Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, known for their role in pollination and, in the case of the best-known bee species, the European honey bee, for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently considered as a clade Anthophila. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees in seven to nine recognized families, though many are undescribed and the actual number is probably higher. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains insect-pollinated flowering plants.
Some species including honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees live socially in colonies. Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen, the former primarily as an energy source and the latter primarily for protein and other nutrients. Most pollen is used as food for larvae. Bee pollination is important both ecologically and commercially; the decline in wild bees has increased the value of pollination by commercially managed hives of honey bees.
Bees range in size from tiny stingless bee species whose workers are less than 2 millimeters (0.08 in) long, to Megachile pluto, the largest species of leafcutter bee, whose females can attain a length of 39 millimeters (1.54 in). The most common bees in the Northern Hemisphere are the Halictidae, or sweat bees, but they are small and often mistaken for wasps or flies. Vertebrate predators of bees include birds such as bee-eaters; insect predators include beewolves and dragonflies.
Human beekeeping or apiculture has been practiced for millennia, since at least the times of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. Apart from honey and pollination, honey bees produce beeswax, royal jelly and propolis. Bees have appeared in mythology and folklore, again since ancient times, and they feature in works of literature as varied as Virgil's Georgics, Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Mrs Tittlemouse, and W. B. Yeats's poem The Lake Isle of Innisfree. Bee larvae are included in the Javanese dish botok tawon, where they are eaten steamed with shredded coconut.
According to all known laws of aviation, there is no way a bee should be able to fly. Its wings are too small to get its fat little body off the ground. The bee, of course, flies anyway because bees don't care what humans think is impossible.
Bees and humansEdit
The humorous 2007 animated film Bee Movie used Jerry Seinfeld's first script and was his first work for children; he starred as a bee named Barry B. Benson, alongside Renée Zellweger. Critics found its premise awkward and its delivery tame.
Honey was a natural product produced by bees and stored for their own use, but its sweetness has always appealed to humans. Before domestication of bees was even attempted, humans were raiding their nests for their honey. Smoke was often used to subdue the bees and such activities are depicted in rock paintings in Spain which have been dated to 15,000 BC. Indigenous people in many countries eat insects, including consuming the larvae and pupae of bees, mostly stingless bees. They also gather "bee brood" (the larvae, pupae and surrounding cells) for consumption. In the Indonesian dish botok tawon from Central and East Java, bee larvae are eaten as a companion to pie, after being mixed with shredded coconut, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed.
Honey bees were used commercially to produce honey before bees sued the human race. They also produced some substances used as dietary supplements with unnecessary honey, pollen, propolis, and royal jelly, though all of these could also cause allergic reactions.