Can Bees Smell?

Can Bees Smell?

Have you ever wondered if bees have a sense of smell?  

In fact, these small creatures possess an intricate and sophisticated sense of smell! Their olfactory prowess is crucial to their survival and success as a species. As vital and tiny pollinators, bees engage in complex communication, foraging, and even in the detection of diseases within their colonies, through their sense of smell.



The Power of Pheromones

Bees have specialized odor receptors located in their antennae, called sensilla, that help them detect and interpret chemical signals. This chemical signaling is essential for them to communicate. When the bees themselves emit chemical signals, they are emitting pheromones, essential for them to coordinate tasks, recognize threats, and maintain their colony’s health and wellbeing. The queen bee sends out a special pheromone which, when she is thriving, tells the hive that all is well. However, when these pheromone levels drop, this signals distress to the colony. This prompts the worker bees to take action to protect the hive, and may also signal the necessity for them to choose a new queen.

Foraging by Smell

As foragers, bees rely heavily on their sense of smell to locate precious food sources. When bees venture out of the hive in search of nectar and pollen, they use their odor receptors to detect floral aromas. Their ability enables them to identify a flower’s unique fragrances, guiding them to the best blooms. Some plants have even co-evolved with certain bee species so that their mutual relationship benefits both parties - plants get abundantly pollinated, and the bees have a bountiful supply of food. As bees move from flower to flower to collect nectar, they transfer pollen grains from the male part of the flower to the female part, fertilizing the plant and allowing it to produce fruit and seeds. Bees also leave scent trails for their fellow foragers so they can also efficiently collect food for the hive. These scent trails also serve as a marker for where the bees have been for more efficient pollination and foraging. 


Protection Detection

Bees are vulnerable to various diseases which can devastate entire colonies. Bees have a defense mechanism that allows them to detect and respond to infections using their sense of smell. When a bee becomes sick or infected, it releases an odor different from healthy bees.  When other bees detect disease, they isolate infected bees, clean and if needed even remove the infected bees to safeguard the hive. 

When a bee senses danger near the hive, it releases alarm pheromones that spread quickly through the hive that allow other bees within the colony to act quickly. Their keen sense of smell also serves to identify intruders and respond swiftly. 

Geraniol: A Fascinating Connection

Our AMARÉ aroma is rich in Geraniol, which is found in the essential oils of plants like geraniums and roses. This particular aromatic molecule holds a special connection with bees.  This molecule attracts bees and has been studied for its natural pesticide qualities, effectively controlling harmful pests such as varroa mites (tiny external parasites that can inflict great harm to bees and the entire hive)  while being safe for the bees.  Geraniol’s anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can also serve to aid in bee health. Some researchers are studying how geraniol could be used to help bees fight off diseases and pathogens. 

Bees are remarkable tiny creatures, true warriors in our fight to keep nature thriving and beautiful, and ensuring a healthy ecosystem.  Next time you see a bee buzzing nearby, take a moment to look at it and appreciate the work it is doing.  Enjoy the incredible world of scents that govern our lives and that of the bee, and share in the moment with your new friend. 


Written by Veronique Lee