Why do honey bees need fur?

Fur. I think of it as hair, but fair enough. The fur on a bee is vital to its survival. Virtually all bees have branched hairs somewhere on their bodies. In fact, the presence of those branched hairs is one of the major ways bees can be distinguished from other insects.

Bees are vegetarians. They collect nectar from flowers for their energy needs, but they also collect pollen which supplies them—and their young—with protein, lipids, and nutrients. As a bees goes from flower to flower, pollen grains get caught in the branched hairs, which facilitates their collection by the bees. Bees carry pollen in different ways, but a honey bee uses her hairy front and middle legs like brushes to comb the pollen off her body and pack it into hairy recesses on her rear legs. These hairy recesses are called pollen baskets or corbiculae.

Thanks to hairy . . . or furry . . . bodies, the bees inadvertently leave some of the pollen grains behind each time they visit another flower, which is the primary mechanism of insect pollination. Without those furry bodies flitting from flower to flower, life on earth would be very different indeed.

Comments

Suzy Rosenblum
Reply

Hi there,

I just sent this message to your comments, but I read that you answer these posts firsts. I’m in a bit of a panic, so I’ve left this message both places. Thanks for your time and consideration.

I am a beginner beekeeper going into my 3rd season in Quebec. About a year ago you answered a question from me about whether to feed bees honey or sugar water in the north country. I appreciated your response and it was very helpful. I read your e-mails daily and respect your knowledge and attitude greatly. I am currently at a loss.

I have four hives that seemed to be wintering fine—a few dead bees outside the door from time to time. Suddenly, bees are pouring out of one of my hives and dying. We still have almost 3 feet of snow and the daytime highs barely break freezing. Today when I noticed what was happening it was only 32 degrees. I called my local mentor and he said he’d never seen anything like it. The only thing I can think to do is put a jar of sugar/honey water on their doorstep and hope they’re just hungry. Please let me know if you understand what’s happening and if there’s anything I can do.

Sincerely, Suzy

Rusty
Reply

Suzy,

It’s the wrong time and wrong place for zombees, but I’d like you to do an experiment. Put some dead bees in a glass jar (no lid) and bring them inside. Wait a week or two and see if anything hatches out of them. See this, if you’re not familiar: https://www.zombeewatch.org/theproject#about_ZomBees_and_flies_

It occurred to me that if they were infected with phorid flies, they might be attracted to the bright snow. I’m probably out in left field, but it would be interesting to test. It seems the wrong time for phorid flies, but the interior of the hive is relatively warm, and perhaps they could exist in there.

Otherwise, I have to think about this. It certainly sounds like a predator or disease is making them fly out. It’s as if they are trying to get away from something.

Bee Removal Orange County
Reply

Did not know this about honey bees. Glad to read your post. Many thanks for sharing it with us.

Leave a comment

name*

email* (not published)

website