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Results of the bee quiz

Congratulations! Many of you really know your bees! Some even got a perfect score. Although the quiz is still up, here are the results after the first few hundred responses.

  1. 36% of respondents knew that roughly 20,000 species of bee live on Earth. In comparison, about 4000 live in North America, 1500 live in Australia, and 250 inhabit the UK.
  2. 69% percent knew that most bees live underground.
  3. Only 39% percent knew that most female bees can sting many times. This is probably due to confusion with the honey bee, which is one of the few bees with a barbed stinger that gets stuck in thick-skinned creatures like humans. In fact, even honey bees can sting multiple times if the barbs don’t get stuck, such as when they sting other insects. On the other hand, even though they can sting many times, some of the smaller bees can’t sting humans because they can’t penetrate our flesh.
  4. Nearly everyone (88%) knew that male bees never sting. The stinger is a modified ovipositor, and since males can’t lay eggs, they also cannot sting.
  5. Fully 53% of you knew that the presence of branched hairs distinguishes a bee from a wasp. Branched hairs evolved as a way to trap pollen grains, so when you see a bee coated from head to foot in pollen, you know many of those grains are stuck within the branched hairs. Wasps don’t collect pollen so they have no need for branched hairs.
  6. About 51% knew that bees see light of shorter wavelength than humans. They can see ultraviolet, which we can’t, and they often prefer flowers that are blue and purple. Bees cannot see red light and so red objects appear black to them.
  7. 57% of you knew that bees and dinosaurs co-existed for about 20 million years. According to Christopher O’Toole (Bees: A Natural History) bees evolved in the late Cretaceous period and lived with dinosaurs for 23 million years.
  8. 48% knew that most bees spend most of their lives in their nests. In fact, many species spend ten months or more inside a tube or underground nest and then emerge, forage, and reproduce in a few short weeks in spring or summer. Their offspring, then, spend the next ten months in their nests before the next active period.
  9. An impressive 86% of respondents knew that the best thing to plant for native bees is native flowers. Makes sense.
  10. 64% knew that female bees have twice the chromosomes of male bees. This type of sex determination is called haplodiploidy and is found in all the bees, wasps, and ants. Surprisingly, 8% of you said bees have no chromosomes.
  11. 62% knew the statement “All bees have 4 wings, 6 legs, 5 eyes, and one stinger” is false. Just for starters, male bees have no stingers.  There are others without stingers, too.
  12. 66% knew that only about 5% of bees make honey. Basically, honey bees, stingless bees, and bumble bees make some amount of honey. The overwhelming majority drink their nectar straight.
  13. A whooping 84% knew that most bees are solitary and live one bee to the nest.
  14. This is the only multiple-choice question where the right answer was chosen the least. Only 15% knew that male antennae have 13 segments, an important fact for bee identification. Male and female bees often look very different, so a good place to start an i.d. is with sex determination. Although it wasn’t in the quiz, males have an extra visible abdominal segment as well.
  15. 87% knew that stingless bees bite. In fact, after they puncture your skin, some species spit formic acid into the wound.
  16. 64% knew that all female bees do not collect pollen. So-called cuckoo bees, for example, just wait until some other bee does all the work and then invade the nest and lay their eggs on top of the pre-formed pollen ball. Not very friendly, but it works.
  17. 62% knew that some bees carry pollen internally. They swallow the pollen into a crop, similar to how a honey bee carries nectar, and regurgitate it later.
  18. Nearly everyone (94%) knew that bees are vegetarians and wasps are carnivores. Way to go.
  19. Almost as good, 90% knew that native bees with limited diets are especially threatened by habitat fragmentation, herbicides, and invasive species.
  20. “In most bee species, the males mate only once but the females mate many times.” Only 26% recognized this as a false statement. While it is true for honey bees, in most bee species the female mates just once while the male mates over and over. In a lot of ways, honey bee drones have it tough.

Thank you for participating in my first quiz. Let me know if you have ideas for future quizzes.




Sorry, I missed your quiz!

Glen Buschmann

I teach some about bees, so was wondering if I could use the quiz as long as its source is attributed. I’ve been using a different quiz as an ice-breaker, (which I can send you), but I’d enjoy using yours in some settings.
On to the test, specifically Q20, about frequency of mating. When watching mason bees, the males are eager to mate, and the pile up on a single female is almost brutal. I assume that many other solitary bee males practice this lurk and pounce method of procreation, (for that matter, probably some semi-social and social bees too). And the action happens quickly – no slow serene mating waltz. While the event is advertised with irritated buzzing, it still is only luck and population that has let me witness it. I assume that someone has gone and marked males and females but yikes, compared to observing large mammals or even medium sized birds and reptiles, observing mating insects seems daunting. I don’t even know how the researcher would define the event. This little insect orgy where multiple sperm sources are introduced almost all at once — is it considered one mating or several?

Glen Buschmann
Olympia, WA




I read somewhere that they analyze the sperm DNA in the spermatheca to check number of matings. Still, I think a lot depends on the individual species. In “Field Guide to the Common Bees of California,” it says, bumble bee “matings usually last 10-80 minutes.”

Yes, you can use the quiz with attribution and a link. I would love to see your quiz as well.

Brian P. Dennis

Question 14. Does your answer include the scape in the number of segments? Dade in Anatomy and Dissection of the Honeybee states ‘The antennae of the bee consists of the scape and the flagellum, the latter having 11 segments in the worker and queen and 12 in the drone’.

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