Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Bee's Life

I'm reprinting this excerpt from wikipedia about the life of a worker bee because it is so fascinating. Like us, as a bee gets older and more skilled, she moves up the ladder of responsibility. Her tasks change. And, by Day 42 she is so worn out from working such long difficult days that she dies. No retirement for worker bees.

Progression of tasks

Cell cleaning (Day 1-2)
Brood cells must be cleaned before the next use - cells will be inspected by the queen and if unsatisfactory will not be used. Worker bees in the cleaning phase will perform this cleaning. if not cleaned worker bee must do it again

Nurse bee (Day 3-11)
Nurse bees feed the worker larvae worker jelly secreted from the same glands that produce royal jelly.

Advanced Nurse Bees (Day 6-11)
Feed royal jelly to the queen larva and drones receive worker jelly for 1 to 3 days at which time they are moved to honey and pollen.

Wax production and Hive Activities (Day 12-17)
Wax Bees - build cells from wax, repair old cells, and store nectar and pollen brought in by other workers. Early in the worker's career she will exude wax from the space between several of her abdominal segments. Four sets of wax glands, situated inside the last four ventral segments of the abdomen, produce wax for comb construction.

Hive Worker activities (Day 12-17)

-Honey sealing
Mature honey, sufficiently dried, is sealed tightly with wax to prevent absorption of moisture from the air by workers deputized to do same.

-Drone feeding
Drones do not feed themselves; they are fed by workers.

-Queen attendants
The attendants or retinue groom and feed the queen. They also collect QMP (Queen Mandibular Pheromone) from the queen and share it with the bees around them who also share it spreading its effects through the hive.

-Honeycomb building
Workers will take wax from wax producing workers and build the comb with it.

-Pollen packing
Pollen brought into the hive for feeding the brood is also stored. It must be packed firmly into comb cells and mixed with a small amount of honey so that it will not spoil. Unlike honey, which does not support bacterial life, stored pollen will become rancid without proper care. it has to be kept in honey cells.

The walls of the hive will be covered with a thin coating of propolis, a resinous substance obtained from plants. In combination with enzymes added by the worker this will have antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Propolis is also used to close off excessive ventilation and entrances.

-Mortuary bees
Dead bees and failed larvae must be removed from the hive to prevent disease and allow cells to be reused. They will be carried some distance from the hive by mortuary bees.

-Fanning bees
Worker bees fan the hive, cooling it with evaporated water brought by water carriers. They direct airflow into the hive or out of the hive depending on need.

Guard Bees (Days 18 - 21)
protect the entrance of the hive from enemies

-Soldier bees
Soldiers hang around near the entrance and attack invaders. They work in concert with entrance guards.

-Entrance guard bees
These inspect incoming bees to ensure that they are bringing in food and have the correct hive odor. Other bees will be rejected or attacked with soldier bees.

-Outside guard bees
Outer guards may take short flights around the outside of the hive in response to disturbances.

-Water carriers
When the hive is in danger of overheating, these bees will obtain water, usually from within a short distance from the hive and bring it back to spread on the backs of fanning bees. The worker bee has a crop separate from the nectar crop for this purpose.

Foraging bees (Days 22 - 42)
The forager and scout bees travel to a nectar source, pollen source or to collect propolis.

See the original page here.