Fireflies are omnivores, about 1 inch in size and live about 2 months. They are actually beetles, nocturnal members of the family Lampyridae. Most are winged, which distinguishes them from glowworms of the same family. There are about 2,000 firefly species that live in a variety of warm environments, as well as temperate regions. Fireflies love moisture and often live in humid regions of Asia and the Americas. In drier areas, they are found around damp areas that retain moisture.
People don’t know how the insects produce their glow. They have dedicated light organs located under their abdomens. Fireflies take in oxygen and combine it with a substance called luciferin to produce light with almost no heat. Fireflies flash in patterns unique to each species. They are optical signals that help fireflies. Firefly light may also serve as a defense mechanism that flashes a clear warning of the insect’s unappetizing taste. The fact that even larvae are luminescent lends support to this theory.
Females deposit eggs in the ground, where larvae develop to adulthood. Underground larvae feed on worms and slugs by injecting them with a numbing fluid. Adults eschew such prey and typically feed on nectar or pollen, though some adults do not eat at all. Fireflies tend to be brown, soft bodied, often with the elytra more leathery than in other beetles. Some females are similar in appearance to males. Larviform females are found in many other firefly species. Females can often be distinguished from the larvae only by their compound eyes.
The most commonly known fireflies are nocturnal. There are numerous species that are diurnal, are mostly non-luminescent. A few days after mating, a female lays fertilized eggs on or just below the surface of the ground. Eggs hatch 3-4 weeks later and the larvae feed until the end of summer. Larvae are commonly called glowworms, not to be confused with the distinct beetle family Phengodidae or fly genus Arachnocampa. Lampyrid larvae have simple eyes. The term glowworm is also used for both adults and larvae of species such as Lampyris noctiluca, the common European glowworm, in which only the non-flying adult females glow brightly and the flying males glow only weakly and intermittently.
Fireflies overwinter during the larval stage, some species for several years. Some do this by burrowing underground or under the bark of trees. They emerge in the spring, eat for several weeks, pupate for 1 to 2.5 weeks, and emerge as adults. The larvae of most species are specialized predators and feed on other larvae, terrestrial snails, and slugs. Some are so specialized that they have grooved mandibles which deliver digestive fluids directly to their prey. Adult diet varies. Some are predatory, while others feed on plant pollen or nectar. Most fireflies are distasteful and sometimes poisonous to vertebrate predators due in part to a group of steroid pyrones (LGBs)
Light production in fireflies is due to a type of chemical reaction called bioluminescence. This process occurs in specialized light-emitting organs, usually on a firefly’s lower abdomen. The enzyme luciferase acts on luciferin, in the presence of magnesium ions, ATP (adenosene triphosphate), and oxygen to produce light. Genes coding for these substances have been inserted into many different organisms (see Luciferase – Applications). Luciferase is used in forensics, and the enzyme has medical uses. All fireflies glow as larvae. Bioluminescence serves a different function in lampyrid larvae than it does in adults. It appears to be a warning signal to predators, since many firefly larvae contain chemicals that are distasteful or toxic. It is thought that light in adults beetles was originally used for similar warning purposes, but evolved for use in mate selection. Now fireflies are a classic example of an organism that uses bioluminescence for sexual selection. They have evolved a variety of ways to communicate with mates in courtships. From steady glows, flashing, as well as the use of chemical signals unrelated to photic systems.
Some species, especially lightning bugs of the genera Photinus, Photuris and Pyractomena, are distinguished by the unique courtship flash patterns emitted by flying males in search of females. Females of the Photinus genus generally do not fly, but do give a flash response to males of their own species. Firefly larva Tropical fireflies, particularly in Southeast Asia, routinely synchronize their flashes among large groups, an example of biological synchronicity. In some fields, this phenomenon is explained as phase synchronization and spontaneous order. At night along river banks in the Malaysian jungles (most notably found near Kuala Selangor), fireflies (“kelip-kelip” in the Malay language or Bahasa Malaysia) synchronize their light emissions precisely. Current hypotheses about the causes of this behavior involve diet, social interaction, and altitude. In the United States, one of the most famous sightings of fireflies blinking in unison occurs annually near Elkmont, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains during the first weeks of June. Congaree National Park in South Carolina is another host to this phenomenon.
Female Photuris fireflies are known for mimicking the mating flashes of other “lightning bugs” for the sole purpose of predation. Target males are attracted to what appears to be a suitable mate, and are then eaten. For this reason the Photuris species are sometimes referred to as “femme fatale fireflies.” Many fireflies do not produce light. Usually these species are diurnal, or day-flying, such as those in the genus Ellychnia. A few diurnal fireflies that primarily inhabit shadowy places, such as beneath tall plants or trees, are luminescent. One such genus is Lucidota. These fireflies use pheromones to signal Males coming from downwind arrived at females first, male arrival was correlated with downwind direction, this is most likely into which the pheromone plume is dispersed. It mates. This is supported by the fact that some basal groups do not show bioluminescence, and rather use chemical signaling. Looking at pheromones in Phosphaenus Hemipterus, P. Hemipterus has photic organs, yet is a diurnal firefly and displays large antenna and small eyes. These traits strongly suggest that pheromones are used for sexual selection, while photic organs are used for warning signals. It was also found that males were able to find females without the use of visuals, the sides of the petri dishes were covered with black tape. This, along with the facts that females don’t light up at night and males are diurnal, points to the conclusion that sexual communication in P. Hemipterus is entirely based on pheromones.
Glow worm cave in New Zealand
The Honey Bee
“Unique among all God’s creatures, only the honeybee improves the environment and preys not on any other species.” ~ Royden Brow
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live?” ~ Albert Einstein
The value of bees pollinating fruits, vegetables and legumes is 10 times the value of the honey produced. Natural pollinators are disappearing rapidly and each year we become more dependent on honey bees for many of our daily foods.
Type: Insect Diet: Herbivore Average life span in the wild: Up to 5 years Size: 0.4 to 0.6 in (5 to 15 mm) (Workers)
Group name: Colony or swarm Size relative to a paper clip.
Bees are a domesticated insects that make the honey we love. They have 5 eyes, two of which are compound. They have a stinger, a poison sac, six legs, four wings, antennae, hair, and a honey stomach. Bees eat plant matter and form colonies 80.000 strong and send chemical messages to each other. Field bees collect the nectar to make honey. They can see ultraviolet designs in flowers. Each egg has it’s own cell in the honey comb and each cell is 6 sided and made of wax. It takes three weeks for the larvae to develop into an adult.
The queen is the only one that lays eggs and can lay thousands in a day.
The workers are females that collect pollen and they use the sun for a compass.
Drones are the males and there are few and they have no sting or collecting apparatus. They make bee bread of nectar and pollen. The queens are fed royal jelly.
When a drone finds a good location to collect pollen it will fly back to the hive and do a little waggle dance to inform the others. I do the little waggle dance for the kids and then they join in the dance. They love it and it brings lots of laughs! “The Waggle Dance” : The bee flies back to the nest and does a little waggle to and fro with it’s body and heads off in the direction of the flowers, then circles back (right) to the nest, waggles again and takes off again then circles left returning to the nest, does the little waggle and takes off in the direction of the flowers again! By doing this little figure eight dance, foragers communicate to the other bees the direction and distance to flowers with nectar and pollen, to water sources, and new housing location.
Honey bees also perform tremble dances which recruit receiver bees to collect nectar from returning foragers.Honey bees are known to communicate through many different chemicals and odors, as is common in insects, but also using specific behaviors that convey information about the quality and type of resources in the environment, and where these resources are located. The details of the signaling being used vary from species to species. The two smallest species dance on the upper surface of the comb, which is horizontal (not vertical, as in other species), and worker bees orient the dance in the actual compass direction of the resource to which they are recruiting. If the resources are very close to the hive, they may exhibit a less specific dance commonly known as the “Round Dance”.
The beehive is a commonly used symbol dating to Roman times. It was considered a symbol of industry. In masonic lectures the hive is explained as a symbol of industry and co-operation, and as cautioning against intellectual laziness, warning that “he that will so demean himself as not to be endeavoring to add to the common stock of knowledge and understanding, may be deemed a drone in the hive of nature, a useless member of society, and unworthy of our protection as Masons. From Mormon usage it has become one of the state symbols of Utah.
The Hive is the basic nest architecture for all honeybees: honey is stored in the upper part of the comb; beneath it are rows of pollen-storage cells, worker-brood cells, and drone-brood cells, in that order. The peanut-shaped queen cells are normally built at the lower edge of the comb. Honey bees use caves, rock cavities and hollow trees as natural nesting sites. Some have exposed aerial combs. The nest is composed of multiple honeycombs, parallel to each other, with a uniform bee space. It usually has a single entrance. Some colonies live in hives provided by humans, so-called “wild” colonies (although all honey bees remain wild, even when cultivated and managed by humans). They prefer a nest site that is clean, dry, protected from the weather, about 20 liters in volume with a 4 to 6 cm² entrance about 3 m above the ground, and preferably facing south or south-east (in the northern hemisphere) or north or north-east (in the southern hemisphere).
A single bee colony can produce more than 100 pounds of extra honey and this is harvested by beekeepers.
It takes one colony of honey bees (around 30,000 bees) to pollinate an acre of fruit trees. Pollination success increases if there are more honey bees present at the time of peak flowering.
How many bees in a hive? 50,000 or more
A honey bee flies up to 15 mph and its wings beat 200 times per second or 12,000 beats / minute.
A worker bee gathers in her entire life 1/10 tsp of honey.
Bees fly the equivalent of more than twice around the world to gather a pound of honey.
The average life of a honey bee during the working season is about six weeks.
Nectar as gathered by the bee contains about 70% water (Honey is about 17% water).
Bees remove excess moisture from nectar by fanning their wings over the open cells in the hive.
Honey varies in color from white to dark brown. The darker the color the stronger the flavor.
Honey is one of the safest foods. Most harmful bacteria cannot live in honey for any length of time.
What is the name given to wine made with fermented honey? Mead
How long have bees been producing honey from flowering plants? About 10-20 million years
What Scotch liqueur is made with honey? Drambuie
How many eyes does a bee have? Five. Two with compound lens, and three light sensors on top of her head.
How many flowers does a honey bee visit during one collection trip? 50-100
Workers are the only bees that most people ever see. These bees are females that are not sexually developed. Workers forage for food (pollen and nectar from flowers), build and protect the hive, clean, circulate air by beating their wings, and perform many other societal functions.
The queen lays the eggs that will spawn the hive’s next generation of bees. There is usually only a single queen in a hive. If the queen dies, workers will create a new queen by feeding one of the worker females a special diet of a food called “royal jelly.” This elixir enables the worker to develop into a fertile queen. Queens also regulate the hive’s activities by producing chemicals that guide the behavior of the other bees.
Drones come from unfertilized eggs and are only the DNA of the queen that laid the eggs. They only have a mother. Male bees are called drones. Several hundred drones live in each hive during the spring and summer, but they are expelled for the winter months when the hive goes into a lean survival mode.
Workers and queens come from fertilized eggs and have both mother and father. A modified form of Parthenogenesis controls sex differentiation. So long as two different variants are present, a female bee results. If both variants are identical, diploid drones are produced that honeybees detect and destroy after the eggs hatch. Queens mate with multiple drones on more than one mating flight. Then they lay eggs and fertilize them as needed from sperm they stored.Bees live on stored honey and pollen all winter, and cluster into a ball to conserve warmth. Larvae are fed from the stores during this season and, by spring, the hive is swarming with a new generation of bees.
Eggs and larvae
1. Eggs are laid singly in a cell in a wax honeycomb produced and shaped by the worker bees. Using her spermatheca, the queen actually can choose to fertilize the egg she is laying, usually depending on what cell she is laying in. Drones develop from unfertiised eggs and are haploid, while females (queens and worker bees) develop from fertiised eggs and are diploid. Larvae are initially fed with royal jelly produced by worker bees, later switching to honey and pollen. The exception is a larva fed solely on royal jelly, which will develop into a queen bee. The larva undergoes several moltings before spinning a cocoon within the cell, and pupating.
2. Young worker bees clean the hive and feed the larvae. When their royal jelly producing glands begin to atrophy, they begin building comb cells. They progress to other within-colony tasks as they become older, such as receiving nectar and pollen from foragers, and guarding the hive. Later still, a worker takes her first orientation flights and finally leaves the hive and typically spends the remainder of her life as a forager.
5. Virgin queens go on mating flights away from their home colony, and mate with multiple drones before returning. The drones die in the act of mating.
6. Colonies are established not by solitary queens, as in most bees, but by groups known as swarms, which consist of a mated queen and a large contingent of worker bees. This group moves en masse to a nest site that has been scouted by worker bees beforehand. Once they arrive, they immediately construct a new wax comb and begin to raise new worker brood.
Honey is the complex substance made when the nectar and sweet deposits from plants and trees are gathered, modified and stored in the honeycomb by honey bees as a food source for the colony.
Beeswax Worker bees of a certain age will secrete beeswax from a series of glands on their abdomens. They use the wax to form the walls and caps of the comb. As with honey, beeswax is gathered for various purposes.
Pollen Bees collect pollen in the pollen basket and carry it back to the hive. In the hive, pollen is used as a protein source necessary during brood-rearing. In certain environments, excess pollen can be collected from the hives and is eaten as a health supplement.
Propolis or bee glue is created from resins, balsams and tree saps. Those species of honey bees which nest in tree cavities use propolis to seal cracks in the hive. Dwarf honey bees use propolis to defend against ants by coating the branch from which their nest is suspended to create a sticky moat. Propolis is consumed by humans as a health supplement and used in some cosmetics.
Defense All honey bees live in colonies where the worker bees will sting intruders as a form of defense, and alarmed bees will release a pheromone that stimulates the attack response in other bees. The different species of honey bees are distinguished from all other bee species by the possession of small barbs on the stinger, but these barbs are found only in the worker bees. The sting and associated venom sac are modified so as to pull free of the body once lodged and the sting apparatus has its own musculature and ganglion which allow it to keep delivering venom once detached. The worker bee dies after the stinger is torn from its body. warnings are given before an attack is launched. In the case of some honey bee species in the wild, this takes the form of a Mexican wave which spreads as a ripple across a layer of bees densely packed on the surface of a comb when a threat is perceived, and consists of bees momentarily arching their bodies and flicking their wings. It is presumed that this complex apparatus, including the barbs on the sting, evolved specifically in response to predation by vertebrates, as the barbs do not usually function (and the sting apparatus does not detach) unless the sting is embedded in fleshy tissue. The sting can penetrate the flexible exoskeletal joints in appendages of other insects and is used in fights between queens. in the case of Apis cerana defense against other insects such as predatory wasps is usually performed by surrounding the intruder with a mass of defending worker bees, who vibrate their muscles so vigorously that it raises the temperature of the intruder to a lethal level. It was previously thought that the heat alone was responsible for killing intruding wasps, but recent experiments have demonstrated that it is the increased temperature in combination with increased carbon dioxide levels within the ball that produces the lethal effect. This phenomenon is also used to kill a queen perceived as intruding or defective, an action known to beekeepers as balling the queen, named for the ball of bees formed.
Mythology Both the Athava Veda and the ancient Greeks associated lips anointed with honey with the gift of eloquence and prescience. The priestess at Delphi was the “Delphic Bee”. A community of honey bees has been employed throughout history as a model of human society: “This image occurs in Aristotle and Plato; in Virgil and Seneca; in Erasmus and Shakespeare; in Marx and Tolstoy. Honey bees, signifying immortality and resurrection, were royal emblems of the Merovingians, revives by Napolean. The bee is the heraldic emblem too of the Barbarini.
Apiology is the scientific study of honey bees.
Apicology is honey bee ecology. Honey bees are often chosen as a study group to answer questions on the evolution of social systems.
Melittology is the study of all bees, which comprise more than 17,000 species other than honey bees.
Toxic honey If bees obtain their nectar from certain flowers, the resulting honey can be psychoactive, or even toxic to humans, but innocuous to bees and their larvae. There have been famous episodes of inebriation of humans from consuming toxic honey throughout history. Honey produced from nectar of Rodendron ponticum (also known as Azalea pontica) contains alkaloids that are poisonous to humans but do not harm bees. The results of eating this “maddening” honey has been documented by Xenophon, Aristltle, Strabo, Pliny and Columella. Honey from these plants poisoned Roman troops in the first century BC under Pompei the Great when they were attacking the Heptakometes in Turkey. The soldiers were delirious and vomiting after eating the toxic honey. The Romans were easily defeated. Honey produced from the nectar of Andromeda flowers contains gravenotoxins which can paralyze the limbs, and eventually the diaphragm and result in death. Honey obtained from Kalmia Latifolia, the calico bush, mountain laurel or spoon-wood of the northern United States, and allied species such as sheep laurel can produce sickness or even death. Narcotic opium honey has also been reported from honey made in areas where opium poppy cultivation is widespread.
Development Unlike a bumble bee colony or a paper wasp colony, the life of a honey bee colony is perennial. The three castes of honey bees are: Queens which produce eggs; drones or males, which mate with new queens and have no stinger; and workers which are all non-reproducing females. The queen lays eggs singly in cells of the comb . Larvae hatch from eggs in three to four days. They are then fed by worker bees and develop through several stages in the cells. Cells are capped by worker bees when the larva pupates. Queens and drones are larger than workers and so require larger cells to develop. A colony may typically consist of tens of thousands of individuals.
Development from egg to emerging bee varies among queens, workers and drones. Queens emerge from their cells in 16 days, workers in 21 days and drones in 24 days. Only one queen is usually present in a hive. New virgin queens develop in enlarged cells through differential feeding of royal jelly by workers. When the existing queen ages or dies or the colony becomes very large a new queen is raised by the worker bees. The virgin queen takes one or several nuptial flights and once she is established starts laying eggs in the hive. A fertile queen is able to lay fertilized or unfertilized eggs. Each unfertilized egg contains a unique combination of 50% of the queen’s genes and develops into a haploid drone. The fertilized eggs develop into either workers or virgin queens. The average lifespan of a queen is three to four years; drones usually die upon mating or are expelled from the hive before the winter; and workers may live for a few weeks in the summer and several months in areas with an extended winter.
In addition, there are about 5 000 eggs and 25-30 000 immature bees in various stages of their development, called the brood. Of these, some 10 000, newly hatched, are the larvae, which have to be fed by the workers, while the remainder, after the larval stage, are pupae, sealed into their cells by the workers to mature. They are called the sealed brood. Bees develop from fertilized or unfertilized eggs laid by the queen at the bottom of the cells. Fertilized eggs are laid into worker cells and queen cells, and the unfertilized into drone cells. The egg develops in three days. After that time, the female queen and worker larvae hatch from fertilized eggs, and male larvae hatch from unfertilized eggs.
All the larvae are fed during their first three days of life with “bee milk”, or “royal jelly”, produced by the nurse bees, which are young worker bees not yet ready to leave the hive. After that time, worker and drone larvae are fed on a mixed food composed of honey and pollen, while larvae destined to develop into queens are fed on royal jelly during their whole larval life of five days. Thus, queens can be reared from any worker larvae younger than three days.
When a queen disappears accidentally from a colony, the workers reconstruct a few worker cells, containing larvae younger than three days, into queen cells and continue to feed the larvae with royal Jelly. Queen larvae are sealed in their cells by the workers five days after being hatched, worker larvae after six days and drone larvae after seven days. In the sealed cells, metamorphosis of the larvae creates the pupae.
The Queen There is always one queen in a hive. She is half again as large as a worker and longer than a drone. Her wings are much shorter than her body and cannot cover the whole of her abdomen. Her long, tapering abdomen makes her resemble a wasp. She has sparkling gold hairs on her shiny body. The queen has a sting but, unlike the aggressive workers, does not use it to fight hive intruders. Her sting is only used to fight rival queens. She does not go out to collect pollen, nectar, water or propolis, and therefore she has no collecting apparatus like pollen baskets, long proboscis for drawing nectar or wax glands to secrete wax to build comb cells. As a queen, she usually does not feed herself. Immediately after she emerges, the queen tours the hive to see if there is any rival queen hiding somewhere. If she finds one, the two queens will fight until one is killed.
If the colony is not preparing to swarm, then the newly emerged queen seeks out potential queens hiding in comb cells. The queen pipes to make a special noise and the hidden capped queen responds. Immediately, the emerged queen locates the cell, tears it to pieces and kills the unemerged queen. Sometimes the workers watching as spectators will help the queen to evacuate the contents of every queen cell.
Five days after the queen emerges from her cell, she starts to fly out of the hive, making an orientation flight of about five minutes. Next she makes mating flights which last about 30 minutes. She flies to an area 6-10 m above the ground where drones have congregated. In other places, she is not attractive to the drones. During a successful mating flight, she is mated by about eight drones. If the flight is not successful, she makes another the next day. During the mating flight, the drone’s semen is injected into her oviducts. Prom there, the spermatozoa enter into a special reservoir called the spermatheca. A well-inseminated queen carries about 5000000 spermatozoa stored in her spermatheca.
Sometimes nuptial flights can be delayed as the result of a long rainy season or pronounced bad weather. When a young queen bee has been unable to mate for about a month, she will start to lay unfertilized eggs in worker cells. From these eggs, only drones will develop. In this case, the colony will perish within a few weeks unless the beekeeper observes what is happening and reacts immediately by giving the colony a new queen (requeening) or by inserting a new brood comb with very young larvae and eggs, from which the colony will develop a new queen, after having killed the old unfertilized one.
Three days after her last mating flight, the queen starts to lay her eggs, which are produced in her ovaries. A good queen lays 1 500-2 000 eggs per day. She lives three to five years, but after two years she lays fewer eggs. When her spermatozoa become exhausted, the she also lays unfertilized eggs in worker cells, where drones now develop. Such a queen in called a dronelayer.
Each queen produces a queen substance, called a pheromone, by which many activities of a colony are controlled. In the absence of a queen or a pheromone, the workers transform some worker cells containing young larvae into queen cells and start to rear new queens.
When there are no larvae younger than three days in the colony, the bees have no way of rearing new queens. In this case, ovaries of some workers develop, and they start to lay eggs. However, as worker bees cannot be inseminated, they lay only unfertilized eggs. Such workers are called laying workers.
The Drone The drone is popularly known for exhibiting a high degree of laziness. His presence in the hive seems to be of little importance to the beekeeper. He is stout and larger than the worker. He has no suitable proboscis for gathering nectar and has no sting to defend himself or the colony. Like the queen, he possesses no baskets for collecting pollen grains and no glands to secrete wax for comb construction. He does no work in the hive but is fed, eating large quantities of food, and moves about in sunshine and on warm days making loud, frightening noises everywhere he goes. This is why he is considered useless, but he has a very important function to play, which only a few of his kind ever fulfil. This function is to inseminate the queen, and for this he is well prepared.
The compound eyes of the drone are twice as large as those of the queens and workers, and both eyes meet at the top of his head, which is not true of workers and queens. This enables him to see the queen during the mating flight. The drones also have the largest wings, which help them to reach the queen during the flight.
The spermatozoa are produced in the drone’s testes during the pupal stage. After the drone emerges from the comb cell, the spermatozoa pass into seminal vesicles, where they remain until mating. During mating, they pass into the copulatory apparatus.
The colony begins to rear drones in late spring and early summer. They reach sexual maturity nine days after emerging, and fly out of the hive (mostly between 1 and 3 p.m.) searching for the queens over a distance of 8 km or more. Hating occurs in the open air, in the drones’ congregation areas. During mating, the drone everts his copulatory apparatus, injecting the semen into the queen’s oviducts and leaving part of the apparatus in the tip of the queen’s abdomen. That part, visible in the queen returning from the mating flight, is called the mating sign. The drone dies during mating.
Toward the end of the nectar flow, when fresh nectar becomes scarce, the workers prevent the drones from feeding. At first they push the drones from the brood combs to the side combs and eventually drag them half-starved from the hive.
In unfavourable periods, drones are tolerated only in queenless colonies or those containing unmated queens. Thus the presence of drones in a colony during such periods shows that something is wrong with the queen and that action by the beekeeper is needed.
The Worker Workers are the smallest and most numerous of the bees, constituting over 98% of the colony’s population. One colony, as has been seen, may have as many as 80 000 workers, but 50 000 is a more common maximum. Although they never mate, the workers possess organs necessary for carrying out the many duties essential to the wellbeing of the colony. They have a longer tongue than the queen and drones, and thus are well fitted for sucking nectar from flowers. They have large honey stomachs to carry the nectar from the field to the hive; they have pollen baskets on their third pair of legs to transport the pollen to the hive. Glands in their head produce royal jelly as food for the larvae and glands in their thorax secrete enzymes necessary for ripening honey. Four sets of wax glands, situated inside the last four ventral segments of the abdomen, produce wax for comb construction. A well-developed sting permits them to defend the colony very efficiently. The kind of work performed by the worker depends largely upon her age. The first three weeks of her adult life, during which she is referred to as a house bee, are devoted to activities within the hive, while the remainder are devoted to field work, so that she is called a field bee.
Duties of the house bee
a) cleaning the hive and the comb
b) feeding the brood
c) caring for the queen
d) making orientation flights
e) comb building
f) ventilating the hive
g) packing pollen, water, nectar or honey into the combs
i) guard duty
Cleaning The first activity of the worker bee on reaching maturity is to clean herself. She removes all unnecessary particles, grooms herself immediately and then crawls out of her cell. She takes in food and then starts cleaning the brood cells, employing both tongue and mandibles. The comb cells are cleaned to receive eggs laid by the queen who, before laying, examines the comb cell to satisfy herself that it has been properly cleaned. If she finds a cell that is not properly cleaned, she quickly rejects it. Other duties which may occasionally be necessary include removing dead intruders or dead bees from the hive, and removing debris and other objectionable material. Anything that is too large to carry is often dragged along and pushed outside, while dead snakes, wax moths or other carcasses too heavy to transport are encased with propolis brought in by field bees.
Feeding the brood After three to five days, the worker bee starts to feed the brood. At this stage she is called a nurse bee. At first she feeds larvae more than three days old with a mixture of honey or nectar, pollen, small quantities of bee milk and some water. After a few days, she starts to feed the younger larvae (1-3 days old) exclusively on bee milk, which she produces in brood-food glands, also called milk glands or hypopharyngeal glands, located in her head.
Caring for the queen The next work undertaken by the young worker is to provide for the needs of the queen bee. Whenever the queen needs food, she calls for it by stretching out her proboscis towards the mandible or mouth of the nearest worker. The workers are always anxious to satisfy her needs and make a circle or semi-circle around her. The queen contacts the nearest worker, and if she does not get as much as she needs, she approaches the next. This continues until all her demands are met. It is also the duty of the nurse bees to bathe her with their tongues and mandibles and to carry away her faeces.
Orientation flight The orientation flight is not so much a house duty as an exercise for the young worker. She must learn how to fly, and she must know the vicinity, especially the location of the hive. She therefore first makes some short flights in front of the hive and in the immediate vicinity to acquaint herself with the environment, so that when in the near future she goes out to forage, she will be able to find her way back home.
Comb building Comb building provides the needed “rooms” in the hive, in the form of hexagonal cells, for two main purposes: storing food and rearing brood. Beeswax, the material for the construction of comb, is secreted by the worker’s wax glands, which are best developed and productive when she is 12-18 days old. The wax, which emerges from the glands as a liquid, hardens quickly and appears in the form of oval flakes similar to small fish scales, protruding from between the last four overlapping abdominal segments on the under-side of the worker’s body. As we have already seen, the bee must consume large amounts of food (honey and nectar) to produce these wax flakes. Bees engaged in building combs usually hang themselves in festoons at or near the site of the building operation. There they hang quietly while their digestive organs transform the contents of their honey sacs into energy and beeswax. The wax is removed with the spines of the hind legs and is then manipulated with the mandibles to build the comb cells. Capping of comb cells is also the duty of comb builders.
Ventilating the hive Temperature control is one of the important duties of the house bee. When the temperature is low, bees cluster to generate heat for themselves, but when it is high, some of them have to fan their wings to circulate air throughout the hive. The right temperature required is between 33° and 36°C, while the brood chamber requires a constant heat of 35°. Honey has to be cured in order to ripen, and this also requires the help of circulating air. According to Crane, 12 fanning bees positioned across a hive entrance 25 cm wide can produce an air flow amounting to 50-60 litres per minute. This fanning can go on day and night during the honey-flow season. The phenomenon is always at its peak in October in the high savannah and forest zones of Vest Africa.
Honey conversion and packing It takes several bees to produce honey. No single honeybee completes the whole process. The forager brings a load of nectar to the hive and transfers it to a house bee, who proceeds to the empty or uncrowded part of the hive, where she rests and exposes the nectar to the air being fanned by the fanning bees. The air circulation helps reduce the moisture content of the nectar and thus aids sugar concentration. The house bee may load the nectar into the upper section of an empty cell or add it to the honey or nectar of a cell incompletely filled. The speed with which she manipulates the nectar depends on the intensity of the nectar flow. If nectar is abundant, the house bee may deposit her load quickly into a comb cell for later processing. The time required for the nectar to mature into honey depends for the most part on its original moisture content. For example, if the sugar content is high, as in the nectar of Combretum paniculatum, which is usually over 65%, ripening takes about two hours. On the other hand, if palm wine (which bees enjoy very much) is sent into the hive, more time will be required, since its sugar content is as low as 4.5%. Matured honey usually has over 80% sugar concentration. Ripening time is also determined by the quantity of the nectar: combs completely filled with nectar, even if strongly ventilated, may take as much as 36 days to mature.
Packing water, pollen and propolis Other essential commodities which are brought in by the foragers and need the attention of the house bee are water, pollen and propolis. Water is required for cooling the hive, especially during the harmattan season, when the atmosphere is very dry and temperatures are too warm for the bees’ comfort. Water is mixed with honey and pollen and then fed to the older larvae, between 3-6 days old. Pollen is also packed to about three-quarters full in comb cells in the brood chamber, sometimes side by side with brood cells. Cells are never completely packed with pollen.
Propolis is a resinous material collected from trees. It is difficult to unload, because it is gummy in consistency, and the house bees have to help the foragers to unload. The carrier holds firmly onto the walls of the hive, and the house bee removes the sticky gum from the hairy corbicula or pollen basket. Sometimes it takes more than three days to off-load a forager. The propolis is either stored or used immediately for the purpose required: to block holes and cracks in the hive, to repair combs, to strengthen the thin edges of the comb, or to make the entrance of the hive watertight or easier to defend. As already mentioned, propolis is also used to cover objectionable material in the hive and to embalm dead intruders such as wax moths, snakes, etc., too large to be removed. It is interesting to note that house bees are always eager to help unload the field bee that brings in material which the hive requires immediately. When the weather is too warm and water is required to cool the hive, they will pay no attention to foragers bringing in nectar or propolis, who will have to wait until the heat situation is brought under control before they are offloaded.
Executions Executions are a means of protecting the colony from hunger, disease and any catastrophic event. They may be performed to eliminate strange bees, to kill or drive away old and sick bees, to discourage other hive predators from entering the hive, to remove sick or unwanted unemerged brood, to eliminate useless drones, and to kill unwanted or strange queens.
Guard duty Guard duty is the final activity of the house bee before she leaves the hive. By this time she has reached peak strength, is very energetic, and is best fit to defend the entrance of the hive, which is also the point of entry of the colony’s enemies. The guard bee has the duty of inspecting all incoming foragers by smelling their odour. When satisfied, the guard allows the incoming bee to enter unmolested with her load. In most ·cases, foragers with loads to discharge are not intercepted unless the hive is greatly disturbed. After staying at the entrance for a while, the guard may fly out on patrol for some time before returning to the entrance. The guard bee is also responsible for watching any crack through which a robber bee or any other intruder might enter the hive. In an alerted hive, guard bees stand on four legs, their forelegs lifted and they antennae held straight, searching here and there. Any intruder, robber or other enemy first receives a frightening audible warning, followed by a sting; if he persists, the application of the alarm pheromone on the spot where the bee stings quickly summons more defenders. The scent helps other attackers to find the target and follow without delay. It has been observed that during the brood-rearing season, more guards are stationed at the hive entrance than during the peak of the honey flow.
The field bees Activities involving flight may start from the third day after emergence from the brood cell, but the young worker begins her actual foraging activity later. Between the 18th and the 21st day, her hypopharyngeal and wax glands have become too weak to function, so that she cannot produce royal jelly to feed the queen and the young larvae, nor wax to build comb cells. But by this time she is in perfect condition to fly and knows the geography of the locality. She therefore starts field work, fetching nectar, pollen, propolis or water, but always concentrating her activity on the immediate needs of the colony.
Nectar gathering Nectar, the sweet liquid secreted by plant nectaries, is collected by foragers, taken to the hive and turned over to the house bees for processing. The forager then returns to the flowers and collects more. The number of trips she makes in a day cannot be assessed precisely. It may vary from time to time for a number of reasons: the availability and accessibility of the nectar source, the quantity of nectar present, and the nectar requirement of the colony for the day. Sight and smell enable the bee to locate sources. She lands on the part of the plant that will support her and dips her stretched proboscis into the corolla of the flower. If there is nectar, she sucks it into her honey stomach. If there is none, she wastes no time before moving to the next flower. Some flowers have more nectar than others. Sometimes the bee can load enough by visiting one, two or three, but in plants with tiny flowers she can only get a full load by visiting hundreds. A fully loaded bee can carry 85% of her own weight. The time taken to complete a trip varies, but can reach 2 hours.
Water collection Bees consider water-carrying as one of their most important duties. They execute it regardless of what may be involved. If they need Water for the hive, they will resort to drastic methods to acquire it. In water-scarce areas, desperate bees sometimes attack farmers for their sweat, and clothes cannot be washed outdoors in the daytime for fear of molestation by desperate bees searching for water. Thirsty bees visit kitchens, bathrooms, toilets and all obscure humid places. They will land on any moist area, dip their proboscis and suck in water. Loading of water takes only a few seconds. The bee carries it to the hive and returns in a few minutes to reload if water is still present.
The scout bee Foragers can take on scout duties as well. The scout bee locates food sources and passes on the information to other bees by a series of dance-like movements. She circles around and around, stamping her legs and wagging her abdomen; sometimes she stretches her proboscis, possibly to show the type of food she has found. The onlooking workers watch her dance, interpret it and act accordingly. It is believed that different dances show different types of information to be passed on.
Another important duty of the scout bee in a new swarm is to search for a suitable accommodation, while the rest of the swarm waits on a tree branch or in a small enclosure. On finding a suitable hollow or hive, she returns to the swarm and performs a characteristic dance to inform them about the find. When two or more bees make different finds, each scout dances vigorously in an attempt to win the support of the swarm.
Robber bees All worker or foraging bees are thieves. They claim anything they like as their own property. They snatch honey away from honey harvesters from other swarms during the daytime, especially when the weather is sunny and bright. In the rich savannah bee-zones where water is scarce, bees easily steal water from villagers. Robber bees visit other colonies’ hives and try to take honey in order to store it in their own hive. The problem of hive robbing is not as serious in tropical Africa as in America and elsewhere. Only very weak colonies are sometimes robbed; usually it is abandoned hives that other colonies invade to take advantage of the honey stored in the comb cells
The Beewolf Wasp
Lasioglossum sweat bees are smaller than a grain of rice, and are often bombarded by a variety of predators and parasites. A Beewolf wasp captures bees (most often when returning to the nest) and deliver a paralyzing sting into the bee’s central nervous system. The immobilized bee is then taken almost immediately into the wasp’s nest where it will be stored as living food for a developing young wasp. One larval Beewolf will consume several bees before reaching maturity.
The Waggle Dance