Bee Physiology and a Hilarious Internet Search

An Audio Recording of the Blog Post – Bee Physiology and a Hilarious Internet Search – By Becca Heavrin

Okay, I have to be honest, when I had the magical encounter with the bee last week, I realized I didn’t know that much about bees. So, I started to look up information, which means I searched online with all kinds of questions. What better way to learn about these little critters than the massive encyclopedia of the internet, right? My questions were straight forward like – how does a bee breathe? Do bees have lungs? What do bees eat? How is honey made?

A bee visits my seed tray

And I got all kinds of answers like they breathe through the segments in their body which is more like an accordion than say a gel cap vitamin that humans might take with food as a supplement. I learned that bees don’t have noses or lungs either, but instead have some complex combination of tracheas and air sacs in their abdomen, which moves in and out as they breathe. But the more answers I got, the more questions I had. I learned that bees eat pollen and nectar, the pollen is high in protein and the nectar is high in carbohydrates, so they get a pretty balanced diet all from munching off of the essence of flowers. And worker bees, the ones flying around the flowers and foraging are female. Okay, that’s all straight-forward enough.

If I had to point to one place where my searching then started to go off the rails, this was that moment. As I was scanning the “other questions people ask” in the search results, there, right there, part way down the page was the question I didn’t even know I had to know. It wasn’t a question I even thought to ask, but now I was sucked in and there was no way I was moving on without the answer to this question. That question, that I spotted was – Do bees fart?

Now maybe it’s the stress of everything that has been going on, or I was overly tired from not having slept that well, or this was so unexpected that it caught me off guard and that in and of itself made it funny. I don’t know, but I was instantly connected to my grade school sense of humor that I can pretend doesn’t exist but, in reality, is right there, hidden, underneath the seriousness of life itself. And, for some reason this question stopped me, made me gasp and I started to giggle. I HAD to know more.

Whaaaat? Bee farts? Let me just let that sink in for a second. Do bees fart? Who asks these questions? And. I’m so glad so many other people asked this question that it popped up in the “other commonly asked questions” section of my search results. Because of course if bees eat, then they must have digestive systems and that means bees might get indigestion and – well – fart? For some reason this was the funniest thing I had thought about in some time, and I started laughing. A lot. An uncontrolled cascade of giggles and there was no stopping now. I pictured the possibility of bees farting, the possibility of bees laughing at their own farts, of bees flying around farting, of bees being irritated with other bees because – “you farted in my face – stop doing that!” And a whole new reality of bee life opened up for me.

Now, I’m a middle ages woman who doesn’t generally laugh at potty humor, but come on – the thought of bee farts? Hilarious. Right? Am I wrong? And, it turns out, why yes, bees do fart. They do have digestive systems; they do possibly get indigestion and they do fart.

So, after I stopped laughing, I had even more questions and of course, my mind went to – what do bee farts smell like? Because what would they smell like? Right? If bees fart, what do their farts smell like? And my mind went to only one place – I know that bees eat pollen and nectar and they make honey, so of course – in my mind anyway – bee farts would smell like honey. They would have to. What else could they possibly smell like? How else would you answer that question? Bee farts must smell like honey.

This is a magical thought to me. Can you imagine if your farts smelled like honey? Can you imagine if everyone you knew had farts that smelled like honey? Because for bees making honey isn’t magical enough, apparently, these little creatures are also buzzing all over the world, pollenating things and, they are farting out the scent of honey.

I did regain my composure, after I shared my news with everyone I could think of, telling them – “Oh my God – Did you know bees fart? And it must smell like honey right because what else would it smell like????” This was followed by all kinds of laughter because I’m not the only one who thinks this is funny, apparently. I’m more relieved about that than you could imagine, and I still giggle a little bit at the thought of bee farts, but, my active mind continued down the rabbit hole of internet searches. I still had a lot of questions. So, I persevered and kept going. This is how that went.

If bees fart and they have stomachs, then they must also poop. Right? Because there is no other explanation of where the body waste would go. So, my question was – Do bees poop? What does it look like? What does bee poop smell like? Where do bees actually poop – in a bee latrine? Do they line up at the Honey Bucket just like the rest of us? Do they knock on the door – “Hurry up in there, I have to go too! And I have work to do, they don’t call me a worker bee for nothing.” Do bees take extra-long in the bathroom when they have indigestion? Do they get constipated too? So, these burning questions now needed to be answered.

Turns out, yup bees do poop. The poop comes out of their tiny little bee butts. And where is the bee butt located? Turns out it is at the very end of their abdomen, which is exactly where I would imagine a bee butt being. Okay, that makes sense, now I know that – yes – bees have butts too. So much good information on the internet!

Next question I needed to know – if bees have butts and they do indeed poop, what does bee poop look like? And this is where searching images online came through for me big time. Because just like the rest of this little creature, bee poop is also mysterious and somehow enchanting. Bee poop comes out as a semi-liquid that is yellow in color and seriously looks like a tiny little squirt of yellow mustard. Yup, bee poop looks like yellow mustard for a tiny, tiny little hot dog. And bee poop must be honey-mustard for that little hot dog, right? Because what else would it be?

So, next question – What does bee poop smell like? And this is regretfully where the searching started to give answers that were not nearly as satisfying as I wanted them to be. Bee poop smells “acidic” and “unique”, which doesn’t sound like honey at all, and isn’t as enchanting or magical as I wanted it to be. So, I’m sticking with bee poop smells like honey-mustard for no other reason than my creative brain wants it that way.

Bees poop when they are flying around, if they poop in the hive there are major problems with that hive. I’m thinking some kind of teenage revolution where the bees refuse to clean their room and instead decide to defecate all over it in defiance. More than likely it’s a disease thing and really shows the health of the hive but, defiant bees add to my story so I’m sticking with that.

I learned so much from searching for answers for my bee questions online and while none of them are as hilarious as bee farts, I did learn some other fascinating things that I will tell you now. Did you know bees have two stomachs? Yeah – me neither. But apparently, they do. They have one stomach for food that they eat to nourish their little bee bodies (and poop out honey-mustard for teeny-tiny hot dogs) and, another stomach where they store extra nectar to take back to the hive to make honey. Think of this second stomach as a honey making water bottle. They fill this little water bottle with nectar and then take it back to the hive and deposit it as honey. This second stomach is a honey producing stomach and this is where the biology of bees gets fascinating, well, even more fascinating if you weren’t fascinated enough already.

The second stomach of the bee is where the nectar mixes with enzymes that preserve it. The enzymes are like our stomach acid, except preservatives rather than dissolving enzymes and these preservatives also change the pH of the nectar so it will last longer too. Then, when a bee gets back to the hive with this storage bottle stomach full, it deposits the contents of this storage stomach into the hive and that is what makes the honey. Yup, the bee throws up the nectar and this throw up is what becomes honey. Bee puke is what honey is made out of. And, that’s when my brain got too full to continue. This concludes the story of my internet search on bee physiology. I definitely got more than I bargained for. Who knew bees were so hilarious and fascinating too? What else have I been missing out on? Because this time my curiosity certainly paid off, and I’m still laughing about it too.


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