6 Buzzworthy Facts About Bees

Why do bees buzz? How can they help us fight dementia? Everyday Einstein explores the surprisingly complex world of the bristly, buzzing, black-and-yellow bee.



Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD
4-minute read
Episode #166

4. Bees could help us fight dementia

Adults may think that taking a turn on their kids’ swing set makes them feel like a kid again, but for bees, performing jobs usually attributed to the younger bees as an adult actually reverses the aging process in their brains. Scientists have found that bees that stay at home in the hive maintain active, young brains measured by their ability to learn new things. Forager bees, however, age very quickly, soon returning to the hive with broken wings, hair loss, and loss of brain function.

In an experiment run at Arizona State University, younger bees were removed from the hive so that the aged, supply-gathering bees were faced with a decision: some would continue to collect nectar and pollen for the hive while the others would return to the household tasks usually reserved for younger bees, like nursing the babies. Those that returned to hive-related tasks soon saw a change in the molecular make up of their brains and a clear increase in brain function.

Scientists are now studying bee brain chemistry to better understand how this effectively anti-aging process occurs. Ultimately we may be able to use the information to determine how to use social interventions like our interactions with our environment to help fight dementia in our own brains.

5. A bees’s buzz is not the sound of flapping wings

Bees can move at close to 15 miles per hour and flap their wings on order of 200 times per second. However, it’s not this flapping that makes the buzzing sound that we hear. The wings themselves do not have muscles to produce their movement but are instead forced up and down due to movement of the thorax or chest muscles. It is this movement of the thorax that produces the buzzing sound.

6. Bees need our help

Recent years have seen a steep decline in the population of honey bees, which would cause serious problems for crops that rely on them for pollination. More research is needed to determine the leading cause for the decline, although pesticides, viruses, and habitat loss are likely contributors. One way we can help the bee population recover is to stop using pesticides, or choose to buy produce grown without the use of such pesticides, that are harmful to bees.

Until next time, this is Sabrina Stierwalt with Everyday Einstein’s Quick and Dirty Tips for helping you make sense of science. You can become a fan of Everyday Einstein on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, where I’m @QDTeinstein. If you have a question that you’d like to see on a future episode, send me an email at everydayeinstein@quickanddirtytips.com.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.


About the Author

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD

Dr Sabrina Stierwalt earned a Ph.D. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from Cornell University and is now a Professor of Physics at Occidental College.