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There are nearly 20,000 different kinds of bees in the world – only seven of which are classified as honeybees. Honeybees can grow to a length of one inch and are mostly yellow and brown with a fuzzy head. Honeybees have both chewing and sucking mouthparts. The chewing mouthparts are used to chew wax, mend the hive, and to manipulate pollen. Sucking mouthparts are used to collect nectar from flowers. The pollen basket, which is used to transport pollen from a flower back to the hive, is located on the hind legs. Bees also have wax glands that are used to produce the waxy substance of the comb. These are located on the underside of the abdomen. In addition, Honeybees have a special organ used to clean the antennae located on the leg. Female honeybees possess a posterior stinger, which is actually a modified ovipositor. Once the female uses the stinger, it dies.
TYPES OF BEES
QUEEN – The queen is usually the largest bee in the hive. She needs to be large as she is the only bee that will lay eggs. A healthy queen will lay 2,000 eggs in a day. The queen will only leave the hive once in her entire life – to mate with 7 to 10 males. The queen is constantly guarded by a force of worker bees. Worker bees also must clean and feed the queen. The queen emits a special pheromone (a scented chemical) to alert other bees that she is near. The queen bee may live 3 to 5 years!
DRONE – Male bees are known as drones. A typical hive may consist of 300 or more drones. Although drones do not sting, they are important because they mate with the queen. Most of the drones, however, never have the chance to mate. They simply stay in the hive and eat honey until they are kicked out. Drones usually live no longer than three months.
WORKER – The worker bees are undeveloped female bees. Worker bees perform all of the maintenance functions of the hive including cleaning, gathering food, protecting the hive, making the honeycomb and the honey and caring for the young. A large hive may contain 60,000 worker bees! Although a single worker bee may only produce a small drop of honey during its entire life, the hive may produce over 80 pounds of honey in a year!
LARVA STAGE – The queen larva is fed a substance known as Royal Jelly. Royal Jelly is a glandular secretion of worker bees. Royal Jelly is placed in the cell of the queen larva. Other larva are also fed Royal Jelly for the first four days of life. After four days, they are fed Bee Bread. Bee Bread is a mixture of pollen droplets, honey, and secretions of worker bees.
ADULT STAGE – Adult bees eat honey. Honey is made by worker bees, who collect pollen and nectar and place it in cells of the comb. Excess water is evaporated from the nectar, and special enzymes are added to the mixture. The cells are then capped and the mixture inside becomes honey.
OTHER INTERESTING FACTS
Bees are among the most beneficial and important animals in the natural world. Scientists believe at least 70 % of all crops are pollinated by bees. Without honeybees, the world might suffer severe food shortages.
Did you know that 1 pound of honey represents the life work of about 300 worker bees? To produce 1 pound of honey, those three hundred bees would expend the same amount of energy as if they flew around the world three times!