Inside the Honeybee Universe

 

 


Honey bees are part of the Hymenoptera order are the only remaining bees of the Apini tribe of the Apis genus. Today there are seven species of honey bee, although throughout history six to eleven species have been noted.

The Honey bee is believed to have originated in South and Southeast Asia. Fossil records indicate that they were present 35 million years ago in Europe, but studies have not indicated that is where they are from, only that they were there. Now they can be found way beyond there native land, on every continent with the exception of Antarctica.

Honey bees are only about ½-inch long and are yellow with black bands around its abdomen. They see through compound eyes that consists of hundreds of tiny eyes known as ommatidia. 

The honey bee is a social insect. They live in colonies of 20,000 to 40,000 bees in a hive that they created. Inside the hive the bees are divided into three castes or organized groups. These groups are the workers, drones and the queen.

Worker

The worker bees make up about 98% of the bees in a colony and have the task of maintaining the hive. They are female bees that can not reproduce and live only six weeks if born in summer or till spring if born in fall.

The worker bees have many tasks. They are responsible for building the hive and its upkeep, for gathering nectar, (they later turn to honey, pollen, water and sticky residue from plant to seal the hive. They are also responsible for cleaning the hive, controlling the temperature, caring for the young and tending to the queen and drones.

The worker bees are also the protectors of the hive. At the tip of their abdomen is a barbed stinger and poison gland. Once the stinger has been used it detaches from the abdomen and the bee dies.

Drones

The drones are male honey bees and there are only a few hundred in a hive. They have no stinger, can not collect pollen or secret beeswax, they can't even feed themselves, the worker bees do it for them.
The sole purpose for drones is to mate with the queen. The eyes of the drone are larger than those of the workers; this is so they can see the queen when in flight. After mating takes place a drone will die right away.
 

Drones only live about eight weeks. As fall get near the worker bees kick any remaining drones out of the hive, to die.

After ten days the larva will quit eating and form a cocoon around itself. An adult worker bee will put a protective wax cap over the cell. Inside the cell, wrapped in its cocoon, a pupa starts developing looking less

  like a worm and more like a bee.

Lastly a developed adult bee chews through the wax cap and out of the cell.

Queen

The queen bee is larger than the other bees and her one main purpose is to lay eggs. She will mate with anywhere from 13 to 18 drone bees, while in flight, and collect millions of sperm cells that will last her entire life.

On a daily basis the queen can lay 1,500 eggs, although an extremely health and well malted queen can lay up to 3,000 eggs daily during spring. She is surrounded at all times by young worker bees who are there to tend to her needs including cleaning and feeding her "royal jelly."

The queen has a straight stinger at the tip of her abdomen and unlike worker bees, she can use it over and over again without dying. The life span of a queen bee is anywhere from 2 to 8 years.

The honey bees means of communication if through dancing. The Round Dance and the Waggle Dance are the two most common dances, although there are others.

The Round Dance is performed when a worker bee has found a new source of food that is closer than 300 feet from the hive. She will dance around in a circle one way than the other. Other worker bees will mimic her movement taste the pollen or nectar she brought, then spread out and search for it.

The Waggle Dance is performed when the new sources of food is more than 300 feet from the hive. She will dance a half circle, turn, run straight and wiggle her abdomen, then dance a half circle the other way. A figure eight is made. Depending on where she makes her run depends on if the food is to the left or right of the sun. How fast the dance is performed and the buzzing noise from the worker will tell how far away the food is.

The honey bee goes through four stages of development with each stage causing big changes.

First the queen lays a small soft egg in an empty cell of a honeycomb.

After three days the egg hatches to reveal a wormlike larva. For the first few days worker bees feed the larva royal jelly then they are switched to pollen and honey. Only the larva that is to become a queen bee will continue to get royal jelly.

After ten days the larva will quit eating and form a cocoon around itself. An adult worker bee will put a protective wax cap over the cell. Inside the cell, wrapped in its cocoon, a pupa starts developing looking less like a worm and more like a bee.

 
Lastly a developed adult bee chews through the wax cap and out of the cell.

The queen is able to choose the sex of the offspring. Once the egg reaches her oviduct she can decide to use sperm from her sperm theca and fertilize the egg or to leave it unfertilized. Eggs that get fertilized become worker bees or a queen bee if fed only royal jelly. Eggs that go unfertilized become drones.

The number of days for full development of the egg to adult depends on what the egg is going to be. Worker bees take 21 days to go from egg to adult, drones need 24 days and future queens require 16 days.

The honey bee is important for pollinating crops such as apples, apricots, cherries, pears, watermelon, cantaloupes, alfalfa, cabbage, cotton, turnips and much more. They pollinate one-forth the crops in the United States, with a value of these crops estimated at $10 billion yearly.


 

 

 


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