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Interesting Bee Tidbits

Updated on August 1, 2017
m-a-w-g profile image

Chris has been a beekeeper quickly approaching 10 years. He enjoys learning about bees from others and a good conversation about Honey Bees

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Differences between the Queen, workers, and drones

The Stinger

It may surprise you, but not all bees have stingers. In honey bees, the Queen has a smooth stinger and this means that she may sting as many times as she wants. Worker bees have a barbed stinger and this is what many people think of when they think about a bee sting. The worker bee stings and the stinger get stuck, pulling out the venom sack and entrails and the bee dies. One thing that most people do not realize though, the drone bee does not have a stringer at all. Some beekeepers will practice picking up drones so they are better at picking up Queens to paint, clip, or package them.

Body Shape

All three types of bees have a different body shape. The drone is larger bodied and bulbous, his eyes are larger as well. The worker bee is smaller in body size, the eyes are smaller and its body ends in more of a curved "V" shape. It is easier to see the three small eyes that are between the big two eyes on a worker. And the Queen bee is longer than both the drone bees and worker bees, the hair that the others have on their bodies is missing from the queen, and her wings are shorter than her abdomen.

Pheromones

Drones, workers, and Queens all have different pheromones at their disposal. Drones bees will gather in specific areas called drone congregation areas and they use a pheromone that will draw Queen bees to them so they can mate with her.

Worker bees have at least two types of alarm pheromone, one they release from the mandibles and the other when they sting something. The mandible pheromone can paralyze and enemy so they can be removed from the hive and the stinger pheromone is like an attack beacon.

The Queen uses pheromones that effect the hives social behavior, swarming habits, and even prevent worker bees ovaries from developing.

Bee larvae also has a pheromone to let nurse bees know if the queen laid them or if there is a worker bee that is laying eggs.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Amegilla cingulata (Apidae) on Acanthus ilicifolius.  I.e. a long-tongue bee on a long-tubed flower.Redtail bee, invades other bee nests, kills larvae, eats eggs, lays own eggs, and then seals them back up and flies off.Rubytail bee, vivid color and beautiful.White-spotted Red Cuckoo Bee, invades another bees nest and lays its egg in the wall.  When young is born it assassinates other larvae and eggs.South American Stingless Bee
Amegilla cingulata (Apidae) on Acanthus ilicifolius.  I.e. a long-tongue bee on a long-tubed flower.
Amegilla cingulata (Apidae) on Acanthus ilicifolius. I.e. a long-tongue bee on a long-tubed flower. | Source
Redtail bee, invades other bee nests, kills larvae, eats eggs, lays own eggs, and then seals them back up and flies off.
Redtail bee, invades other bee nests, kills larvae, eats eggs, lays own eggs, and then seals them back up and flies off. | Source
Rubytail bee, vivid color and beautiful.
Rubytail bee, vivid color and beautiful. | Source
White-spotted Red Cuckoo Bee, invades another bees nest and lays its egg in the wall.  When young is born it assassinates other larvae and eggs.
White-spotted Red Cuckoo Bee, invades another bees nest and lays its egg in the wall. When young is born it assassinates other larvae and eggs. | Source
South American Stingless Bee
South American Stingless Bee | Source

Bee Species

There is around 20,000 species of known bees, with somewhere around 4,000 different types of bees, broken down into 9 different families. I would like to mention that two of those families are extinct. Out of the 20,000 different bees there are only one genus that has honey bees and it contains 44 sub species.

Bees inhabit every continent of Earth with the exception of Antarctica and have adapted to the environment they live in. There are bees smaller than a grain of rice and others the dwarf the modern honey bee. There are over aggressive bees and stingless bees.

Bees are so diverse, but the popularity of the pollinating, honey-making Apis bee has out shown most every other bee. With all this news, the vast majority of people do not realize that recently the yellow-faced bee of Hawaii was listed as an endangered species. A fear many beekeepers have in regards to the honey bee. In 2014, managed colony lose was reported at 34.2 and increased in 2015 to 42.1%. These are some pretty scary numbers.

Did you realize that there were around 25,000 species of bees?

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Click thumbnail to view full-size
Honey BeeYellow Jacket WaspHarvester Ant
Honey Bee
Honey Bee | Source
Yellow Jacket Wasp
Yellow Jacket Wasp | Source
Harvester Ant
Harvester Ant | Source

Relatives

Bees, ants, and wasps are all related. With a recent study being completed by a group of scientiest at UC Davis finding that bees and ants are actually closer related than bees and wasps. It has been stated that bees evolved from wasps about 100,000,000 years ago. This research has changed what we thought about several specific bees, wasps, and ants.

What is interesting is that wasps, bees, ants have the ability to sting, all have a petiole that connects the thorax and the abdomen, and all three have five eyes. Two compound eyes and three ocelli eyes located between the compound eyes. Bees and ants both have two stomachs, one for them to digest food and the other for communal foods. And all of them are found around almost the whole Earth.


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Eggs, larvae, and capped cells.  All drone brood.Worker bee brood.
Eggs, larvae, and capped cells.
Eggs, larvae, and capped cells. | Source
All drone brood.
All drone brood. | Source
Worker bee brood.
Worker bee brood. | Source

Birth Control

The Queen bee can decide if an egg will become a male or female, drone or worker. While she is passing the egg through her ovaries she can have it become fertilized by the sperm that is stored from her mating flight for it to become a worker bee, or she can have it not contact the sperm and have it be unfertilized, hence becoming a drone bee.

The drone bee only has 16 chromosomes while the worker bee has 32 chromosomes. Every worker bee has 16 chromosomes from her mother and 16 from her father and every worker bee has 16 chromosomes from his mother. I have always thought this to be an interesting tidbit.

Worker bees cells are slightly smaller and when sealed are pretty flat and level. While drone cells are slightly larger and have a domed top on them. And Queen cells appear to be a peanut attacked to the comb and are either at a 45 degree angle or vertical while the worker and drone cells are always horizontal.

With all of these decisions being made, the queen will still lay up to 2,000 eggs per day during peak season. The queen will slow egg production down towards the end of the season. How quickly this happens depends on the species. Italians will quit with the nectar while Carnelians will lay late into the season.

Honey in the comb.
Honey in the comb. | Source

Honey Production

There are very few reasons why people keep bees, but those reasons are all extremely important to how people eat on our planet. And many people enjoy eating honey, which brings some negative points.

Did you know that a study that was commissioned by the Food Safety News shows that 76% of honey that is on the market isn't real honey. This is from refined sugars being modified to appear and taste like honey to so much processing that it doesn't classify as honey.

And bees continue to work hard to produce honey. To understand how much work goes into honey, let's break this down into task work. For a colony to make one pound of honey, the worker bees must visit 2,000,000 flowers and flying 55,000 miles. And one colony can produce 100 pounds in a season. One worker bee will collect enough nectar to make 1/12th a teaspoon of honey. One 10 frame medium super, will weigh about 60 pounds when full. That means a 6 5/8" tall box with 10 frames full of honey inside of it. So the bees in that hive would have flown 3,300,000 miles to collect one level of production honey. And this is why during the summer bees will only live 45 days.

Do you enjoy honey?

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    • m-a-w-g profile image
      Author

      Chris Andrews 2 weeks ago from NE, Ohio

      I will try too, thanks ;)

    • profile image

      Joyce Dykstra 2 weeks ago

      Good stuff! Keep it up!

    • m-a-w-g profile image
      Author

      Chris Andrews 2 weeks ago from NE, Ohio

      I am lucky enough that I have a few dozen other beeks who stop in from time to time. There are a couple of great facebook groups as well.

    • Whata Hoot profile image

      Lovely Lady 3 weeks ago from United States

      Lol beeanese is an awesome term! I've been beekeeping for a few years but rarely get to meet up with any other beeks

    • m-a-w-g profile image
      Author

      Chris Andrews 3 weeks ago from NE, Ohio

      I greatly appreciate your attitude. My employees generally laugh and tell me I speak "Beeanese" with some of the other beeks that come in.

    • Whata Hoot profile image

      Lovely Lady 3 weeks ago from United States

      Loved this article! Bees are in so many ways misunderstood and I'm happy to see positive information about them.

    • m-a-w-g profile image
      Author

      Chris Andrews 3 weeks ago from NE, Ohio

      Bees are pretty impressive and some are vicious. Others are not, I would love to have stingless honey bees but probably illegal to bring to USA. I appreciate the time you both took to read and write comments. Thank you.

    • Penny Sebring profile image

      Penny Sebring 3 weeks ago from Fort Collins

      Such fascinating insects, and so important. I knew there were several varieties, but I didn't think it was as high as 25,000!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 3 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      These are some interesting facts regarding bees. I did not know that there were so many different types and that some are actually smaller than a grain of rice. Hopefully the honey bee decline will not continue. It could have dire effects!