Asian giant hornets have just arrived into the United States (Washington State to be precise) for the first time, and these bee-hungry insects are a threat not only to humans but to the honeybee population. Why’s that so bad? The Scientific American says honey bees contribute an estimated $15 billion to the U.S. economy each year: “U.S. beekeepers supply billions of honeybees each year to help pollinate at least 90 agricultural crops.”
But the honeybee (or bees, as there are at least 29 subspecies of honeybee) isn’t only useful to the economy. It makes for fascinating biology. According to the New York Times, honeybees in Japan use vibration as a defense against a hornet attack: “Hundreds of bees can respond by forming a ball around a hornet. While the bees face an immense disadvantage in both size and strength, the bees working in unison can vibrate to produce heat, raising the temperature in the formation, like a tiny oven, to over 115 degrees. Bees can survive the high temperature, but the hornet cannot.”
Wow! It’s a shame our subspecies of honeybee hasn’t learned that trick. Hopefully the giant hornet population can be kept under control to save our bees.
Interested in knowing more fascinating facts about bees? Here are some new buzzy books to add to your hive.
Liquid Gold : Bees and the Pursuit of Midlife Honey by Roger Morgan-Grenville
“Liquid Gold is a book that ignites joy and warmth through a layered and honest appraisal of bee-keeping. Roger Morgan-Grenville deftly brings to the fore the fascinating life of bees but he also presents in touching and amusing anecdotes the mind-bending complexities and frustrations of getting honey from them. But like any well-told story from time immemorial, he weaves throughout a silken thread, a personal narrative that is at once self-effacing, honest and very human. In this book you will not only meet the wonder of bees but the human behind the words.” ~Mary Colwell, author of Curlew Moon
The Solitary Bees: Biology, Evolution, Conservation by Bryan N. Danforth, Robert L. Minckley, John L. Neff, Frances Fawcett
While social bees such as honey bees and bumble bees are familiar to most people, they comprise less than 10 percent of all bee species in the world. The vast majority of bees lead solitary lives, surviving without the help of a hive and using their own resources to fend off danger and protect their offspring. Beautifully illustrated, The Solitary Bees draws on new research to provide a comprehensive and authoritative overview of solitary bee biology, offering an unparalleled look at these remarkable insects.
Shop: Green Apple
The Lives of Bees: The Untold Story of the Honey Bee in the Wild by Thomas D. Seeley
From (a world authority on honey bees) Thomas Seeley, The Lives of Bees is a captivating story of what scientists are learning about the behavior, social life, and survival strategies of honey bees living outside the beekeeper’s hive―and how wild honey bees may hold the key to reversing the alarming die-off of the planet’s managed honey bee populations.
“Even non-keepers will appreciate his bee’s-eye view of life outside managed apiaries.” ~Discover
Following the Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting by Thomas D. Seeley
Following the Wild Bees is a foray into the pastime of bee hunting, an exhilarating outdoor activity that used to be practiced widely but which few people know about today. Weaving informative discussions of bee biology with colorful anecdotes, personal insights, and beautiful photos, Thomas Seeley describes the history and science behind this lost pastime and how anyone can do it. Whether you’re a bee enthusiast or just curious about the natural world, this book is the ideal companion for newcomers to bee hunting and a rare treat for armchair naturalists.
Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees by Thor Hanson
In Buzz, Thor Hanson takes us on a journey that begins 125 million years ago, when a wasp first dared to feed pollen to its young. Buzz shows us why all bees are wonders to celebrate and protect.
“Vividly zinging…[Hanson] zips and waggles through fascinating journeys to meet fellow bee obsessives, reminding us that…we have brought trouble upon ourselves: 40 percent of the bee species are in decline threatened with extinction.” ―New York Times Book Review