The honeybee

There are lots of insects that sting, however the honeybee is the most feared by humans. Its sting is extremely painful and in certain cases can even lead to anaphylactic shock. The female bees have a sting that is connected to a small venomon sack. When the honeybees stings a human being the sting remains anchored in the respective person's skin. Thus, in order to remove the bee, the victim has to kill it.

Honey bees This explains the saying: a bee stings once and then dies. Honeybees are extremely useful for our environment. Unfortunately, they are more famous for their painful sting than for the part they play in the pollination process. If the bees went extinct, human civilization would disappear in no more than five years.

Within the hive, ne can find three bee categories: the queen bee, the working bees and the drones.

The Worker Bee

The Worker Bees represent the vast majority of a hive population. Their number varies according to the season. Thus, in winter there are around 5.000 - 10.000 individuals within a hive, while in summer there are around 50.000-70.000 individuals. The worker bees are divided in the following categories :

1. Heating Bees: they cover the combs with their own bodies thus heating the brood
2. Nursing Bees: young bees which secrete food for the larvae and the Queen Bee
3. Giver Bees: hold out nourishment for the heating and nursing bees
4. Wax Bees: the honey bees which produce the bees wax necessary for building or repairing the combs
5. Cleaner Bees: these are the bees that are cleaning the hive
6. Scout Bees: these are the bees search for the best nectar sources
7. Ventilation Bees: by constantly moving their wings they ventilate the entire hive
8. Guardian Bees: adult bees that defend the hive entrance
9. Gathering Bees: bees that gather the necessary food for the entire family
10. Egg Bees: bees which in certain situation can lay eggs
11. Predator Bees: old bees which steal honey from other hives

Bee in flying A worker bee lives around five or six weeks in summer and around five or six months in autumn and winter. During the first three weeks of their lives the worker bees do not gather nectar but do various chores within a hive like building combs, cleaning the honeycomb cells or feeding the larvae. They also evaporate the water extant in nectar so as to give it a similar consistence to honey.

Thus, from the first to the fourth day of their lives, the worker bees clean the cells and warm the brood. During days five and six they take care of old brood. From the sixth to the twelfth day a worker bee takes care of larvae and becomes part of the Queen Bees entourage. During the seventh and the thirteenth day of its existence the bee secret wax and builds honeycombs. In the fifteenth, nineteenth and the twenty-first day of its life the worker bee compress the pollen within the honeycomb cells. During the fourth, the seventh, the tenth, the fourteenth, the seventeenth and the twenty-first day the bee makes the so called scouting flights during which the bee memorizes various landmarks that will later help it identify its own hive.

When this period ends they become guardian bees. They protect the hive entrance and seal the hive breaches with propolis. During the twenty-first and twenty-fourth day they are scout bees. This is the time when a bee discovers her first food source. They call the gathering bees with the help of the famous bee dances. A circular dance indicates that the food source is located at less than 100 meters away from the hive while a semi-circular dance indicates a more remote food source. The scout bees can evaluate even the abundance of a certain food source. Thus, they can mobilize the exact number of bees necessary for the proper exploitation of the respective food source.

From the twenty-fourth to the thirty-fifth day a worker bee gathers pollen, nectar, propolis and water. The usual flight distance is between 0.75 and 1 km. However, bees can fly up to 5 km in search for food and water as long as the temperature outside does not drop under +12 degrees Celsius.

The activities that a bee unfolds within a hive do not always follow the same pattern. Thus, certain bees become gatherers when they are only five or ten days old. It is also common for gatherers to turn into wax bees or nursing bees. A bee unfolds the activity mostly needed by the hive.

What does a honeybee look like?

The body of a honeybee is made of a chitinous exoskeleton which is so rigid that it gives the impression of an extern skeleton. However, the articulations are elastic and subtle. The honeybees have numerous internal organs with various functions, which are not entirely known to humans. The body of a bee is divided in three segments: the head, the thorax and the abdomen.

The head

The honeybee has two side eyes which have around 3000 veneers (ommatidia) in the case of the worker bees. The number of these veneers rises to 6-7000 in the case of the drones. The bee's eye is sensitive to ultraviolet rays but it cannot perceive red which is seen as black. It also has another three less complex eyes located on top of the head. These eyes are for night and hive vision.

The bee has two antennas which function as sense organs. The mouth is formed from two mandibles used for wax modeling, propolis gathering and for cutting the antennas of various flowers. It has also got a tongue with trunk which is used for sucking nectar and water. The length of this tongue can vary between 5 and 7 mm. The drones' tongue is shorter and it is not adjusted to nectar gathering.

Inside the head are located the sense organs and the initial part of the digestive tube. Here are also located the hypopharyngeal and the mandibular glands which secret royal jelly. There is a very short neck between the head and the thorax.

The thorax

The thorax is made of three rings welded between them. Each ring has a pair of legs. The second and the third ring have two pairs of membranous wings.

The esophagus and the aerial sacks are located inside the thorax. The aerial sacks communicate through various organs (like the legs and the wings) and the tracheae with the exterior world. The thorax is equipped with strong muscles necessary for the flight. Due to them a bee can fly for very long distances.

Each leg is formed from coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia and tarsus. The front legs have a sort of brush that is used for cleaning the antennas. The intermediate legs have a thorn used for pollen unloading while the back legs have a pollen brush and a pollen sack used for storing pollen during the flight. Without these sacks the bees would not be capable of transporting the pollen to their hives.

The bee's wings are membranous, muscular, and transparent. They are strained on a rigid nervation. The front wings are articulated on the second ring also called medium thorax and the back wings are articulated on the third ring also known as meta thorax. The four wings move at the same time during the flight due to a system of hooks located on the back wings. The wings are not used only for the flight they are also used for hive ventilation.

The abdomen

The bee's abdomen has seven rings. The first is articulated with the thorax while the last is equipped with the sting. Only the worker bees and the Queen Bees have a sting, the drones do not beneficiate from such a deadly weapon. Under the abdomen are located the wax glands, which produce the beeswax necessary for comb building. The abdomen contains some important organs such as:

1. The honey sack: this is a sort of ampoule in which the bees store the nectar and the water they want to transport to the hive. Only a small part of these passes in their stomach as food for them.
2. The medium bowel which has digestive functions.
3. The posterior bowel with the rectal ampoule. Here the residue substances are gathered and kept for weeks in turn if the weather conditions do not allow bees to leave their hive and defecate.
4. The circulatory apparatus thorough which the endolymph arrives to various tissues and organs.
5. The nervous system which is made of periesophageal ganglia and a ventral ganglionic chain.
6. The Malpighiani tubes which have an excretory function.
7. The venom glands out of which one is alkaline and the other is acid. Their function is to produce the famous bee venom which is stored in the venom sack. This sack is connected to the sting used by bees as a weapon against their enemies.

The reproductive organs are atrophied in the case of worker bees. A worker bee can weigh around 100 grams and the average length of its body varies between twelve and fourteen millimeters.

The development stages of a worker bee

Worker bee The development stages of a worker bee are: egg, larva, nymph and adult bee.

A worker bee needs twenty one days to evolve from an egg to a fully grown up individual. The Queen Bee has the capacity to control the gender of her offspring. When an egg passes from the ovary to the oviduct it can or it cannot be fertilized by the sperm in the sperm sack. If the egg is fertilized the result is a female bee (a worker bee or a queen) and if it is not then the result is a male bee.

The Queen Bee lays the eggs that are supposed to turn into queens in special cells. The royal jelly is introduced within the cells in order to nourish the larvae and prevent them from falling down. The worker bees are reared in smaller cells which have a horizontal position. The worker bee larvae unlike Queen Bee larvae are fed with royal jelly only for two days. From the third day onwards the worker bee larvae are fed with predigested food.

The pre-nymph stage lasts for about two days in the case of worker bees while the nymph stage lasts for about eight days. The phase ends with the worker bee hatching.

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