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Hard to Beat the Smell of a Honeybee!

As social insects and foragers, honey bees rely heavily on their sense of smell. They use this sense for communication, finding food, and detecting threats. Honey bee’s antennae their primary method of scent detection and contain 170 odor receptors. This is a lot for an insect – by comparison, fruit flies have 62 and mosquitos have 79. Bees must detect scent in flight, so their sense of smell must be very sensitive.

Once a scent is detected on the antennae, the bee’s olfactory path processes the information, and allows the bee to determine how relevant the smell is to her search for pollen or nectar. They can recognize hundreds of different floral varieties and tell whether the plant carries pollen or nectar from yards away. In addtion, honey bees also have scent receptors on their legs and mouths.

In a lab setting, bees have actually been trained in bomb as well as cancer detection!

Not only do bees have a tremendous sense of smell, I would be remiss if I left out that honey bees actually smell very nice! While hard to describe the scent of a hive, the closest I can think of is a yeasty, warm, honey flavored bread. When bees are curing honey in the spring and summer it’s a smell that’s hard to beat!

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