Honey bees

Scientific classification
Kingdom                  :     Animalia
Phylum                     :     Arthropoda
Class                       :     Insecta
Subclass                  :     Pterygota
Infraclass                 :     Neoptera
Superorder              :     Endopterygota
Order                      :     Hymenoptera
Suborder                 :     Apocrita
Family                     :     Apidae
Subfamily                :     Apinae
Tribe                       :     Apini
Genus                     :     Apis

Useful Insects
Where would we be without bees, aka "the world's most useful insect"? For such tiny creatures, measuring only 1/8" to 1 inch in length, bees do the heavy lifting of providing honey, wax and pollinating most of the world's plants. Females carry their honey load in a "basket" located on their hind legs.

Complex Communities
Honey and bumble bees live in complex communities consisting of a queen, males and sterile females. While the honey bee constructs a home of individual wax cells to raise their young, the bumble bee uses grass and wax to create a home.

A Furry Body
A body covered by fur enables bees to continue their daily rounds of pollination on cooler days.
Honey bees (or honeybees) are a subset of bees, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of wax. Honey bees are the only extant members of the tribe Apini, all in the genus Apis. Currently, there are only seven recognized species of honey bee with a total of 44 subspecies (Engel, 1999) though historically, anywhere from six to eleven species have been recognized. Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the approximately 20,000 known species of bees. Some other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees.

 Bees can suffer serious effects from toxic chemicals in their environment. This includes various synthetic chemicals, such as insecticides and fertilizers, as well as a variety of naturally-occurring chemicals from plants, such as ethanol resulting from the fermentation of organic material. Bee intoxication can result from exposure to ethanol from fermented nectar, ripe fruits, and manmade and natural chemicals in the environment.

 The effects of alcohol on bees are sufficiently similar to the effects of alcohol on humans that honey bees have been used as models of human ethanol intoxication. However, the metabolism of bees and humans is sufficiently different that bees can safely collect nectars from plants that contain compounds toxic to humans. The honey produced by bees from these toxic nectars can be poisonous if consumed by humans. Many humans have eaten toxic honey and become quite ill as a result.

Natural processes can also introduce toxic substances into nontoxic honey produced from nontoxic nectar. Microorganisms in honey can convert some of the sugars in honey to the toxic compound ethanol. This process of ethanol fermentation is intentionally harnessed to produce the alcoholic beverage called mead from fermented honey.


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