Your source of information on honey bees
Anyone who knows even a little bit about the honey bee can’t help but be amazed, because far more goes on within the hive than most people can ever imagine: complex communication, social interactions, teamwork, unique jobs and responsibilities, food gathering, and the engineering of one of the most impressive living quarters found in nature. Here, at Farmvina, you will get useful information on honey bees and apiculture.
Whether you’re a newcomer or an old hand, you’ll have many opportunities to experience firsthand the miracle of beekeeping.
Every time you visit your bees, you’ll see something new. But you’ll get far more out of your new hobby if you understand more about what you’re looking at.
- What are the physical components of the bee that enable it to do its job so effectively?
- What are those bees up to and why?
- What’s normal and what’s not normal? What is a honey bee, and what is an imposter?
In this post, you take a peek within a typical colony of honey bees to learn more about bee farming basics.
Humans and bees have a long history together, with evidence of domestication dating back as far as 9,000 years ago.
Most bee species are solitary, but the European honeybee (Apis mellifera) live in colonies of up to 50,000. These colonies contain three types or castes of bees:
- She is the largest bee in the hive, with an elongated pointed abdomen.
- The queen lives for up to 6 years.
- She can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day, which hatch into larvae, then turn into pupae before emerging as bees.
- Make up most bees in a colony.
- They’re all female.
- A worker bee’s tasks include foraging, nursing young, building comb and defending the hive.
- These are male bees
- They are relatively few in number compared to the female workers in a hive.
- They have large rounded bodies and eyes, and no stinger.
- A drone’s sole purpose is to mate with a queen during her nuptial flight.
Everyone knows about at least one part of the honey bee’s anatomy: its stinger. But you’ll get more out of beekeeping if you understand a little bit about the other various parts that make up the honey bee.
Like all insects, the honey bee’s skeleton is on the outside. This arrangement is called an exoskeleton. Nearly the entire bee is covered with branched hairs (like the needles on the branch of a spruce tree). Yes, the hairs help keep the bee body warm, but they also do much more.
A bee can “feel” with these hairs, and the hairs serve the bee well when it comes to pollination because pollen sticks well to the branched hairs.
The honey bee’s head is flat and somewhat triangular in shape. Here’s where you find the bee’s brain and primary sensory organs (sight, feel, taste, and smell).
It’s also where you find important glands that produce royal jelly and some of the various chemical pheromones used for communication.
Royal jelly is a substance secreted from glands in a worker bee’s head and is used as a food to feed brood.
The important parts of the bee’s head are its:
- Eyes: The head includes two large, compound eyes that are used for general-distance sight, and three small, simple eyes, called ocelli, which are used in the poor light conditions within the hive. Notice the three simple eyes (ocelli) on the members of all three castes in the above picture, while the huge, wraparound, compound eyes of the drone make him easy to identify. The queen’s eyes, however, are slightly smaller than the worker bee’s.
- Antennae: The honey bee has two antennae on the front of its face. Each antenna has thousands of tiny sensors that detect smell (like a nose does). The bee uses this sense of smell to identify flowers, water, the colony, and maybe even you! The antennae also, like the branched hairs mentioned earlier, feel, detect moisture, measure distance when bees fly, and help the bee detect up and down, among other functions.
- Mouth parts: The bees’ mandibles (jaws) are used for feeding larvae, collecting pollen, manipulating wax, and carrying things.
- Proboscis: Everyone’s familiar with those noisemakers that show up at birthday and New Year’s Eve parties. You know, the ones that unroll when you toot them! The bee’s proboscis is much like those party favors, only without the “toot.” When the bee is at rest, this organ is retracted and not visible. But when the bee is feeding or drinking, it unfolds to form a long tube that the bee uses like a straw.
The middle part of the bee is the thorax. It is the segment between the head and the abdomen where the two pairs of wings and six legs are anchored.
- Wings: Here’s a question for you: How many wings does a honey bee have? The answer is four. Two pairs are attached fore and aft to the bee’s thorax. The wings are hooked together in flight and separate when the bee is at rest.
- Legs: The bee’s three pairs of legs are all different. Each leg has multiple segments that make the legs quite flexible. Bees also have taste receptors on the tips of their legs. The bee uses its forward-most legs to clean its antennae. The middle legs help with walking and are used to pack loads of pollen (and sometimes propolis) onto the pollen baskets that are part of the hind legs. Propolis is the sticky, resinous substance that the bees collect from the buds of trees and use to seal up cracks in the hive. Propolis can be harvested and used for a variety of nifty products.
- Spiracles: These tiny holes along the sides of a bee’s thorax and abdomen are the means by which a bee breathes. The bee’s trachea (breathing tubes) are attached to these spiracles. Tracheal mites gain access to the trachea through the first hole in the thorax.
The abdomen is the part of the bee’s body that contains its digestive organs, heart, reproductive organs, wax and scent glands (workers only), and, of course, the infamous stinger (workers and queen only).
How do bees communicate?
It is said that only man and primates have a form of communication superior to that of the honey bee. Like you and I, honey bees use five senses throughout their daily lives; however, honey bees have additional communication aids at their disposal. Two of the methods by which they communicate are of particular interest. One is chemical, the other choreographic.
Pheromones are chemical scents that animals produce to trigger behavioral responses from the other members of the same species. Honey bee pheromones provide the “glue” that holds the colony together.
Shall we dance?
Perhaps the most famous and fascinating “language” of the honey bee is communicated through a series of dances done by foraging worker bees who return to the hive with news of nectar, pollen, or water.
The worker bees dance on the comb using precise patterns. Depending on the style of dance, a variety of information is shared with the honey bees’ sisters. They’re able to obtain remarkably accurate information about the location and type of food the foraging bees have discovered.
Two common types of dances are the so-called round dance and the waggle dance.
For a food source found at a greater distance from the hive, the worker bee performs the waggle dance. It involves a shivering side-to-side motion of the abdomen while the dancing bee forms a figure eight.
The vigor of the waggle, the number of times it is repeated, the direction of the dance, and the sound the bee makes communicate amazingly precise information about the location of the food source.
The dancing bees pause between performances to offer potential recruits a taste of the goodies they bring back to the hive. Combined with the dancing, the samples provide additional information about where the food can be found and what type of flower it is from.
Fascinating, isn’t it? Hope you had found some helpful information on apiculture to pursue further.
Originally posted 2020-06-17 09:59:55.