A honey bee is any member of the genus Apis, primarily distinguished by the production and storage of honey and the construction f perennial, colonial nests from wax. In the early 21st century, only seven species of honey bee were recognized, with a total of 44 subspecies, though historically seven to eleven species are recognized. The best known honey bee is the Western honey bee which has been domesticated for honey production and crop pollination. Honey bees represent only a small fraction of the roughly 20,000 known species of bees. Some other types of related bees produce and store honey and have been kept by humans for that purpose, including the stingless honey bees, but only members of the genus Apis are true honey bees. In the wild, honey bee hives are often located in the holes of trees and on rock crevices. The hive is made from wax from the special abdominal glands of worker honey bees. Workers sweep up a few flakes of wax from their abdomens and chew these flakes until the wax becomes soft. Workers then mold the wax and use it in making cells to form the hive. Unlike other bee species, honey bees do not hibernate during cold periods. Instead, they remain inside the nests huddled closely together, sharing body heat and feeding on stored food supplies.Honey bees are social creatures and live in colonies. However, they do display some aggressive behavior within colonies: drones are ejected from their nests during cold weather, and a queen will sometimes sting other queens during mating fights for dominance.
Colony life cycle-Unlike most other bee species, honey bees have perennial colonies which persist year after year. Because of this high degree of sociality and permanence, honey bee colonies can be considered superorganisms, meaning that reproduction of the colony, rather than individual bees, is the biologically significant unit. Honey bee colonies reproduce through a process called “swarming”.In most climates, western honey bees swarm in the spring and early summer, when there is an abundance of blooming flowers from which to collect nectar and pollen. In response to these favorable conditions, the hive creates one to two dozen new queens. Just as the pupal stages of these “daughter queens” are nearly complete, the old queen and approximately two-thirds of the adult workers leave the colony in a swarm, traveling some distance to find a new location suitable for building a hive (e.g., a hollow tree trunk). In the old colony, the daughter queens often start “piping”, just prior to emerging as adults, and, when the daughter queens eventually emerge, they fight each other until only one remains; the survivor then becomes the new queen. If one of the sisters emerges before the others, she may kill her siblings while they are still pupae, before they have a chance to emerge as adults.Once she has dispatched her rivals, the new queen, the only fertile female, lays all the eggs for the old colony, which her mother has left. Virgin females are able to lay eggs, which develop into males (a trait shared with wasps, bees, and ants because of haplodiploidy). However, she requires a mate to produce female offspring, which comprise 90% or more of bees in the colony at any given time. Thus, the new queen goes on one or more nuptial flights, each time mating with 1–17 drones.Once she has finished mating, usually within two weeks of emerging, she remains in the hive, laying eggs.
Worker Bees-Worker bees are the most familiar-looking member of the honeybee hive, as they make up about 99% of each colony’s population.Worker bees are all female, and they do almost everything for the hive. From birth to her death 45 days later, the worker bee is given different tasks to do during different stages of her life. Worker bees are responsible for everything from feeding the larvae (the baby bees), to tending to the queen, to cleaning the hive, to collecting food, to guarding the colony, to building honeycomb.The stinger of the worker bee is barbed, so when she is forced to defend herself or the hive, her stinger will become stuck in the skin of her victim. She is unable to pull it out, and dies when she inevitably tears herself away from the stuck stinger, leaving it behind with the venom sack still pumping venom into her victim. Consequently, honeybees are very gentle – they don’t want to die any more than you want to be stung. Be nice to them, and they’ll be nice to you.
Drone Bees- Male bees are called drones. Their job is to mate with queens from other hives. If they do get the opportunity to mate, they die immediately afterwards. If they do not mate, they can live up to 90 days (that’s twice as long as a worker bee!). We can identify drones in the hive by their big round bodies and large eyes. Drones are incapable of stinging.
World Bee Day is a relatively recent holiday. This is in response to the ongoing climate change crisis, with more bee species than ever before being reported to be facing extinction in the past 10 years. As a result, the committee of Slovenia appealed to the United Nations in 2017 to honor World Bee Day. In December of the same year, the United Nations approved the proposal, naming May 20 as International World Bee Day, with the first event taking place in 2018. In 2023, World Bee Day will celebrate its fifth anniversary.
Queen Bees- There is one queen bee per hive – she is the mom of all the other bees. She is the only fertile member of the colony, and lays about 1,500 eggs a day during spring and summer. Queen bees are distinguished from the other members of the hive by their long abdomens and small wings. Soon after birth, queen bees will go out and have a wild weeked, where they mate with 15 or more drones over a three day period before retiring to the hive to lay eggs. The queen will not leave the hive again unless the colony swarms (looking for a new home).When the colony needs a new queen bee, they simply choose a healthy larva, hatched from an egg of the current queen, and feed it royal jelly, a special, super-nutrious food. Royal jelly, produced in the heads of young nurse bees (worker bees whose job it is to care for the larvae), helps this larva grow into a queen. Queens can lay about 1,500 eggs per day and can live from 4 to 7 years, that’s up to 57 times longer than a worker bee – it’s no wonder humans love adding royal jelly to their diets, too. Bee products-
1.Honey- Honey is the complex substance made when bees ingest nectar, process it, and store the substance into honey combs. All living species of Apis have had their honey gathered by indigenous peoples for consumption. A. mellifera and A. cerana are the only species that have had their honey harvested for commercial purposes.
2.Beeswax- Worker bees of a certain age 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 by humans for various purposes.
3.Bee bread-Bees collect pollen in their pollen baskets and carry it back to the hive. Worker bees combine pollen, honey and glandular secretions and allow it to ferment in the comb to make bee bread. The fermentation process releases additional nutrients from the pollen and can produce antibiotics and fatty acids which inhibit spoilage.Bee bread is eaten by nurse bees (younger workers) which produce the protein-rich royal jelly needed by the queen and developing larvae in their hypopharyngeal glands. 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 of A. mellifera and A. cerana. The product is used as a health supplement. It has been used with moderate success as a source of pollen for hand pollination.
4. Bee brood-Bee brood – the eggs, larvae or pupae of honeybees – is nutritious and seen as a delicacy in countries such as Australia, Indonesia. Mexico, Thailand, and many African countries; it has been consumed since ancient times by the Chinese and Egyptians.
5.Propolis-Propolis is a resinous mixture collected by honey bees from tree buds, sap flows or other botanical sources, which is used as a sealant for unwanted open spaces in the hive.Although propolis is alleged to have health benefits (tincture of Propolis is marketed as a cold and flu remedy), it may cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals Propolis is also used in wood finishes, and gives a Stradivarius violin its unique red color.
6.Royal jelly-Royal jelly is a honey-bee secretion used to nourish the larvae. It is marketed for its alleged but unsupported claims of health benefits.On the other hand, it may cause severe allergic reactions in some individuals.
Amazing facts about honey bees-
1. Honey bees must gather nectar from two million flowers to make one pound of honey.
2. One bee has to fly about 90,000 miles – three times around the globe – to make one pound of honey.
3. The average bee will make only 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.
4. A honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers during a collection trip.
5. A honey bee can fly for up to six miles, and as fast as 15 miles per hour.
6. The bee’s brain is oval in shape and about the size of a sesame seed, yet it has a remarkable capacity to learn and remember things. For example, it is able to make complex calculations on distance travelled and foraging efficiency.
7. Honey bees communicate with one another by dancing.
8. A colony of bees consists of 20,000-60,000 honey bees and one queen. Worker honey bees are female, live for about 6 weeks and do all the work.
9. The queen bee can live up to 5 years and is the only bee that lays eggs. She is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be at its maximum strength, and lays up to 2500 eggs per day.
10. Larger than the worker bees, the male honey bees (also called drones), have no stinger and do no work. All they do is mate.
11. Honey has always been highly regarded as a medicine. It is thought to help with everything from sore throats and digestive disorders to skin problems and hay fever.
12. Honey has antiseptic properties and was historically used as a dressing for wounds and a first aid treatment for burns and cuts.
13. The natural fruit sugars in honey – fructose and glucose – are quickly digested by the body. This is why sportsmen and athletes use honey to give them a natural energy boost.
14. Honey bees have been producing honey in the same way for 150 million years.
15. The honey bee is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
16. Honey lasts an incredibly long time. An explorer who found a 2000 year old jar of honey in an Egyptian tomb said it tasted delicious!
17. The bees’ buzz is the sound made by their wings which beat 11,400 times per minute.
18. When a bee finds a good source of nectar it flies back to the hive and shows its friends where the nectar source is by doing a dance which positions the flower in relation to the sun and hive. This is known as the ‘waggle dance.’
19. Honey’s ability to attract and retain moisture means that it has long been used as a beauty treatment. It was part of Cleopatra’s daily beauty ritual.
20. Honey is incredibly healthy and includes enzymes, vitamins, minerals. It’s the only food that contains “pinocembrin”, an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.
The World Bee Day is a day of awareness about the importance of honey bees and why we need to protect them and other such pollinators. Designated by the United Nations, World Bee Day seeks to inform and educate people about honey bees and their impact on our biodiversity. For example, it is estimated that one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat depends on honey bees and the pollination process. But honey bees are facing extinction, with a 2021 report by the Center for Biological Diversity and the Bombus Pollinators Association of Law Students finding that American honey bees had decreased by some 89%. World Bee Day is a day of awareness about the harmful effects of pesticides, climate change, and habitat loss on honey bees – and what we can do to reverse this. World Bee Day 2023 takes place on Saturday, May 20. May 20 was chosen as World Bee Day by the United Nations in honor of the birthday of Anton Janša, the pioneer of beekeeping in the 18th century. World Bee Day is a relatively recent holiday. This is in response to the ongoing climate change crisis, with more bee species than ever before being reported to be facing extinction in the past 10 years. As a result, the committee of Slovenia appealed to the United Nations in 2017 to honor World Bee Day. In December of the same year, the United Nations approved the proposal, naming May 20 as International World Bee Day, with the first event taking place in 2018. In 2023, World Bee Day will celebrate its fifth anniversary. Five World Bee Day facts you won’t “bee-lieve!”Bees are the most important pollinator in the world and have been for centuries. But here are some interesting facts you may not know about these winged creatures:
• The average honey bee will only make around 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime.
• A single bee visits 50 to 100 flowers on each pollination trip.
• Almost 75% of the crops grown in the world rely on honey bee pollination.
• Bees have four wings!
• There are over 25,000 different species of bee – and many of them can’t even sting!
(The author write regularly for the opinion pages of “Kashmir Horizon”. The views, opinions, facts, assumptions, presumptions and conclusions expressed in this article are those of the author and aren’t necessarily in accord with the views of “Kashmir Horizon”.)
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