The Humble Honeybee

Bee’s have been in the press a lot recently, but it turns out that these little insects do an awful lot in the background that we don’t know about. However when you look deeper into the hive, it comes apparent that actually there’s even more to the little black and yellow striped buzzers than meets the eye.

Lets start with the worker bee, the worker bees are honey bees that are fertilised eggs from the queen bee, making them female. However these bees aren’t able to reproduce, they live for up to 9 months in the winter, and just 6 weeks during the summer. They work so hard during the 6 weeks of summer that they literally die of exhaustion. Within the hive these bees work amongst an incredibly slick community, and throughout there lives they might take on a number of responsibilities, these are housekeeper (responsible for hive cleanliness), nursemaid (there to look after the other bees), construction worker (responsible for making sure the hive doesn’t fall apart), grocer, undertaker, and guard. It’s only after 21 days of rotating those jobs, that they then become foragers, going out for pollen and nectar. For protection the worker bee has a barbed sting, which results in death after the first sting.

However the worker bee has to come from somewhere, and in every hive there’s only one. Chosen from 3000+ Larvae the Queen bee is then fed royal jelly ( a mixture of pollen and a chemical produced in the nursing bees head) for 2 days, before going on to eat royal jelly for the rest of their 3-5 year lifespan. Most of there life is spent mating with the male drone bees (which for the drone only happens once, and then they die) to fertilise up to 2000 eggs a day, these fertilised eggs then become worker bees. The queen been is selected by the rest of the hive from female worker bee larvae and can grow up to 1.5 times larger than the standard worker bee.

The Drone bees are pretty much the most unproductive bees in the hive. They’re also the only male bees, and their main purpose in life is to fertilise the queens eggs to produce worker bees. Due to the barbed sexual organ that the drone bee possesses, they die immediately after mating. These bees don’t have a sting because it isn’t necessary for them. There are only 300-3000 bees in the hive at any one time, and they’re of no use during the winter months meaning they’re expelled from the hive in the autumn, only being kept on standby during the summer months.

Some fun facts are though that bees collect 30kg of pollen every year per hive, bees also have 5 eyes, and bee sting therapy is widely used overseas to address health problems such as arthritis, neuralgia, and high blood pressure.  Also, honey bees aren’t native to the USA, they were introduced by early settlers. Royal jelly, the product used to create new queen bees, has been used to help humans over the years with aided development in weaker babies, to helping post natal women to regain health and strength after birth. All in all bees are not only vital to our natural ecosystems, but they’re also an incredible insect, that are incredibly self sufficient and also organised. Check out how you can help out the bees with this blog on how to make your garden more bee friendly.