When we say bees, 2 things which are a complete paradox Immediately come to our mind: “honey’ and “painful sting.” The first is that sweet liquid we all love, and later is that excruciating bite we all hate. But have you ever wondered where the bees responsible for these 2 things live?
Many believe honey bees live in the ground because bees are on the ground and sometimes even refuse to fly. But the reality is that bees live in many places but mostly in woodland areas.
Today we will be looking at everything honey bees: what they are, where they live, what they eat, and how they reproduce.
About Honey Bees
- Common name: Honey bees
- Order: Hymenoptera
- Family: Apidae
- Tribe: Apini
- Genus: Apis
- Species: mellifera
Honey bees are some of the most popular species of bees out of the many species there are, and this is basically because, unlike most others, they produce honey from the nectar and pollens that they feed on, and they also build large nests that are quite complex.
A. mellifera, the most common species of honey bees, has different strains, usually 0.5 inches long. They have 2 large compounds and 3 simple eyes, 2 very sensitive antennae that can detect an odor from afar.
Their bodies are usually divided into 3 sections: the head, the thorax or midsection, and the abdomen, and their color vary slightly depending on the strain, but the common color is golden-yellow and brown.
Honey bees have 2 sexes which are male and female; they also have 2 female castes:
1. The workers
These female honey bees do not attain sexual maturity and do not ever reproduce; they do most of the work in the colony, and chief amongst them is getting food for the colony. This caste of honey bees has stingers.
2. The Queen’s
These are female honey bees that reproduce for the colony, they have stingers and are usually bigger than the workers.
The males of the honey bee colonies, usually larger than the workers, are also known as drones, and you find them mostly during summer.
The Interesting Reproductive Story Of Honey Bees
“Captivating” is the best word to describe how life in the honey bee colonies is reproduced. The Virgin queen flies to the place where many drones are waiting for her, and she mates with several of them.
What happens is that the drone, in the mating process, mounts the virgin queen, and ejaculates the semen, but his reproductive part which is known as the endophallus, is ripped from his body, and then remains attached to the newly fertilized queen.
The drone, whose main purpose is to make the queen, is pushed out of the colony because his job is done, and eventually, it will die off.
These queen honey bees store the sperm in the spermatheca, which helps control how the eggs are fertilized. And she then lays the eggs (some of them are fertilized eggs, others are non-fertilized eggs).
The eggs that were not fertilized are the ones that become drones, while the fertilized ones become females.
Some of the fertilized eggs are deposited in the queen cell (the queen cells are larger vertical cells), and these are the ones that become the queen of the colony; when the eggs hatch, they are fed with royal jelly, which is produced by the salivary gland of the workers.
If any female is not fed with this royal jelly, they will grow to become workers. When there is no queen, or if the colony’s queen is weak in the swarming season, the workers will lay unfertilized eggs, and the eggs will watch and be one drone.
Do Honey Bees Live In The Ground
Most honey bees found in the wild don’t live in the ground; rather, they live in the holes of trees and rock crevices. Woodland areas are the main places where honey bees live. You will find them in places with lots of flowers and pollen grains on which they feed.
However, many species of bees live in the ground, where they make nests and live. These bees are referred to as best ground nestling and are usually solitary and live by themselves, unlike honey bees.
Examples of such bees include sweat bees, bumble bees, yellow jackets, digger bees, Mason bees, and the leaf cutter bees.
These bees are usually found around spring when they are building their nests. The nests are more like underground tunnels, usually in well-soils and a place with lots of morning light.
Honey Bees Species
- A. mellifera:
- A. florea, the dwarf honeybee, make their nests in trees and shrubs.
- A. andreniformis, the black dwarf honeybee: they live on trees.
- A. dorsata, the giant honeybee: they build large combs.
- A. cerana, the Eastern honeybee.
- A. koschevnikovi, or Koschevnikov’s bee.
- A. nigrocincta lives in tree trunks
The Interesting Behaviour Of The Honey Bees
Wild honey bees display some very peculiar behaviour. Even though they are social creatures living in colonies, they can sometimes display very aggressive behaviour against members of their colony.
For instance, the queen can sometimes sting some other fertile females as a show of supremacy in the colony; drones are sometimes pushed out of the nests when the weather is very cold.
Most bees hibernate during winter, but not honey bees, rather, they stay in their hive closely, and by so doing, they share their body heat and become warmer while they feed on the food they stored earlier before winter.
Certain behaviour is common to different honey bees found in different regions. For instance, while the African and German honey bee has very heightened defensive behaviour, their Italian counterpart is very docile; it only gets aggressive when provoked.
Bees are believed to be one of the most important agents of pollination of flowers which helps in plant reproduction. Apart from the honey that most beekeepers get from apiculture, some also keep these bees for the same pollination, especially those who grow crops.
The Dance Of The Honey Bee
While humans dance for entertainment and body fitness, honey bees dance as a means of communication. The dance language is a means for honey bees to communicate information about food. Hence a honey bee discovers a new food source; he dances to tell the location.
There are 2 types of these honey bees’ dances: the round dance and the waggle dance. The round dance is done when a honey bee moves in circles, and the communication is that the food source is within 50 meters of the nest, while the waggle dance is done by the bee waggling its abdomen.
This dance tells the hive that there is a new food more than 150 meters away. The longer the dance, the farther the food source, but bees can depict the exact location of the food source by the length of time they dance. A short dance duration means the food source is close, conversely.
Another intriguing aspect of the honey bees’ dance is that they can you the waggle dance to indicate the direction of the food source.
The reference point they pick is the sun’s position; hence, when they dance 45° to the vertical, it means the food source is approximately 45° from the nest with reference to the sun’s vertical.
The Interesting Facts About Honey Bees
Here are some more facts about honey bees;
1. Of all the over 20,000 species of bees, only the honey bee produces food eaten by man.
2. Honey bees can move as fast as 15 miles per hour, and to make 1 pound of honey, they will have to fly about 90,000 miles.
3. Honey from honey bees contains 20% water and 80% sugar.
4. Mead, fermented honey, is a beverage that newly wedded couples consume a lot in the first month of marriage; hence, the word “honeymoon” was coined from this Norse culture.
5. The daily egg production of the honey bee queen could be up to 1000, and its weight could equal the queen’s weight; hence she is always fed by the worker bees.
6. A bee produces about one-twelfth of a teaspoon of honey in its entire life span.
7. The honey bee can stroke its wing about 11,400 times per minute, which is why they produce a buzzing sound.
8. A honey bee can visit up to 80 flowers.
The bees that live in the ground are solitary bees that stay by themselves; honey bees, however, are social insects in colonies with large numbers of members, so they don’t live in the ground.
They make their nests mostly in rock crevices and inside tree trunks in wooded land. Honey bees are interesting insects with unique anatomy and even more intriguing behaviors.
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