The Incredible Honey Bee…It’s a Lady’s World
The worker bee makes up between 90 and 99% of the bee hive depending on how many males or drones are in the hive. She is the backbone of the hive. Let’s look at her humble beginning and existence. Her life from her hatching to her death may only last as little as six weeks. Why? Because, many bees literally work themselves to death and all in the name of preserving the hive during the spring season.
Like all other bees she will start out as an egg about the size of a grain of rice that is deposited in a cell in the honeycomb by the queen. The egg will grow until it becomes a pupa or baby. At this time the other bees will feed her a combination of pollen and royal jelly. They will eventually cut the royal jelly consumption off. Too much royal jelly and the pupa will become a queen. Too little royal jelly and the pupa will be a drone.
The pupae will grow with her head pointed toward the opening so she can be fed. She will grow to fill the cell. When the bees determine our worker is old enough, they will seal the cell over with wax and let the baby continue to grow. At the right time she will “hatch” out of the cell. The whole process is similar to the process of the caterpillar to butterfly process.
Once the developed pupa becomes a bee she will eat her way out of the cell casing. Her first order of business is to clean the cell she just came out of to prepare it for another egg. This is a “janitorial” phase and once done she will move on to the nursing stage where will help other nurse bees take care of the young. She can’t fly yet so she must work inside the hive. She will help retrieve pollen from the bees that are arriving and either will help store it for later use or use it to feed the babies. She will also consume honey and will excrete beeswax during this phase in order to build up the hive.
The next phase is where her wings have a greater strength and development. Her stinger is developing too. In this phase, the guardian or protecting phase, she is still close to the hive and has duties within, however she will begin to flex and try her wings. She will stay close to the hive to help guard it and will help ward off threats to the hive.
The last phase of her life is the foraging stage. Here her wings are fully developed and she will leave the hive in search of nectar, sugars, water, and pollen. She will travel up to 2 miles away to forage for the hive. Along with her wings, her stinger is fully developed as well and can inflict the most pain and damage.
At this phase she can work as a forager as mentioned above or as a scout. These duties are interchangeable. When she finds water, sugar or nectar she will arrive back at the hive and alert the other foragers as to what she has found and how to get there. This process will until and sometimes at a frenzied rate to the point of utter exhaustion and even death.