Understanding Bee Behavior
Bees play an important role in the ecosystem and perform the critical role of pollination to allow many plant species to reproduce. However, humans often see these busy little insects as a threat and the media hype about Killer Bees or African Bees has not helped the situation.
The fact is the behavior of bees across different species is actually quite similar and understanding bee behavior can go a long way to dispelling the myths and misconceptions as well as providing ways and means to managing and controlling bees in an urban environment.
- Social Behavior
Bees are social insects which means they live and work together for the betterment of the colony or hive. There are 3 types of bees in a colony with specific tasks:
- There is one queen who is specifically tasked with laying eggs and producing new bees.
- Drones are there to protect the queen, the colony and the hive.
- Workers are there to collect pollen and to produce honey and royal jelly to feed the queen, larvae and hive.
These tasks form the 3 basics of bee behavior. So if you see a bee flying about, it is probably a worker looking for pollen. The slightly larger bees that are located on or in the hive are drones and are aggressive and will attack to defend the queen, hive and workers. It is unlikely that you will ever see a queen bee located deep in the hive.
- Stinging Behavior
People fear bees because of the painful sting that they deliver. The first and most important factor to understand is that the worker bee does not want to sting you and will only do so in defense. Once they lose their stinger, they will die. Swatting at a bee or acting erratically can be seen as aggression and cause the bee to sting. Leaving the bee to continue with its work will probably prevent it from stinging. Placing a sweet smelling fruit or soda away from where you are located is a good way to draw the bees away without resulting in any stings.
- Swarming Behavior
Bees typically swarm when they relocate to find a new home. This happens when a colony becomes too large to support its inhabitants. Swarming may seem intimidating but is actually a natural and normal part of bee life. The swarm will attempt to move as far from the current hive as possible in order to access new resources. Bees that are swarming are therefore not commonly in attack mode.
However, there are times when a swarm can be aggressive. If you are taking honey from the hive or just appear to be threatening the hive, the drones will swarm to protect it. The worker bees may even lend a hand in defending the hive. Bees also release a chemical when they sting warning other bees of potential danger. This can trigger the drones to swarm and attack in defense of the worker bees.
Left alone, bees do not commonly sting, swarm or attack humans unless they are perceived as a threat. However, if you do have a hive in your yard or nearby, it is recommended to have it removed.