What do bees eat?

Bees are insects that belong to the order Hymenoptera and are also known as anthophiles. Like other insects, such as ants, bees are among the most diverse and have best adapted to different climatic conditions, since we can find them on almost all continents, with the exception of Antarctica. Currently more than 20,000 species of bees are known, among which we can name Apis mellifera, the so famous honey bee, so characteristic for its yellow and black colors. These insects have very curious habits, since they are social insects, where hierarchies and very specific functions differ in their gregarious groups. In addition, these animals are well known not only for the manufacture of honey (although not all species have this capacity), but also for royal jelly, wax and propolis, substances with very beneficial functions for them..

¿Have you ever wondered what do bees eat? If you want to know the answer to this question and other curiosities of this wonderful group of insects, continue reading this AnimalWised article and we will tell you everything.

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  1. Nutritional needs of bees
  2. Bee feeding
  3. What kind of flowers do bees eat?
  4. Other facts about bees

Nutritional needs of bees

Bees, like other animals, need the energy available in their food to perform all their vital functions and to survive. Therefore, they require a balance between different sugars (carbohydrates), lipids, proteins, minerals and water. These insects find these nutrients in their main food sources, which are honey and pollen..

In the case of Honey, that they obtain from the nectar of the flowers, brings them close to a 80% of the necessary sugars of their diet, while pollen contributes 40%. Thanks to the sugars present in both substances, bees are able to make wax. In addition, it helps them produce internal lipids that are transformed into fat deposits, essential for bees to manufacture hormones and substances that line their internal nerves..

The pollen, for its part, it provides them with the essential proteins (approximately 25%) for the perfect development of the glands responsible for the production of royal jelly, which, as we will see later, will be essential for the prosperity of the colony. These glands are called hypopharyngeal. In addition, pollen also provides them enzymes that will act as catalysts in different chemical reactions. The constant consumption of pollen will be vital for the bees, since the functioning of the hive, the laying of eggs, the development of the larvae and the entire population of bees depends on it..

On the other hand, Water is another of the essential substances for bees, since provides moisture to the hive (80%) and helps to achieve the optimum temperature (about 35º). Likewise, it is of vital importance during the rearing of the larvae, since it allows them a perfect thermoregulation. If it exceeds or falls below the optimal levels, breeding and development ceases.

Bee feeding

Bees must meet their nutritional requirements and they do so by consuming, especially, honey, nectar and pollen. The latter, in addition to being transported from one flower to another for pollination to occur, is a food source rich in carbohydrates and proteins with which they feed the larvae. In addition, pollen is rich in vitamin B, an essential nutrient for bees, since their body does not produce it naturally. Pollen is extremely important for royal jelly to be produced, as well as being vital for making wax. It is so important in the diet of bees, that its deficiency produces a shorter life expectancy, as well as the decrease in the production of royal jelly and wax and lowers their reserves of adipose bodies, which will allow them to spend the winter and reach spring.

On the other hand, it is from nectar that they collect from the flowers with which the bees they make honey and that it will also serve as food for the entire colony. Mainly, honey is used to feed the drones in their larval and adult stages, as well as the workers once they have passed the larval stage. As we mentioned, the workers are in charge of looking for the sources of food, that is, the flowers, and they are real hardworking workers, since in addition to collecting the pollen, they absorb the nectar with their tongues and then digest it and regurgitate it later in the hive. . This process is the one that begins the production of the honey with which they will later be fed. To do this, they deposit the nectar in the cells of the hive that they themselves built to lower the level of humidity it contains. Once the humidity drops 60%, the bees will consider that their honey is ready and will proceed to seal the cells with wax. In this other article we explain in more detail How bees make honey.

¿What do queen bees eat?

¿Have you ever wondered what royal jelly is? Well, this substance also serves as food for bees, especially for queens and workers, who consume it at the beginning of their life, more precisely in the first three days. Likewise, if you wonder what queen bees eat, you should know that it is the Royal jelly the one that will serve as the only food for the queen, since the other bees eat nectar and pollen once they have passed the larval stage. Remember that during the larval stage the workers eat royal jelly and the drones honey, then both go on to eat nectar, pollen and honey..

Pollen is well digested by bees thanks to the fact that they generate enzymes when it is stored in the honeycomb. But, ¿what difference to royal jelly from honey? Well, it is an acidic, whitish and viscous substance produced by worker bees, which is secreted by them and arises in their head to later be mixed with other secretions from their stomach. As we said, royal jelly is the food that the queen bee will exclusively feed on for the rest of her life. However, honey is a more fluid and less viscous substance and is also produced by bees from nectar collected from flowers, as we explained earlier..

Discover How a bee becomes a queen in this other post.

What kind of flowers do bees eat?

You know what bees eat but, ¿how do they get this food? Bees need different flowers to collect nectar, since they each type of flower will have different proportions and types of sugars. Among them will be sucrose, fructose and glucose, all necessary in the diet of these insects. In this way, there are flowers whose nectar is richer in sucrose, such as rosemary, clover, chestnut and apple trees (among others), other plants will have flowers rich in fructose and glucose, such as thyme, heather or dandelion. And in the case that they only need fructose, they will consume the nectar of the flowers of the holm oak, fir or oak. These sugars can be consumed directly or according to their nutritional requirements, since their salivary enzymes can transform one sugar into another..

Other flowers that bees appreciate are lavender, zinnia, oregano, lemon balm, calendula, orange tree, daisies, lantana, bluebells and lilaceae, all rich in different sugars, attractive aromas and flowers with showy colors..

¡So now you know! Having a garden with a great variety of flowers will help conserve these wonderful insects that are so important to the ecosystem..

Other facts about bees

As we mentioned, bees belong to the order Hymenoptera and within this group there are several insects that play very important ecological roles. We must know that bees are social insects, gregarious and with characteristics that make them unique animals, so we will see some of them below:

  • Are arthropod animals, In other words, your body is segmented into the head, thorax and abdomen. They have three pairs of legs, membranous wings and their body is covered by villi.
  • Have compound eyes, like the rest of insects, in addition to a pair of antennas through which they can receive different types of signals, whether chemical, olfactory or movement.
  • The size of the body varies in each species, and can be about 2 mm in length, as is the case of Minimal trigon, or reach about 63 mm long, as the female of Megachile pluto. Learn more types of bees in this other article.
  • Females are endowed with a stinger at the end of the abdomen, which is the modified ovipositor organ.
  • Its front legs are adapted for cleaning the wings, while the rear ones are in charge of transporting the pollen to the hive..
  • They have a great communication skills among all the members of the colony, so that through a dance (the dance of the bees) they can transmit messages to their companions, such as the distance in which a flower is. Likewise, they are able to indicate through this dance the orientation of the food source and they do so thanks to the fact that they are oriented by the position of the sun and the magnetic field of the earth..
  • They form colonies and they live in hives where they build their combs made of waxes, which are built with the help of the entire colony. There is a hierarchy where each bee fulfills a function and in which the highest position is held by the queen bee, the only one in the colony capable of laying eggs and having great longevity. Following her are the workers, in charge of getting food, keeping the hive clean and defending it, and then the drones (non-worker and reproductive males).

Now that you know what bees eat, some of their main characteristics and curious facts, do not miss this video in which you will discover why they are so important for the planet.

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