Bees are the most active and hardworking of all insects. The human owes it a lot of products and benefits. In fact if bees didn't exist, the world would be quite different. Through the hard labour of bees, the human gets honey- to be used as food or medicine, wax- to be used for making candles, and the most important- numerous varieties of fruits and vegetables.
Bees have short, winged ,thick bodies covered with hair. They have six legs like most of the insects. Their bodies have three broad parts- head, thorax and abdomen.
A bee's head is not hairy like the rest of its body. It consists of two compound eyes, three simple eyes(ocelot) and antenna. The compound eyes are used to look at far off things even outside the hive. Each of these eyes consists of 3000 to 5000 visual processing units called ommatidia. The compound eyes do not identify shapes but are very good at perceiving color. A bee can't receive the color red but it can receive ultraviolet light. The three simple eyes also called ocelot, are at the front of the head. These are used to register intensity, wavelength and duration of light. Infact the ocelot check the intensity of light at dusk, allowing the bees to return to their hives at the right time. Antennae receive and analyze the substances which are responsible for odor and taste. They also perceive the vibrations of air, sound and temperature and humidity. A bee communicates using its antennae.
Bees do not have ears, but they can feel the things on which they are. They have a straw like structure called proboscis, which they use for eating, sucking and lapping.
The thorax is the hairy middle section of a bee’s body. The legs and wings are attached to the thorax. The ends of the legs taste the substances that the bees touch. The hooks on each leg are helpful to hold the body of a bee on all types of surfaces. A bee has four wings which it flaps 200 times per second. That is what is the buzzing sound a bee makes.
The abdomen is the lower and the biggest part of the bee’s body. At its lowest end is attached the deadly sting which can hurt a human.
There are almost 25,000 species of bees in the world. These can be further divided into 400 types of bees, belonging to 9 families. The most common types of bees are the following:
These are the largest of all the bees in the world. They are oval,blue-black colored with six legs, wings and antennae. They derive their name from the fact that they build their nests inside wood. They use their mandibles to dig tunnels inside wood which can be even 10 feet deep. These bees are known to steal the nectar by cutting the sides of flowers, hence they are not pollinating.
Carpenter bees usually live alone. They build their nests for themselves and their young ones. These bees can cause damage to the wood where they build their nests.
Killer bees are also known as africanized honey bees due to their resemblance to regular honeybees. These are oval shaped, golden yellow in color with dark strips of brown. They have six legs, wings and antennae. They get their name from their violent attack on people and other animals/birds who attack their territory. They form a swarm and can follow their enemy to a long distance away from their hive.
Killer bees usually make nests near water bodies and come out in swarms during rain. Their venom is not as dangerous as regular honey bees, but due to the reason that they attack in large numbers, they can hurt equally or more.
These are the most beneficial bees because they are the ones who pollinate flowers. Bumble bees are oval, black colored with yellow strips. Like other types of bees, they have 6 legs, wings and antennae. Bumble bees are social and live in large families underground. They make a small amount of honey which is not beneficial for humans. Their colonies are relatively small.
Bumblebees normally attack or sting only when their nest is disturbed. Their sting is dangerous and painful as bumblebees can sting more than once. Their sting does not get caught in the skin and they can easily fly away.
Honey bees are oval, golden yellow in color with brown strips. They also have six legs, wings and antennae like their other counterparts. A honey bee is perhaps the most beneficial insect. It provides almost $20 billion annually from pollination of over 120 cultivated crops in addition to the production of honey. The collected honey is stored in the honeycombs, which is used to feed young ones in colder months.
Honey bees defend their hive from any external danger. When realizing a danger, honey bee workers release substances from glands in the sting apparatus and parts of its mouth, which acts as a signal to other bees to attack, and thus they start stinging in a huge swarm. A honey bee dies eventually after stinging because it loses its sting inside of the victim.
Bees exhibit a complete development, i.e, the young ones and the adults look completely different and eat completely different. The life stages are eggs, larva, pupa and adult.
The lifecycle of a bee begins with eggs which are 1 to 1.5 mm long. A queen lays eggs within each cell of a honeycomb. These get hatched after 3 days. Fertilized eggs become the worker bees which later get the food to and take care of the colony.
During its first days the larva is very small resembling a worm without legs and eyes. But it drastically gains weight because it is to be fed almost a thousand times a day. Larvae are required to molt in order to grow this fast.
For the first two days the larvae are fed with a royal jelly and from the third day, honey, pollen and water are enough to raise them.
At this stage, the body of the larva begins to look like that of an adult. The legs, wings and abdomen are now visible. The internal organs develop as well. Now the body is fat enough to store food.
The pupal skin darkens and the adult is ready to emerge. It is still not fully developed and comes out of the nest after three to four hours. Adult bees can be either workers, queens or drones. A honeybee colony consists of 50000 to 60000 workers, 500-1000 drones and one queen who is the only fertile bee in the hive.
These are female bees who do all the work in a colony. Inside the nest, they look after the queen and larvae, clean the hive, feed the young and produce wax. They also keep the hive warm. When they are able to move outside, they guard the nest, collect nectar, repair the nest, collect water and pollen.
The queen is the mother of all the menders of the hive. She is taken much care of. She stays in the nest for the rest of her life after mating and she is the one who lays eggs. A queen bee lives for 3-4 years.
Males bees are called drones. They are bigger in size. They are the least useful in the hive and are forced out in the autumn season.
The most important activity that a bee carries out is pollination. Bees are major pollinators for flowers. If they are not pollinated the flowers wont produce any fruits and seed. Up to a third of all our food depends on bees for pollination.
When a bee sits on a flower to collect nectar and pollen, some pollen sticks to her body. Later when she visits another flower, this stuck pollen is rubbed off into it thus completing the reproduction process. When this process takes place, fertilization occurs and fruits can develop.<