What Do Honey Bees Do?

Last Updated: 15.09.19

 

Because in our recent article we talked to you about beehive kits, today we have decided to extend the topic of discussion to what bees do. Therefore, if you want to learn more about honey bees, keep reading!

 

Life cycle and food

A bee has a life cycle that includes four stages: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. Honey bees have the task of collecting pollen and nectar as food for the colony that they live in. As they do this, they also pollinate plants. The nectar that a bee collects is stored in its stomach and, later on, it is passed from one worker bee to another until the quantity of water that it contains diminishes.

Once the water is eliminated, the nectar turns into honey and it is stored by workers in the cells of the honeycomb.

Contrary to popular belief, nectar is not the sole source of food for bees as they also collect juices from plants as well as fruit exudates. Plus, if they encounter other insects that secrete honeydew, bees collect it and they store these liquids as they would do with honey.

Another unknown fact about bees is that they have specific dietary needs. In fact, in order to survive and thrive, bees need minerals, vitamins, lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins.

Queens, worker bees and male bees, as well as larvae, have to consume vitamin B and C for proper growth and development.

The queen

In a hive, there are three types of bees and each type plays a specific role. First, there is the queen bee. The queen bee is different than the rest of the insects in a colony. It is easy to identify it because it is larger than the rest. Some queens measure no less than 0.78 inches. To put this into perspective, the queen is twice the length of a worker bee.

While a queen bee is establishing her colony, she can lay no less than 1000 eggs each day. That is one egg every 20 seconds. If the queen is not laying the necessary number of eggs, she is normally replaced by the colony with a new queen. This process is known as supersedure.

The queen has three roles in the hive: she has to mate with the males, or the drones, she has to produce as many eggs as possible, and she has to start new colonies through a process that the specialists call swarming.

In a normal colony of around 50,000 bees, there is only one queen and around 300 drones, or male bees. The rest are female worker bees, also known as workers. The workers are most probably the kinds of bees that you are used to seeing around.

Although a queen is significantly larger than the rest of the bees in a hive, she is also produced from the same eggs as the other bees. However, those larvae that have the potential of becoming queens are fed a substance called royal jelly, while future worker bees are given bee bread, a combination of honey and pollen.

Differently from the working bee that can live for approximately 150 days, queens are known to live for 2 to 4 years, depending on the queen bee’s ability to perform her role appropriately.

 

How do bees communicate?

All bees from a hive produce pheromones that help the bees communicate with each other. The strongest pheromones are those of the queen and they have the power to encourage worker bees to tend to their brood. On top of that, this pheromone inhibits the production of even more queens.

According to studies, the pheromone of a queen bee is very powerful. In fact, if the queen is taken out of the hive, in less than 15 minutes all bees are aware of her disappearance and they start creating a new queen bee.

If a colony is growing too much and the pheromones of the queen are not easily detected by all bees, the colony is encouraged to create a new queen and, consequently, a new colony appears.

 

Worker bees and drones

Worker bees also have a number of roles. First, they have to forage for food and to build honeycombs. Building combs also requires them to secrete wax from their abdomens. Plus, the workers also have the task of keeping the hive clean and to protect it from predators. Finally, worker honey bees have to feed the larvae.

During a pollen collection trip, a bee will visit between 50 and 100 flowers. Also, in order to make a pound of honey, bees have to fly 90,000 miles, that is, the equivalent of going three times around the globe.

Another interesting thing that you might not know is that bees work for nine months annually. However, during summer, most of them do not live for more than six weeks because they end up dying from exhaustion.

The drones are the male bees that have to mate with the queen so that future generations of insects are ensured. What is more, they also have the role of controlling the temperature inside the hive. Even though male bees might seem dangerous, they cannot sting you.

Fun facts about bees

To make a pound of honey, bees have to gather the nectar from no less than two million flowers. Also, a honey bee can fly for up to 6 miles, and it can reach the maximum speed of 15 miles per hour.

Although the brain of a bee is rather small – it is similar to the dimensions of a sesame seed – a bee can remember a lot of things. For instance, a bee can calculate the distance that she has traveled and she can assess the efficiency of the foraging process.

According to the researchers, bees have continued to use the same way to produce honey for the last 150 million years. Also, honey is the only product made by an insect that is eaten by man. Honey is good for humans because it includes a unique antioxidant called pinocembrin that can improve brain functioning.

Honey has numerous medicinal properties. It can be used to help with digestive issues, sore throats, and even hay fever. Because it has antiseptic qualities, honey is used as first aid treatment for dressing wounds.

The sound that we normally associate with bees is actually the noise made by a bee’s wings. The wings of an insect of this kind beat 11,400 times every minute.

Most people are afraid of being stung by bees. However, studies have shown that the venom that bees have include a toxin called melittin that apparently can prevent HIV. Currently, scientists are working on a way to add it to preventative gels. Bee stings can also ease pain caused by arthritis.

A recent study carried out by researchers at the University of Illinois has demonstrated that bees have distinct personalities. So, while some are risk takers, others are more reserved. Plus, another study showed that they can recognize people by memorizing their distinctive parts of their faces.

This ability is called by the researchers “configural processing” and it is used to develop face recognition technology.

 

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