Africanized honey bees will live about anywhere they can find shelter. This means that the honey bees is more likely to be found in trees, in the sides of buildings, in drain pipes, in water meter valve boxes, in old abandoned appliances, in piles of junk, and even in holes in the ground. In addition, Africanized honey bees:
Africanized honey bees are very protective of their colony. If someone gets too near a hive, some bees may become disturbed and react by stinging them. A problem with Africanized honey bees is that they will defend a larger area around their colony, are more easily disturbed, and will respond in greater numbers once an intruder has been detected. To be safe, you should stay away from areas where they have seen groups of bees.
On the other hand, remember that bees on flowers are working gathering pollen and nectar (foraging). Foraging bees are AWAY from their colony and are not as likely to sting unless they are trapped or harmed in some way. You do not need to be excessively alarmed about bees visiting flowers.
Bees may not have a good reputation because of their ability to sting, but many are important and beneficial. Honey bees are the bees with the best public image. We see them as industrious ("busy as a bee") and we appreciate their main product, honey, as setting the standard for all that is wonderful and sweet. Here we will discuss some basic facts and history about bees.
Over 25,000 species of bees have been identified in the world, with perhaps as many as 40,000 species yet to be identified. In the continental United States scientists have found approximately 3,500 species of bees. The desert regions of northern Mexico and southern Arizona have the richest diversity of bees found anywhere in the world. Although there is no exact count, a bee scientist at the USDA Carl Hayden Bee Research Center says there are between 1,000 and 1,200 species of bees within 100 miles of Tucson!
You may wonder how this can be true. It turns out that not all bees are social bees that live in large families like bumble bees and honey bees. Most are less well-known bees called solitary bees, for example carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, alkali bees, digger bees or sweat bees. Female solitary bees build their own nests and provide food for only their own offspring. All bees collect pollen and nectar, and many of the solitary species are essential because they pollinate plants ignored by honey bees.
What we call honey bees are represented by eight to 10 species in the genus Apis, a name from which comes the word for beekeeping (apiculture) and the word for a bee yard (apiary). The species of honey bee commonly found today in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas is Apis mellifera, which means honey carrier. This name is not technically correct as the bees carry nectar from flowers which they then use to produce honey back in the hive. Only when the bees are moving to a new nest (swarming) do they carry honey.
There are 24 races of Apis mellifera. The races have different physical and behavioral characteristics such as body color, wing length, and susceptibility to disease. But, since they are all of the same species, bees from one race can mate with bees from another race, creating even more variation within the honey bee universe. Caucasian bees ( A. mellifera caucasica) are known to be extremely docile, whereas the black or German bees ( A. mellifera mellifera) are known to overwinter well in severe climates. The African group of bees includes not only the largest number of geographic races (12), but also some of the best known, such as the notorious A. mellifera scutellata. It was a few queens of this highly defensive race that were brought into Brazil in 1957 and started the bees we now know as "Africanized honey bees."
Bees "smell" many things. Guard bees sit or hover near the hive entrance and "smell" other bees trying to enter the hive. If the bees don't have the correct odor of that particular hive they are expelled. The new queens produce a special odor called a sex pheromone to attract drones during the mating flight . Bees also use odors to help locate their hive, or their new home after swarming. To humans this pheromone smells lemony.
When a bee stings, she releases an odor called an alarm pheromone to alert others to the danger. This alarm pheromone smells like bananas and attracts other bees to come to the defense of the hive. This pheromone stays on clothing, so if you are stung you should wash your clothing before wearing it again.
The queen bee has her own pheromones in addition to the smell she produces when ready to mate. The queen also maintains behavioral control of the colony by a pheromone known as the "queen substance." As long as it is being passed around, the message in the colony is that "we have a queen and all is well." When a beekeeper wants to requeen a colony by introducing a queen from another source, he or she must place the queen in a cage within the colony for up to five days in order for the worker bees to get used to her odor.
Honey bees and people do not see eye to eye. Humans see the colors of the rainbow; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet (otherwise known as ROY-G-BIV). Although honey bees have a fairly broad color range, they do not see red and can only differentiate between six major categories of color, including yellow, blue-green, blue, violet, and ultraviolet. They also see a color known as "bee's purple," a mixture of yellow and ultraviolet. Differentiation is not equally good throughout the range and is best in the blue-green, violet and bee's purple colors.
Honey bees have been found to be able to distinguish between sweet, sour, bitter and salt, and thus have a sense of "taste." Bees are more sensitive to salts than humans, but less sensitive to bitter flavors.
Honey bees use their antennae to gauge the width and depth of cells while constructing comb. They also communicate via touch during bee dances.