The Honey Bee Colony
The story behind what appears to be the casual movement of Honey Bees from flower to flower is the discovery of an industrious and tireless society. Honey Bees are social insects. They band together and divide labor. The Honey Bee's society is made up of three types of individuals with sharply defined duties and functions. The population of the colony numbers from about 70,000 in late summer and consists of one Queen, several hundred Drones and thousands of Workers.
The Worker Bee
The female Worker Honey Bee is the laborer of the colony. Workers gather all the nectar and pollen, feed the larvae and pupae, supply water, secrete beeswax, build comb and do many other tasks. The Worker starts as a fertilized egg, which hatches into a larva. The larva grows, matures and soon changes into the next form called a pupa. The pupa then matures into an adult Worker Honey Bee. The entire metamorphosis takes only 21 days. During the summer honey flow, June through August, Worker Honey Bees travel about 55,000 miles to gather enough nectar to produce one pound of honey.Each individual Worker will only produce about 1/2 of a teaspoon of honey and about 1/80th of a teaspoon of beeswax. However, an entire colony will produce up to 200 pounds of honey annually!
The Queen Bee
Honey Bee colony life revolves around the Queen Honey bee. Without the eggs that she lays the entire colony would die. She begins life as an ordinary female worker larvae, but by feeding on an extremely rich mixture of food, provided by young Worker Bees called Royal jelly, becomes a Queen. A new Queen can be produced at any time, if the young Workers choose, by feeding any female larvae less than 48 hours old Royal Jelly. The Queen's function is to lay eggs. Day after day the Queen lays thousands of eggs which will develop into more Honey bees. She is continually surrounded, protected and fed by young Worker Honey bees.
The Drone Bee
The Drone is the male Honey Bee. He is larger than the Worker and smaller than the Queen. Except for mating, the Drone is an expendable member of the colony. Drones do not collect nectar or pollen nor do they make beeswax. In fact they are driven from the colony as winter approaches where they perish from cold and starvation.
How Honey Bees Work
Most all flowers produce a sweet liquid to attract insects, primarily Honey bees, so that pollination can take place and assure the survival of the plant species. Honey bees make honey from nectar found inside the flower blossom. Field Worker Honey Bees collect the nectar and carry it back to the hive in pouches within their bodies. The Field Worker Honey Bee gives the nectar to young Worker Honey bees back at the hive, who then place the nectar in a beeswax comb made up of six-sided cells. The excess water is then evaporated from the nectar. After a period of time the nectar is transformed into Pure Honey. Some Workers collect nectar, some collect pollen and some do both. In terms of economic value the Workers that collect pollen are the most important to you and I. Honey is just the sweet secondary reward that we collect from Honey Bees. If Honey Bees ceased to exist today, about one-third (1/3) of all the foods we eat would disappear! Why? Because of the lack of Honey Bee pollination!
Worker that collects pollen from the flower packs it into pellets
on her hind legs. As she travels from flower to flower, the
pollen brushes off onto a special pollen receiving structure
called the stigma in the center of the flower. This process
is called Pollination and allows all flowering crops to reproduce.
The outcome is fruit, vegetables, nuts and a wide variety of
seeds that are used for human and animal foods. For this reason
many people keep Honey Bee Hives on farms and near gardens.
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© 1995-2013 Albert W. Needham