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Honey Bees are an animal most of us learn about very early on, one way or another. In Summer, many people step on Honey Bees and get stung while walking barefoot on a lawn.
Honey Bees are normally about 3/4 of an inch long. Most bees are workers, which are female, but some are male, called â€śdrones.â€ť Workers are slightly smaller than drones. All Honey Bees are reddish brown and black, with orangish-yellow rings on the abdomen (back part of body). The head, antennae, and legs are black. Honey Bees have thick, pale hair on the thorax (middle part of body).
Complex mouthparts of adults can be used for chewing and sucking. Larvae ingest liquids and have mouthparts reduced. Honey bee workers visit flowers to collect pollen and nectar. During transport to the hive, pollen is held in a structure on each hind leg called the â€śpollen basketâ€ť and nectar is carried in a structure in the front part of the digestive system, called the â€śhoney sac.â€ť They return to the hive, which may be provided by man or located in a hollow tree, wall void, or some other sheltered habitat. Pollen is stored in the cells of the comb within the hive.
In other cells (â€śhoneycombsâ€ť), nectar is converted into honey when the bee regurgitates the nectar, adding an enzyme (invertase) that facilitates the conversion. Nectar must also be concentrated by evaporation. Worker bees feed the larvae, drones, and queen. Wax is produced between the segments of the worker beesâ€™ body wall in small flakes.
Life Cycle: Honey bees build a large nest (hive) consisting of several wax combs for their brood (young) and pollen and nectar storage. â€śWildâ€ť honey bee colonies construct nests in cavities such as hollow trees or logs, but may also use attics and wall voids. Some colonies will contain as many as 20,000-60,000 bees, but most commercial hives are usually smaller.
Honey Bees Swarm
Usually colonies are able to survive the winter, unlike annual colonies of temperate social wasps. Swarming is more of a population control mechanism than anything that reproduces offspring. When a honey bee hive becomes overcrowded or threatened by starvation the queen begins laying eggs in queen cells that will develop into new queens. In some cases, drones or male bees are also raised.
When new queens are nearly ready to emerge, the old queen will leave the hive with thousands of worker bees. This large mass of bees is called a swarm and their purpose is to look for a new place to form a hive. These swarms often rest in exposed sites such as trees and shrubs (Figure 2) before finding a suitable cavity for building a new nest. Although swarms are less defensive than an established colony, it is best not to disturb them. In Oklahoma, swarms are most common during late April-June.
Pollination: Honey Bees are attracted to flowers with bright colors, but they cannot see red. Plants, which have bright flowers so that insects will pollinate them, have to rely on some other animal (like a butterfly or hummingbird) if they have red flowers. When a bee enters a flower, it has to go deep down to get to the nectar. While it drinks nectar, the bee gets covered with pollen. The bee also collects the pollen in its pollen basket (part of its hind legs). When the bee moves on to another flower, some of the pollen from the first flower rubs off on the second flower. This is pollination. Now the plant will drop its flower and make a fruit with seeds in it. The seeds may grow into a new plant. The bees cannot live without the plants and the plants cannot live without the bees.
Honey Bee Collecting Pollen
Worker bees have a stinger which is sharp and has a barb on it (like a fishhook). The stinger is attached to a venom gland in the abdomen. Honey Bees only sting if they, or the hive, are in danger. If a Honey Bee stings a wasp, because the wasp has soft tissue, the bee can pull her stinger out and sting again. However, if she stings an animal with tougher tissue, such as a frog or a human, the barb gets caught and the stinger tears out of the abdomen, along with the poison gland. This will kill the Honey Bee.The venom is what makes the beesting hurt. A muscle attached to the venom gland continues to pump poison into the wound, even after the bee is gone. Beestings, are not really dangerous unless you are allergic to bees!.
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