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Bees

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Bees are insects which belong to the order of Hymenopterans. There are approximately 20,000 different bee species on our planet, most of them solitary. Among them we find honey bees, social insects of the genus Apis.

Currently there are 5 species of honey bees:

– Apis mellifera or western honey bee: It is the bee species with the greatest distribution on the planet. It has spread throughout the five continents due to its excellent acclimatisation and its greater profitability from the beekeeping point of view. Its colonies have up to 100,000 bees. It is divided into more than 20 subspecies. In Spain we found the subspecies Apis mellifera iberica.

– Apis dorsata and Apis laboriosaThey are the biggest bees. Significantly aggressive. They inhabit tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia.

– Apis cerana: It is slightly smaller than A. mellifera. It usually forms colonies of up to 7,000 bees and its distribution is focused in Asia, with several subspecies. It should be noted that, unlike other species, they don’t seal cells completely but they leave a small pore opened.

– Apis florea: It is considered the most primitive and is the smallest. They form small outdoor colonies with a single honeycomb and are not aggressive. It only lives in tropical areas of Southeast Asia..

 

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  • Members of the bee colony:

Bees are social insects that live in colonies. These colonies are composed of a queen, several hundred drones, and between 10,000 and 60,000 workers.

Queen: Central figure of the hive. Fertile female, mother of all the bees of the colony. Very prolific, capable of putting up to 3,000 eggs a day. She produces a pheromone which is responsible for the social cohesion, programming and coordination of the activities of the colony. She is attended by a “retinue” of workers who take care of her and feed her with “royal jelly”. She can live up to five years.

 

Workers: Sterile females who perform all the tasks necessary for the survival of the hive. They carry out their activities inside and outside the colony, depending on their level of physiological development. The duration of their life depends on the intensity of their work —especially outdoors— and the needs of the colony. Those born in spring live less than a month, while those born in autumn can live up to six. The number of workers in a colony depends on how prolific their queen is and varies according to the level of food they receive. Throughout the year, it is maximum at the beginning of summer and minimum at the end of winter.

In the adult life, from day 1 to day 40 – 45, a worker bee performs the following functions:

WORKER BEES
DIVISION OF LABOR OVERVIEW

Period Task Function
Days 2-3 Cell cleaning and eggs and larvae warming. Cleaner
Days 4-12 Preparing food for larvae. Feeding queen larva with royal jelly. Cook
Feeder
Nurse
Days 13-18 Wax production and cell building (including “queen cells” to raise new queens). Director
Engineer
Constructor
Days 19-20 Defence of the hive as guards and protectors. Guard
Protector
Days 21-38 — 42 Foraging. Field work outside the hive to collect water, nectar, pollen and propolis. Collector
Scout
Days 38-42 On average and depending on physical fatigue (working hours) dies. Worker bees always die out of the hive, to avoid the work of removal by other bees. End of life

 

Drones: Males of the colony, whose main activity is the fecundation of virgin queens in their nuptial flight. They are procreated by parthenogenesis, that is, they come from an unfertilized egg. Unable to feed themselves, they have to be fed by worker bees. Their presence is not permanent. Drones begin to be fed only when they reach “sexual maturity” and are maintained during the mating season. But they are expelled when they are no longer necessary, especially when food resources are scarce. The few “lucky” who get mated die “on the spot”. They can live for 80 – 90 days.