Thursday, July 25, 2013

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

 The Adulthood of a Worker Bee

In the last post about the Worker bee's we briefly showed how they change from egg to larvae to adult. Which starts off with the queen laying the egg in a CLEAN wax cell. after the larva hatches they are feed by the adult bees and eventually caped so they can fully change into an adult bee.

Her first three days as an adult will be(e) cleaning the cell from which she emerged. If not done properly the queen will not lay the next egg in that cell. As a result of poor cleaning the worker bee must clean the cell again. On her third to seventh day as an adult she is given the duty of nursing bee. At this stage her main task is to feed the worker larva royal jelly and eventually bee bread. Some worker bees are given the task of feeding the drones (more on this later) or the queen herself.

After their nursing career they are moved to, what I like to call, “Engineer “ bees. They are given the task of building, repairing, and designing the wax combs. It is very fascinating to watch them work in a top bar hive (like the one we have on the roof top). They start at the top of the bar and work their way down. First they make a bee “chain” to measure the part that they will be building. They use the wax that they excrete in order to construct the comb. Remember that the comb has two sides. So to optimize the strength of the comb it is built in a way that each cells’ corner is centered to the middle of the cell on the opposite side.  In additions to constructing the comb, they are also given the duty of storing the pollen and nectar that that forager bees bring in. They are the “engineerettes” of the hive from the 12th to the 17th day of their adult lifespan.
Our roof top ladies at work. Nice work, ladies!
The Shadow shows the offset that they create

The days 17 through 21 they worker bees do miscellaneous tasks around the hive. The tasks depend on what the hive needs the most. Some of the tasks include but are not limited to: honey sealing, Drone feeding, honey comb building, undertaker bee, fanning bees and water carriers.

One of the tasks that are given to worker bees is fanning. They are given the task of cooling the hives temperature by, you guessed it, fanning. They are their own air conditioning. They do this by standing in one place and sending an “air current” to one another. In some cases, they may add water to the “air current.”

On July 18th, 2013 it was 90+ degrees when we opened the hive and sure enough they were fanning away trying to keep the hive cool.
Another task that the worker bees do that I find interesting is “undertaker bee.” Normally a bee does not die inside the hive. When a bee feels like it is on its last seconds of life it will fly away as far as possible from the colony. Although when a bee does die in the hive another bee, in this case the undertaker bee, will carry it out as far as they can. However, the undertaker bee is not limited to only dead bees. It will also carry out eggs that never hatched, larvae that did not mature or adult bees that never made it out if their cells.

On the 22nd day of the worker bees’ adult life is moved to the task of forager. She will travel in a two to five mile radius to collect nectar and pollen. At the same time she will also pollinate the flowers that she visits. Thus, as she helps herself she will also help the plants and ultimately help feed us.  She is capable of visiting 50 to 100 flowers in one day. She will continue to forage until she dies. She is literally worked to death! So if you see a bee flying in and out of the hive then one can make an observational conclusion that the worker bee is on her last legs. But her hard work will not be in vain.

In the most active of months the average bee, after becoming an adult, will live 30 to 42 days. Nevertheless, every day and every task is crucial for the hive’s survival. All the bees tasks are, in one way or another, interconnected. It functions like a well-oiled machine. Take into consideration that without the “engineer” bees there wouldn’t be any space for the larva to grow and without the larva there wouldn’t be “engineer” bees. It leaves you with the head scratching question: “what came first? The wax comb or the bee?”

Stay tuned in for later blog post concerning the other caste of bees in the colony. Next up is the Drones, the males of the colony.
Written by Dulay.

No comments:

Post a Comment