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Important things to know about the Honey Bee

Honeybee

A honey-bee society or colony lives in a hive. It is composed of a single queen, a few hundred drones, and several thousand workers.

Life history

Bees undergo complete metamorphosis. The drone hatches from an unfertilized egg. The Queen and theworkers hatch from a fertilized egg: if a larva is fed on pollen and honey it becomes a worker; if it is fed on royal jelly, which contains many vitamins, it becomes a queen. This is an example of how chemicals play a role in the organization of an insect society. The queen also keeps secreting a ‘queen substance’ that suppresses the development of the ovaries in the workers.

When a colony becomes too large, the concentration level of the ’queen substance’ in the hive falls. When this happens, the workers make a few queen cells in which potential new queens develop. The old queen flies off with several thousand workers to establish a new colony. This is called swarming.

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In the hive vacated by the old queen, the first of the new queens to emerge stings the others to death. The new queen then goes on her nuptial flight with the drones. During this flight, one of the drones fertilizes her. This drone dies immediately because his copulatory organs are torn out of his body during fertilization. The young queen returns to the hive with a store of spermatozoa, which enables her to fertilize her eggs for the rest of her life.

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After her return from the nuptial flight, the ovaries of the queen enlarge and she starts to lay an egg in each cell in the hive.

Communication

Bees communicate by touch, smell and visual movements called dances. Members of a colony maintain their social bonds by licking, stroking and grooming one another. These activities give them a characteristic scent which enables them to recognize one another (a different scent indicates an intruder who is to be chased away or killed). They also help to spread the queen substance which ensures that the queen remains as the only reproductive female in the hive.

A worker bee announces the discovery of a new food site by doing special types of dances. A round dance indicates that the food source is within a radius of 90 rn from the hive. This dance does not give direction. Other worker bees just fly round the hive in spiralling circles until they locate the food source. A unggle dance indicates a food source that is more than 90m from the hive. This dance gives the direction of the food source with respect to the hive and the position of the sun. The speed of the dance indicates the distance of the food source. Other workers find the type of food source by touching the body of the dancer with their antennae (sense organs of smell).

Resource: Modern Biology