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Can't get enough bees? Check out this week's bee-themed episode of SciShow Tangents, the SciShow spin-off podcast:
https://www.wnycstudios.org/story/scishow-tangents-bees

There are more than 20,000 species of bees, all of which buzz when they fly, and many of which also do it to communicate. But some bees buzz for a completely different reason that has nothing to do with communication or flight!

Hosted by: Hank Green

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Sources:
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-bees-buzz/
https://www.sciencefocus.com/nature/why-do-bees-buzz/
https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/02/honeybees-honey-insects-pollen-agriculture/
https://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/11/science/unraveling-the-pollinating-secrets-of-a-bees-buzz.html
https://www.wired.com/2015/05/bees-great-pollinating-flowers-vibrators/
https://www.dummies.com/home-garden/hobby-farming/beekeeping/how-to-identify-the-basic-body-parts-of-honey-bees/

Images:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Buzz_Pollination_(Sonication)_(10243478783).jpg
♪.

Plenty of insects buzz when they fly, like beetles and that little "eeeeeeeee" of a mosquitoes. I hate that noise so much!

But bees are kind of special. There are more than 20,000 species of bees, all of which buzz when they fly, and many of which also do it to communicate. But some bees buzz for a completely different reason that has nothing to do with communication or with flight.

They’re trying to get pollen out of flowers, in what’s known as buzz pollination. The kind of buzzing we hear when bees fly comes from their wings, which they can flap at up to 230 beats per second. Their quick wing movements cause air vibrations, which your ear translates to sound.

The faster the wings beat, the higher the pitch. And if you’ve ever had the unfortunate experience of disturbing a hive, you’ve probably seen them buzz a little louder in agitation. But in buzz pollination, they generate sound energy by vibrating their bodies, not their wings.

They use the same muscles they’d normally use to move their wings, but kind of separate their wings from those muscles so their bodies vibrate instead, at about 400 beats per second. This full-body vibration causes the distinct buzzing sound you hear when bees are on a flower, which is a bit louder and higher pitched than regular flying buzzing. It’s actually in the tone of middle C. *sound of bee buzzing*.

That exact middle C buzzing is like a secret passcode that unlocks pollen trapped inside flowers. But bees don’t need to do it for every kind of flower. Most flowers are like a buffet: their pollen is on the outside of the anther – the male part of the flower – and just about anyone can come take it.

But there are some flowers, like the ones on tomato and blueberry plants, that have poricidal anthers. These anthers lock the pollen inside them, with just a small pore for an opening. To get the pollen out, the bees wrap their legs around the flower, bite down on the anther for grip, and buzz.

When they vibrate at that super high speed, the pollen bounces up and down in the tube, and when it gains enough momentum, a bunch of it explodes out and lands on the bee. Only some bees can do this, like bumblebees and a few kinds of solitary bees. Honeybees can’t.

But, for the record, you don’t really need a bee if you want to get the pollen out. A tuning fork will do, or if you want to get more hi-tech you can get tools to vibrate the plant at the right frequency. Which yes, do exist, and people actually use them to pollinate their plants — although they’re not as efficient as the natural method.

Because when it comes to getting up close and personal with a flower, bees are definitely the experts. If you’re interested in more of the weirdest bee facts out there, you should definitely check out the bee-themed episode of SciShow Tangents, our weekly podcast produced in collaboration with WNYC studios. I was on that episode, I'm on all of the episodes, and I was just shocked by how many fascinating things about bees there are!

There are four of us on the podcast and every week, we share the most awesome facts we can find about a topic. There are different segments, like one where we answer viewer questions, and another where someone presents one true fact and two fake ones and the rest of us have to try and figure out which is true. It’s harder than you’d think, especially when Ceri is doing it … there’s a lot of science out there that’s so weird it sounds made up!

Oh, and we try to end every episode with a fact about butts. And now, I know a lot of butt facts. You can too!

Along the way, we also tend to go on lots of tangents, which is where the name “SciShow Tangents” comes from. You can check it out wherever you get your podcasts! ♪.