5 surprising things about bees on World Bee Day

A honeybee flies next to a lamb's ear plant on May 16, 2021, in San Anselmo, California.

(CNN)There is a lot to love about bees.

They are crucial to growing many of our favorite and healthiest foods as they move pollen from plant to plant, pollinating more than a hundred fruits and vegetables including strawberries, potatoes and apples.
Unfortunately, many bee species are under threat as a result of changes in land use, pesticides, intensive agriculture and climate change -- but there are steps you can take to help them thrive.
    In honor of World Bee Day on May 20, here are five surprising things you might not know about nature's hardest working pollinators.
      A bee pollinates a flower in Nova Friburgo, Rio De Janiero State, Brazil.

      1. Bees like to 'waggle dance'

      Bees can communicate and make decisions by dancing.
      When a honeybee scouts out and inspects a new nest it uses a waggle dance to advertise and debate its merits. The better the site, the longer and harder the bee dances. If another bee bumps into a dancing bee, she will go off to inspect the site and if she likes it, she, too, will waggle.
        Eventually, the dynamics of the waggle dancing causes about 20 to 30 bees to agree on the best nest site, and they communicate their decision to the rest of the swarm by making high-pitched sounds and by buzzing their wings among the other bees.

        2. Bees can use tools

        Honeybees in Vietnam and other parts of Asia are threatened by predatory species of giant hornet that attack bee colonies, killing the adults defending the nest and preying on the young bees. In particular, the voracious hornet species Vespa soror is capable of obliterating the hive within hours.
        To ward off such attacks, the bees have been observed collecting fresh animal feces and smearing it around the entrance to their hive. The researchers, who published their findings last year, call it "fecal spotting." The study team believe the poop repels the predatory hornets (which are similar to murder hornets) from the nest by reducing time hornets spend attempting to breach the nest.
        "Fecal spotting stands out as extraordinary for several reasons. It marks the first report of honey bees of any species foraging for materials that are not derived from plants or water-based fluids. It is also the first clear-cut example of honey bees using a tool in nature," the study said.

        3. Bee poop nearly caused a Cold War confrontation

        In the 1980s, "yellow rain" -- tiny splotches of yellow found on jungle foliage in Laos and Cambodia -- were thought to be the residue of chemical weapons. Refugees said that the yellow rain caused illness and death. The allegations prompted the United States to accuse what was then the Soviet Union and its allies of chemical warfare.
        Bee experts later found that the yellow dots were excretions by massive swarms of wild honeybees.

        4. Bumblebees get hangry

        Plants produce dazzling flowers laden with nectar to attract pollinators but what's an impatient, hungry bumblebee to do when those flowers haven't yet bloomed?