Are bees animals? We know bees are flying insects, known for their role in natural pollination and as its name would have you guess, the honeybee, for producing honey and beeswax. There are nearly 20,000 known species of bees, and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on earth that contains flowering plants, specifically those that need insect pollination for survival.
Some species of bees including honeybees, bumblebees, as well as other species live in colonies and are very social creatures. Bees have adapted to feeding on nectar and pollen; the nectar is used mostly as an energy source while the pollen is used, primarily, for protein and other nutrients. Most of the pollen harvested by the bees from the flowers is used as food for larvae. Bees can be anywhere between 0.08 inches (2 millimeters) and 1.54 inches (39 millimeters) in size, from the tiny stingless bee species the largest species of the leaf-cutter bee, respectively.
Bee pollination is important both ecologically and commercially; as the population of naturally existing bees in the wild declines, there is increased value and worth to the commercially managed hives of honey bees both to pollinate the nearby areas and also to produce more honey. Human beekeeping or apiculture has been practiced for since at least ancient historic times. Apart from honey and pollination, honeybees produce beeswax, and royal jelly. Bees have appeared in mythology and folklore, throughout all of art, literature, and music, from ancient times to the present day, especially in the northern hemisphere of this globe where beekeeping is a more common practice. So a bee is an insect, but are bees animals as well?
Are Bees Animals?
“Are bees animals,” might sound like a silly question. But the answer might surprise you. The easy answer to this question is yes; bees are both insects and animals. All insects are animals. As long as it is not a plant, fungus, bacterium, virus, or protest then it is also considered or called an animal (including humans and bees). Because we know a bee is not a fungus, a bacterium, or any other obscure form of life we are left with whether a bee is an animal or a plant. Let us look at some defining terms as to what it means to be an animal.
Animals have several characteristics that are simple to recognize, and some more scientific ones, which we need not look at right now in order to define the bee as an animal. Here are some of the most common animal traits:
- All animals are multicellular beings, meaning they are composed entirely of more than one cell.
- Animals need to eat in order to survive. They consume food into their bodies by eating, for energy and nutrients instead of producing or synthesizing their own food as plants do.
- Animals move. Throughout an animal's own life cycle at some point, the animal could move from place to place under their own free will. Animals can move in many ways such as swimming, walking, crawling, hopping, flying, slithering, wriggling, or rolling–but they move and are not bound to a single location as plants are.
- Animal cells are fluid and soft, and animals do not have rigid cells walls like plants do.
A bee by these definitions is definitely an animal. Seeing as a bee is a multi-cellular being and is not composed of only one cell, that they need to consume and eat both pollen and nectar in order to power their bodies with energy and nutrients, that they can fly, walk, crawl, and generally move around wherever they please; then yes a bee fits the definition perfectly. When bee cells are looked at under a microscope, they are seen to contain the make-up of an animal cell instead of a rigid plant cell.
Do We Abuse Bees?
Now that we've answered the question “are bees animals,” consider this: do we abuse bees? Yes, if you are to consider a bee an animal, then it only makes sense to consider the large amount that actually suffer in a variety of ways through exploitation and use by humans to make honey as well as other products. This is what happens generally in the case of bees.
These animals have an amazingly strong and complex nervous system, which includes a brain. These animals also show very complex behaviors. They communicate with each other through varied body movements in order to signal to one another as to the location of flowers for pollen harvesting. They also have great memories as they can remember where their hives are and where the good flowers are as well.
What matters though, in the end, is the fact that they are sentient beings. A bee could not have the skills and capacities to exist the way they do without having been able to identify between negative and positive Hence we are able to come to the conclusions that because a bee can do the things it can do, then they are also capable of feeling suffering and pleasure.
How Bees Are Used in the Making of Honey and Other Products
Bees make honey through the process repeatedly swallowing nectar, spitting it up, and then swallowing it. During this time, the bee's bodies add enzymes to nectar. Bees store honey in honeycombs and then “cap” the cells off with wax. They do this to preserve the honey so that they can eat or consume it later in the future. It takes a long time to make honey relative to the life of a bee, about 12 worker bees entire life-span is spent creating one teaspoon.
We exploit bees especially but not limited to through processes used to extract honey, which is then re-sold for human profit. The use of other products produced by bees ensures that we continue to exploit their labor and bodies as we continue to profit off of their harm and sometimes even off of killing them.
Hives are heated while bees are still inside to more easily remove the honey and any bees left in the honey after extraction are just killed. Once the honey is gone and removed from the hive any bees that were not killed in the process are now left without any food to eat. Because of this beekeepers will usually give the bees a mixture of sugar and water which they say is okay for the bees but does not deliver the amount of nutrients that their normal food supply of honey.
Bee venom is used by humans for medicinal purposes and is harvested when the bees stings someone or something. Because the bee dies if she stings someone, new advanced methods only kill a “reduced” amount of bees. Devices to collect the venom are placed at the entrances to the hive , nd when a bee gets to close, the device delivers electrical shocks to the bee to force them to sting a collector sheet from which the venom is later harvested. Killing all those bees in the process.
Bees use and produce beeswax in order to build their hives or fix it as necessary. But in order to make beeswax ,a bee must consume eight times the amount of honey. It is then harvested and taken from them to make medicines, candles, and different cosmetic products. The harvesting of beeswax not only damages the hives but also ensures that the bees are consistently working way harder than they need be.
We use royal jelly as a food supplement or as medicine. Royal jelly is the special food that the queen bee eats in order to be able to not only produce more bees but also in order to feed the up to three-day-old larvae, as well as deciding which of the larvae will be bred and grown to be other queen bees. The larvae that are chosen to develop into new queens (and thus be able to lay eggs and breed later in life) are fed with royal jelly. Royal jelly then triggers a series of hormonal and physical changes in the body of the larvae that eventually will lead to her development into a queen bee.
Though beekeeping practices such as wing and leg clipping, artificial insemination and other practices are very harmful for the bees, they are still often used by beekeepers. Many colonies, for example ,die over the winter, or are deliberately killed by beekeepers to reduce the cost of keeping bees as it is seen to be cheaper to just buy a new colony after winter than to help this animal stay alive.
Conclusion – Are Bees Animals?
The exploitation of bees is one of the animal exploitation practices that result in more animal deaths (especially because of those dying during winter and when colonies collapse). However, not a single one of the products obtained through the exploitation of bees are necessary to our existence. We don't need to consume honey, or other products that exploit bees. If we like the way it tastes and its texture there is always an alternative. The next time you ask “are bees animals,” remember yes they are and just like animals they too can be abused.