Facts, Info, and Questions
on the almighty Honey Bee.
Roles and Responsibilities
Honey bee colonies thrive on diversity, as each caste performs a specific task. While the queen is extremely powerful within the colony, she cannot establish new ones without drones and workers, who provide fertilization, food, and wax for construction purposes.
The queen is the only fertile female bee in a colony. To keep other female bees sterile, the queen bee releases pheromones, which also informs other bees of her location and general health. Upon becoming queen, a newly hatched female bares her fangs and lunges at any other queens present in the colony. She must destroy potential rivals that have not yet been able to hatch if she is to become the queen of the hive. Once these potential contenders are dealt with, it’s time for the virgin mating flight. Often more than one mating flight is required. She will mate with many different drones and each drone will then die. Mated queens can then lay fertilized eggs. The queen can lay up too 2,000 eggs in a single day.
The queen bee plays one of the most crucial roles that make a bee hive successful. As she’s one in a million and fertile, her life revolves around ensuring that production never stops in order to keep the recurring production of eggs. With the hive revolving around her laying healthy brood, she is worshipped and protected at all times. The queen communicates through pheromones, telling the different castes of bees what to do.
Male honey bees, or drones as they’re more commonly called, are the product of an unfertilized egg. Their eyes are big and they lack stingers, so defending themselves against predators is impossible for them to do. Additionally, drones cannot collect pollen or nectar since their body parts only allow them to mate during flight hours.
The drone’s only job is to mate with a virgin queen and eat honey. when a drone gets too mate with the queen there genetics are passed onto the next generation. The drone dies after mating. During winter or when honey stores become scarce drones are kicked out of the hive. this is because drones consume more honey than they are worth during overwintering. The queen can just make new drone’s when they are needed in spring.
Worker bees are the backbone of their hive and do everything from tending to the queen bee, foraging for food, and defending against predators. Worker bees generally live two to six weeks in summer. During winter they can live 20 weeks or more.
Worker bees are responsible for honey and raising brood. They represent the largest population in a colony, consisting only of females who cannot produce fertilized eggs. If there is no queen however, they sometimes lay unfertilized eggs which become male drones.
Bee’s take on different responsibilities as their age progresses throughout life. Below are some roles depending upon an individual’s age:
- Newly Emerged Workers: Nurse larvae to maturity until pupa stage.
- Brood Care Worker (also called Housekeepers): Feeds adults/larvae with regurgitated nectar or pollen after removing debris from cells.
- Forager: Collects food sources such as plant materials including nectar, water, pollen and propolis.
- Builder: Produces beeswax to construct the honeycombs.
- Temperature Controllers: Ensure optimal environmental conditions for the brood.
- Guards: Defends the hive and identifies which bees are part of the hive.
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