Honey Bees and Hummingbirds – Masters of the Air

Honey bees and Hummingbirds are both remarkable fliers. 


Honey bees:

Honey bees dance to communicate important information, such as where food or a new home can be found. Scientists have decoded these dances to discover that honey bees know the world is round, which they probably knew long before we did. They can calculate precise angles as well – very helpful when you’re giving a fellow honey bee directions.

Honey bees use the sun as a reference point in navigation and communication. Experiments have shown that bees have internal representation of the sun’s movement through the sky and suggest that this representation is innate, but is tailored by experience.

bee_with flowers

When a worker bee is foraging for food, if she does not know where to find food, she will fly an irregular scouting path away from the hive until she finds a good food source which may over 6 miles (10 km) distant. She then flies a straight line path back to the hive and   “dances” on the vertical combs in the hive. Shortly after this dance, many bees will fly a straight path to the source the original bee found and will repeat the process themselves. This behavior fascinates zoologists because it appears that bees understand location and communication. They are natural-born navigators.


Hummingbirds are the only birds able to hover, and they can fly backwards and even upside down!

GreenCrownedBrilliant Hummers James McIntyre

They don’t have much time to stop and smell the roses. They have no sense of smell, and they’re also too busy gobbling up nectar to fuel their breakneck metabolism, which is the fastest of any warm-blooded animal on the planet.

All this energy enables hummingbirds to perform amazing physical feats. They flap their wings about 80 times a second, breathe 250 times a minute and experience more than 72,000 heartbeats every hour. Some also endure epic migrations, like the 500-mile nonstop flights of ruby-throated hummingbirds across the Gulf of Mexico or the 3,000-mile adventures of rufous hummingbirds between Alaska and Mexico.


Because they’re always just hours from starvation, hummingbirds can’t afford to stop feeding every time the weather is stormy, or make aerial blunders as they buzz around in search of food. So hummingbirds keep foraging even in strong wind and rain, and they rarely stumble or crash. Biologists are now studying how hummingbirds maintain their aerial acrobatics, both in calm and blustery conditions, to discover the secrets of these expert aviators.


  • http://gentleworld.org/30-amazing-animal-traits/
  • Bees: http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/~wilkins/writing/Samples/shortmed/fiskemedium/
  • Hummingbirds: http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/blogs/how-do-hummingbirds-fly-in-wind-and-rain


  • Western Honey Bee
  • Honey Bee
  • Green Crowned Brilliant Hummingbirds – photo by James McIntyre
  • Rufous Hummingbird

About wordcloud9

Nona Blyth Cloud has lived and worked in the Los Angeles area for the past 50 years, spending much of that time commuting on the 405 Freeway. After Hollywood failed to appreciate her genius for acting and directing, she began a second career managing non-profits, from which she has retired. Nona has now resumed writing whatever comes into her head, instead of reports and pleas for funding. She lives in a small house overrun by books with her wonderful husband.
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2 Responses to Honey Bees and Hummingbirds – Masters of the Air

  1. pete says:

    When I was a kid we were playing tag/hide & seek and I was hiding in the middle of a flowering bush because I knew the kid that was “it” didn’t like it because of the bees. When I was standing there trying to be quiet and still, two humming birds came up and got close enough to me that I could here the sound of their wings.
    Later that evening when I was trying to describe the sound to my mother, she just looked at me and said “That’s why they’re called Humming birds”. Doh.

  2. wordcloud9 says:

    My husband and I heard them years ago in the hummingbird exhibit at the San Diego Zoo – it was set up so you could go into the enclosure with them – magical!

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