Benevolent Sustenance of Life
For nearly 100 million years, bees have been at the heart of nearly every ecosystem. It may be plant life that forms the basis of nutritional intake at the bottom of the food chain, but the humble bee is what helps spread that life. Complex creatures with a rich history and an overwhelming devotion to their colonies, honey bees are integral to the survival of every insect-pollinated habitat on Earth. Without honey bees to pollinate the flowers of the vegetation, most plants would lack the adequate means of reproduction.
Originally predators of other insects, bees are believed to have evolved from feeding on insects while visiting flowers. The resulting critters are what we see in today’s iteration of bees, creatures who sustain themselves entirely on nectar and pollen. Humans can benefit from bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly as well! There are many health benefits that you can take advantage of, thanks to the bees! Closely related to wasps and ants, bees share many of the same characteristics as their more voracious relatives, most notably the fact that they are largely social by nature. And with over 20,000 known species of bees spanning six continents, they’re one of the most diverse insects around today.
When most people think of bees, there’s one thing that comes to mind: bee stings. While it is true that most (but not all!) bees do have stingers, their stingers exist solely for the purpose of self-defense. Having evolved from wasps, these ancient remnants of a more predatory nature still serve a vital purpose amongst denizens of the hive, albeit with much less emphasis. Bees do not use their built in weaponry as a method for hunting, as most species will die within minutes of using their stinger on any animal with thick skin. The survival of a bee colony instead depends on the workers gathering pollen and nectar, combining them into what is called a “provision mass”, and storing the mass in a small chamber of the hive where the queen will lay an egg. Out of the 20,000 known species to exist, only a very small number of bees do not collect their food from plants, but instead are scavengers. Known as “vulture bees”, this particular subgroup of the species sustain themselves with carrion, and are one of the few species of bee that don’t have stingers. Typically, the stinger is only used in defense of the colony itself. When most types of bee use their stinger, it is as a last resort when they feel that their hive is threatened.
Having evolved to take advantage of a very important niche in the food chain, pollinating bees are perfectly adapted for their job. Covered in hair for gathering pollen and wielding a large proboscis (think of a tongue that also acts as a straw) used to drink nectar from flowers, they have all the tools necessary to both nourish the young of their hive as well as keep the local eco system intact by allowing all flowering plants to reproduce.