Honey Bee Senses


Bees "smell" many things. Guard bees sit or hover near the hive entrance and "smell" other bees trying to enter the hive. If the bees don't have the correct odor of that particular hive they are expelled. The new virgin queens produce a special odor called a sex pheromone to attract drones during the mating flight . Bees also use odors to help locate their hive, or their new home after swarming. To humans this pheromone smells lemony.

When a bee stings, she releases an odor called an alarm pheromone to alert others to the danger. This alarm pheromone smells like bananas and attracts other bees to come to the defense of the hive. This pheromone stays on clothing, so if you are stung you should wash your clothing before wearing it again.

The queen bee has her own pheromones in addition to the smell she produces when ready to mate. The queen also maintains behavioral control of the colony by a pheromone known as the "queen substance." As long as it is being passed around, the message in the colony is that "we have a queen and all is well." When a beekeeper wants to requeen a colony by introducing a queen from another source, he or she must place the queen in a cage within the colony for up to five days in order for the worker bees to get used to her odor.


Honey bees and people do not see eye to eye. Humans see the colors of the rainbow; red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet (otherwise known as ROY-G-BIV). Although honey bees have a fairly broad color range, they do not see red and can only differentiate between six major categories of color, including yellow, blue-green, blue, violet, and ultraviolet. They also see a color known as "bee's purple," a mixture of yellow and ultraviolet. Differentiation is not equally good throughout the range and is best in the blue-green, violet and bee's purple colors.


Honey bees have been found to be able to distinguish between sweet, sour, bitter and salt, and thus have a sense of "taste." Bees are more sensitive to salts than humans, but less sensitive to bitter flavors.


Honey bees use their antennae to gauge the width and depth of cells while constructing comb. They also communicate via touch during bee dances.