Summary: More has been written about the Honeybee than any other insect. Honeybees are one of the hardest working species on earth, and our world would be a very different place without them.
More has been written about the Honeybee than any other insect. Honeybees are one of the hardest working species on earth, and our world would be a very different place without them.
The Honeybee is one of the most recognizable insects in the world. In fact, there is more literature on the honeybee than any other insect. And, why not? Yes, it is true they have a stinger and being stung is not a pleasant experience for you or the bee, which dies afterwards. But, bees are œgood guys and the world would be a much different place without them.
The Honeybee is not antisocial. Both in the wild and in domesticity their hives can comprise tens of thousands of bees (20,000 thousand in the wild and up to 80,000 in domesticity). They have a social hierarchy that consists of three castes; Queen, drones, and workers.
First, there is the queen whose sole purpose in life is to make more honeybees. There is only one queen and she lives for a rather long time, ranging anywhere from 2-8 years, and laying as many as 1500 eggs a day. That's potentially a whopping 4,380,000 eggs in a lifetime.
The Queen is larger than the rest of the hive, measuring in around 20cm. Not only is she large, but she is fierce, as well, equipped with chewing mouth parts and a stinger, which unlike worker bees, can be used multiple times.
Then you have the drones, which are male and have no stinger. The females do all the fighting in this society. The drones have a short life-spanning lasting only eight weeks. While beehives are comprised thousands of bees, drones only account for a few hundred of the hive population. The drone's sole purpose is to mate with the queen. But, it's not all romance for the drones. At the end of the season, if there are any drones left over, they are banished from the hive. Females rule in the bee society.
Two-thirds of the caste system's sole purpose is procreation. The other third simply work. In fact, the œother third are called workers. Naturally, all the workers are sterile, and they are all female. Mother Nature is efficient like that.
Early in life, the workers are what you call house bees. They always stay in the hive and their duties consist of cleaning the hive, protecting the hive, thermostat control, building up the honeycomb and tending to the drones and queen. The honeycomb is used as a house for young and to store honey and pollen. After they have graduated from the house duties, the workers then become field bees. These are the bees you see around your garden collecting pollen, water, etc. These are also the bees that you probably have been stung by.
The Honeybee is an essential part of nature. The Honeybee is central to the pollination of thousands of plants and is credited with pollinating one-quarter of all the fruit bearing plants in the U.S. The honeybee pollinates by gathering nectar from various plants. The pollen from the flower rubs off on the hairs on the bee, then, as the bee makes its way to another flower for more nectar, the pollen from the previous flower rubs off, thus fertilizing the flower which can then bear fruit.
This is a crucial part of the fruit production process in the wild because some plants would not even be capable of producing fruit without the honeybees help. This is why the disappearance of honeybees due to colony collapse disorder (CCD) is alarming. It is estimated that the honeybees pollinate as much as $10 billion worth of fruit bearing plants in the U.S., not to mention their comb honey production. According to the Mid-Atlantic Apicultural Research and Extension Consortium, œbees must travel 25,584 miles (over 3 times around the world) to produce one pound of honey. Truly, the honeybee is an insect that we should not take for granted!