterflies and Moths belong to a class of insects called They are flying insects with three body parts: head, thorax (chest) and abdomen, with six jointed legs and a set of four large scaly wings. They have compound eyes and a pair of antennae.
  • There are almost 24,000 butterfly species recorded worldwide, and they are found on every continent except for Antarctica. Their habitat depends upon species, however, they may live everywhere from mountainous regions to mangroves, salt marshes, wetlands, grasslands, and lowland forests, jungles, and even in sand dune areas.
  • Facts about ButterfliesAs cold-blooded creatures, they require ideal temperatures to be able to fly – this is why they are most commonly seen in spring and summer.
  • While many of these insects are vibrant in color, their wings are actually transparent! The vibrant patterns we humans can see are the result of the reflection of light on the tiny scales of which the wings are comprised. Wing colors and patterns are often a protective feature, offering camouflage to blend into their environment, or even tricking birds and other critters into thinking the spots on the wings are the eyes of a larger animal. Some send a warning via their bright colors that they are poisonous if eaten.
  • The largest butterfly in the world is the Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing. Native to Papua New Guinea, it has a wingspan of 25cm. The smallest in the world, native to the Western USA, is the Western Pygmy Blue. Its wingspan is just 1.2cm (at most).
  • Butterflies don’t see well but they do see and distinguish a vast array of colors, including ultraviolet colors which are invisible to humans. They don’t hear but are sensitive to vibration.
  • These little critters can fly at speeds of up to 40km per hour. They primarily fly during the daytime, sheltering to sleep at night. They are predominantly a solitary species, though some do migrate in huge numbers.

Butterfly Life Cycle

  • Garden ButterfliesThese creatures begin their life cycle as an egg which is laid on a leaf. The larva hatches in the form of a caterpillar, and the caterpillar feeds on leaves and flowers. It sheds its skin many times as it grows. In time, the adult caterpillar becomes a chrysalis, cocooning itself. During its time in its cocoon, it undergoes a metamorphosis and emerges as a butterfly. Its first jobs are then to unfurl and dry the wings and to assemble the feeding proboscis.
  • Adult butterflies usually have a very short life cycle of just a few weeks, with the entire life cycle of the insect between two and eight months, depending on its species. Females tend to survive longer than males.

Butterfly Diet

  • Butterflies use their feet to locate food and find host plants, with taste receptors in each foot. They use these receptors to sense dissolved sugars as are found in food sources including fermented fruit.
  • Their diet is exclusively liquid, predominantly nectar. They also feed on mud puddles to source minerals. The long tubular mouth (proboscis) is used as a drinking straw unfurls from its chin to eat. Some species of butterfly also feed on tree sap and even decaying animal flesh. The proboscis also enables the butterfly to pollinate deep flowers bees can’t access.

Reproduction

  • The female butterfly lands on plants and drums the leaves with her feet to trigger the plant to release juices. When the chemo receptors on the backs of her legs detect the right match for her, she will lay her eggs.

Creating a garden that is appealing to butterflies and bees is a great idea and there are certain things you can do to help encourage and attract these wonderful little creatures to your home. Keep visiting this blog for interesting, fun, and informative articles and to learn how to make your garden appealing to these amazing little visitors.