Sunday, June 30, 2013

Caste System in The Honey Bee Colony: Worker Bee's Childhood

Worker bees everywhere! (Can you spot the queen?)
The worker bees are the smallest and most abundant in the honey bee colony. They are all females but unlike the Queen bee they are unable to reproduce. Their population in a single hive can reach up to 60,000 depending on the size of the hive. In the winter months, which are the less active months in the hive, they are capable of living from 4 to 9 months. Their main priority is to keep the hive at a constant 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit by densely packing themselves together in one spot, this is known as clustering. When they do cluster in the winter months, they will do so around the queen since she is the most important in the hive. An interesting fact about honey bees is that they are house trained. Therefore they will not excrete waste inside the hive. So during the winter months they will hold the longing desire until a sunny day arrives in early spring and then they all sprint out the door.

Worker bees are the only caste of honey bees that have a stinger. Fortunately, they are not aggressive by nature so they only sting as a last resort to protect their hive. However once she stings the threat she will die soon after. For this reason the worker bee will first hover around and bump what she perceives as a threat to the hive. This is their way of giving a warning. Once they have shown the threat a warning they will attack as a last resort.  Soon after she will die but not until looking at her stinger pulse toxins into the menace!

Birth to Adolescent

A worker bee starts off as an egg. The egg is so small it is easy to miss. It takes an average of 21 days for an egg to change into a full adult bee. It all begins with the queen bee laying an egg at the center of a wax cell. After the third day the egg hatches into a larva. In the third to sixth day of the metamorphosis, the larva is fed by the worker bees royal jelly. However this royal jelly is not as pure as what the queen usually consumes. It’s more “watered down.” After the sixth day they are no longer fed royal jelly. From there on they are fed a combination of honey and pollen. This is known as bee bread. On the ninth day the larva is now considered fully grown.

When the larva reaches maturity the worker bees will seal in the larva in the wax cell with a layer of wax and pollen. In this sealed cell the larva will finish her transformation into an adult bee. When the cell is first sealed it is a light yellow color.  Over the next couple of days the color of the cell will change into a darker color, close to brown. This change in color signifies that the adult bee is almost ready to emerge from its cell. On the 21st day, the adult bee emerges from its sealed comb by chewing thought it. She will now join her mother, sisters and brothers. She will begin to work almost immediately.

Stay tuned for the next post about the Worker Bees adulthood. It will astonish you, at least it did me, that the worker bees task as an adult intertwine with one another which helps the hive survive. meaning that without one task there can not be another one. 

Written by Dulay

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