More About Bees: Basic Bee Information

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PHOTOS: MOODY INSTITUTE OF SCIENCE
Gathering nectar is one of many duties worker bees perform.

If you’re not familiar with beekeeping, here’s some basic
information about the creatures.

SWARM : bees that have left the hive with
their queen to establish a new family (colony). Those left
behind raise a new queen. A prosperous colony may have up
to 75,000 or more members at the peak of summer activity.

EGGS: The queen, who is the only fully
developed female in a hive, lays two kinds of eggs: fertile
and infertile. The nurse bees determine whether a fertile
egg will mature into a queen or a worker by the food they
give the developing larva. If the egg is to become a future
mother, a cell resembling a small peanut is built around it
as the larva grows. At the end of the larval period the
cell is sealed and the development of the pupa begins.
After 16 days the queen is fully grown and gnaws her way
out, sometimes assisted by the workers. Only one breeding
female is allowed to remain permanently in the colony.

WORKER: an undeveloped female, smaller
than the queen. As larvae, workers are fed less nutritious
food and hatch from smaller cells in 20 to 21 days. Their
function is just what the name implies: They gather nectar
which is converted into honey, pollen and water for feeding
the young and gums and resins which are used to varnish the
inside of the hive and seal every crevice. Workers build
the combs, care for the queen, feed the young, carry out
the dead, ventilate the hive, generate heat in winter and
guard against intruders . . . they even give their lives if
necessary to protect the colony. (A worker dies when it
uses its stinger which is barbed and not retractile like
the queen’s . . . which is smooth and used only to kill a
rival female.) Finally, they just work themselves to death.

DRONE: a male bee, which hatches from an
infertile egg in 24 to 25 days and requires a slightly
larger cell than a worker. Drones do no work in the field
or hive and serve only to fertilize young queens.

HIVE: Bees will move into any home from
the cavity in a hollow tree to a portion of a cavern.
Modern hives are so designed that the beekeeper may
manipulate the various parts to control the activities of
the insects and simplify the removal of honey.

More details on these and other matters relating to bees
may be found in the following books:

The Hiveand the Honey Bee , edited by
Roy A. Grout.
How to Keep Bees and Sell Honey, by
Walter T. Kelley.
ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture,  A.I. Root Co.
The New StartingRight with Bees
A.I. Root Co.