10 facts about bees from The Bee by Noah Wilson-Rich

Everyone is familiar with bees, but few are aware of their significance in our survival. The roles of bees in the ecosystem include pollinating more than 130 fruit, vegetable, and seed crops. They also are critical to the reproduction and diversity of flowers.

The Bee

10 Bee Facts:

1. Only female bees sting, and many solitary bees can’t sting.

2. A bee’s sting (or stinger) is a modified egg-laying organ.

3. A bee has five eyes: two are complex eyes that see movement well, while the other three detect light intensity.

4. Bees can see ultraviolet light, but they cannot see the red end of the spectrum, so they perceive the world as more blue and purple than we do.

5. Drones do not have a father, but they do have a grandfather.

6. Bees are herbivores, and their diet comes entirely from flowers—carbohydrates from nectar and protein from pollen.

7. Honey bees are not native to the Americas, and bumble bees are not native to Australia.

8. A queen bee has exactly the same genes as a worker: she develops into a queen simply because she is fed extra rations of royal jelly when she is a larva.

9. The honey bee genome has been sequenced; it is about one-tenth the size of the human one.

10. Bees pollinate over 130 fruit and vegetable crops, and produce many other things that benefit humans—honey, wax, resins, propolis, royal jelly, and even venom.

The Bee

For more information on bees, the human-bee relationship, and beekeeping read The Bee by Noah Wilson-Rich.


The Bee:
A Natural History

Noah Wilson-Rich

With contributions from Kelly Allin, Norman Carreck & Andrea Quigley

Win your choice of books with our #springbooks giveaway

spring book contest

There are three ways to enter this giveaway:

1.) Leave a comment below with the title of the book you would most like to win.

2.) Tweet the title of the book you would like to win with the hashtag #springbooks.

3.) Send an email to blog@press.princeton.edu with the title of the book you would like to win.


This giveaway ends today at 5 PM, so make sure you submit your entry!


[Update: This giveaway has concluded and the winners have been notified, 6/5/14]

Wildflower Wednesday — Fringed Polygala


© 2012 Carol Gracie.
Two magenta flowers of fringed polygala are held above
the glossy green leaves of this plant of the forest floor.


Fringed Polygala – An Instant Favorite

It’s love at first sight when a hiker catches his first view of the shocking pink flowers of fringed polygala (Polygala paucifolia). Its strangely shaped flowers might fool someone into thinking that this is a member of the orchid family, or perhaps the pea family. No other flower in the Northeast looks quite like it—that is no other flower of its size (ca. 1.5 inches long). The other members of the same genus are so tiny that they require examination with a hand lens to see the detail.

The flaring wings and propeller-like fringe on the flower’s tip give it the appearance of a small magenta airplane. Only by pressing down on the “fuselage” of the flower can you find its reproductive structures. The two sides of the flower that form the forward-pointing portion open up and the stamens and pistil are exposed—just as they would be if a bumblebee were to land on the flower. And, indeed, like many of our spring wildflowers, bumblebees are the principal pollinators of fringed polygala.

Fringed polygala often grows in large colonies and particularly favors mossy sites. A small plant, the contrasting glossy green leaves and pink flowers make a striking ground cover.

Learn more about fringed polygala and other spring wildflowers in Carol Gracie’s book, Spring Wildflowers of the Northeast: A Natural History.