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  • Understanding the Honeybee- Bee Development

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    2 posts, 2 voices, 1132 views, started May 21, 2012

    Posted on Monday, May 21, 2012 by Nathalie Girard

    • Sapphire

      In a hive, you can find three kind of bees : the worker, the drone and a queen.  They all start as little eggs in an hexagonal cell.  The queen knows what kind of egg to lay by measuring the size of the cell. The cells for drones are bigger than workers', and the queens' are the biggest.  For drones, she lays an unfertilized egg, and for the worker or queen, she lays a fertilized one. In the first three days, a queen and a worker are the same.  You are probably asking yourself: "But how can this be? How can the same egg become two different things?" As surprising as it may seem, the answer lies in food. The larvae will be fed differently therefore altering the metamorphosis process. Let's look at each type of bee cycle.

      The Queen  

      The egg hatches after three days.  Once hatched, nursing bees feed the larva plenty of royal jelly. Larvas grow very fast. It starts out the size of a pinhead and three days later can be as big as quarter of an inch.  After five days, the nurses stuff the cell with royal jelly and cap it. The larva continues to eat for a while then spins a cocoon around itself.  For eight days it will transform into an adult queen.  

      Coming out of her cell, the first thing she does is patrol the hive and with her dart kills all the other potential queens still in their cells. If another virgin queen is already born, they fight 'til death.  She stays in the hive for another five or six days. In the beginning, bees will pamper her; but as time passes, they encourage her to make her mating flight. She flies out of the hive and mates with 15 to 30 drones, until her "spermatheca" is full.Depending on how many drones are around and the weather, this can take more than one flight.  She starts laying eggs 36 hours to three days after successful mating. This is the only time that she will mate. She will have enough sperm to lay eggs every day for the rest of her life. In the summer, she can lay up to 2000 eggs a day! This is the only thing a queen bee does. She cannot feed herself or groom herself. Workers take care of her and pamper her 24 hours a day. She is mother to all.  

      Physically, she is bigger than her daughters. Her abdomen is twice as long and her hinder legs much longer. A queen use to live up to seven years, but now with diseases and pesticides, a queen normally cannot last more than two years without starting to have problems.

      The Drone  

      As the queen, the egg hatches after three days.  At first, they are fed royal jelly, but soon they switch to a mixture of pollen and honey.  After six and a half days, the nurses cap the cells. It takes them fourteen days to metamorphose into adults.  

      They stay in the hive for another 12 to 13 days. Once mature, they start their mating flights in the afternoons.  They only mate once in their lives: while mating the genitals are ripped out and they instantly die.

      Drones cannot do anything by themselves. Workers must feed them and tend to their needs. They are accepted in all hives, no matter where they were born.  They are also the first to be eliminated when provisions are low or when winter is coming.

      The Worker Bee  

      The larva, contrary to the queen, is fed as the drone. After five days, the cell is capped and the worker bee will take up to 13 days before emerging as an adult.  During summer, it will live between 15 to 38 days. It can live up to 140 days during the winter.  

      The worker bees do all the tasks in the hive. Tasks are related to their age. Their organs come into function and regress throughout their lives.  They first start by cleaning brood cells and capping larva entering their pupa stage, then tend the brood & queen and feed them.  They build comb, receive nectar from foragers and pass it on for it to be stored, pack pollen and continue cleaning the hive. At last, they ventilate the hive, guard it at its entrance, and finally forage nectar, pollen, water and propolis.  It makes sense that the older bees are the foragers since this is the riskiest mission of all. A lot do not come home.  

      What is fascinating is that they can alter the cycle if need be. If all the foragers die of an intoxication, younger bees will mature faster to replace them. Same goes if some disease kills young bees inside the hive, foragers will make their atrophiated organs functional again.  

      I will try and get pictures of all three soon!!

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