Flitting from flower to flower, collecting nectar and pollen, bees make a familiar buzzing sound. But how do they do that, and does it serve a purpose? I decided to find out!
How and why do bees buzz?
The bee buzz is due to the wings pushing against the air as the bee flies. It’s a similar phenomenon for all insects. The smaller the wing, the faster it beats and the higher the pitch of the buzz (that’s why mosquitoes sound like a whine). While we can’t hear a butterfly buzz because it beats its wings so slowly, a bee buzz is at just the right pitch and amplitude to conjure up lazy summer days laying in a field.
But it isn’t just a mechanical aspect of bee flight. Bumblebees can also vibrate their thoraxes along with the wing muscles, making greater vibrations. They do this when visiting flowers to “buzz pollinate” the flower. The buzzing sound actually causes pollen to fall out of the flower and onto the bee. Tomatoes, green peppers and blueberries are adapted to this kind of pollination. Honeybees are quiet when visiting flowers and do not participate in buzz pollination.
Buzzing may also be a warning. Bees buzz more loudly and aggressively when they are disturbed or when their hive is under attack.
Hopefully I won’t hear a lot of aggressive buzzing from my hive!
Blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2015 April A to Z Challenge! My theme for this year: Honeybees