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Steve and Alex in a farm, working together with a swarm of friendly bees.

Mob Menagerie: Bee

Minecraft's buzziest companion

Forestry in Minecraft is usually a pretty safe pastime. Grab an axe, locate a tree, chop out the logs in the center, and either let the leaves decay to get saplings or harvest them with a pair of shears for composting or hedge construction. But there’s a danger lurking in the forest, a danger that many loggers are unaware of. It’s the bee, and it’s our mob of the month.

Bees were added to Minecraft in December 2019 in a patch that was literally named after them – the Buzzy Bees Update. We’ve updated them a few times since, to give them additional food sources, but otherwise, they’re pretty much the same as they were at launch. Why mess with perfection?

Bees live in bee nests (not beehives), which can be found in trees in plenty of biomes - oak and birch forests, plains and sunflower plains, mountain meadows, mangrove swamps, and cherry groves. If it’s not raining, then they’ll leave their nest at daybreak, fly around visiting flowers and collecting pollen, and then head home to make honey. While carrying pollen, they’ll fertilize any plants that they fly over, making them handy creatures to keep around your farm.

Breaking a nest or collecting honey from it will lead to all the bees in the area attacking you at once. Instead, put a campfire below the nest and light it – the smoke will calm the bees, allowing you to collect honey without risk of attack. You can also just run away if you anger them accidentally. If you want to safely move a bee nest then go at night and use a silk touch tool.

Finally, bees will follow any player holding a flower of any sort, and they can be bred by giving them a flower – at which point they’ll enter love mode and pair up to create a baby bee, which takes about one in-game day to grow into an adult.

Real-world bees evolved from wasps about 85 million years ago and today they’re a common sight on every continent on Earth except Antarctica. There are about 20,000 different species (!!) which can be divided into four different groups – honeybees, bumblebees, stingless bees, and solitary bees. 

Humans have been keeping honeybees in hives for about 10,000 years and collecting honey from wild bees for much longer. There are 8,000-year-old paintings of beekeepers in caves in Valencia, and they’re also seen in decorations adorning the walls of tombs of Egyptian pharaohs, including Tutankhamun.

Today, they’re vital to agriculture – about a third of the human food supply depends on pollination by insects, birds, and bats – most of which is done by bees. Unfortunately, the use of pesticides, invasive species, climate change, and loss of habitat means that bee populations are falling fast. Since the 90s, about a quarter of known bee species have completely disappeared, and others have seen huge declines. Unless we turn that decline around, humankind’s food supply is looking uncertain.

Luckily, there are plenty of bees still in Minecraft. So don’t feel bad about tracking down a nest, and luring its inhabitants back to your farm to accelerate your crop growth. Just bee careful where you swing that axe while logging – or there’ll be a stinging surprise coming your way.

Duncan Geere
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Duncan Geere
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