BEES (Part 3 of 3)   Leave a comment

Dance of the honeybees. A worker honeybee lets the other workers know about a new source of food it has discovered by rapidly vibrating its wings and performing a dance. When it returns to the nest, it first gives the others a sample of the nectar. From this, and from the scent on its body, they learn what kind of food the worker has found. That bee then performs a dance on the surface of the comb to show the others how far and in what direction to go to find the new food source.

The speed of the dance and its length can communicate the relative ease or difficulty of the flight: uphill or against the wind takes more energy. If the amount of food to be found there is great, the dance lasts longer and is more enthusiastic. Therefore, it arouses a greater number of bees. The number persuaded to go there will be proportionate to the amount of food to be found.


Bumblebees are found throughout much of the world, primarily in the temperate and northern regions. In the spring a young bumblebee queen seeks a place suitable for building her nest. It may be a hole in the ground, a small pile of grass or debris, or the abandoned nest of a bird, mouse, ant, or termite. Using wax secreted from her abdomen, she makes a honeypot and fills it with nectar from flowers. Then she makes a cell, lays a few eggs in it, seals it, and sits on it like a brooding hen.

In three to five days her eggs hatch into four to eight grub like larvae. She may open their cell to feed them from the honeypot, or in some species the larvae eat through an opening from their cell into the honeypot. They eat and grow for about a week, and then each larva spins a silk cocoon and becomes a pupa. In two more weeks newly formed bees, pale, weak, and wet, crawl out to feed at the honeypot. In a few days they are bright and fluffy and can help care for the new larvae that their mother has been tending in newly built cells. Later they begin to forage for food, leaving the queen free to concentrate on laying eggs and adding more cells to form a rough comb. She uses the empty cocoons in her construction, strengthening them with wax. In hot summer weather bumblebee workers fan with their wings to cool the brood, and their buzzing can be heard at a distance.

In late summer, after the queen has raised many workers to feed the young and to forage, new young queens and drones are also raised. Some males develop from infertilized eggs laid by the queen, but most hatch from eggs laid by workers. The drones seek out the new queens and mate with them on the ground or in the air near it.

In the fall the old queen stops laying eggs, and when the weather turns cold, she dies along with all her workers and drones. The mated young queens leave the nest to find a sheltered place to hibernate, usually in the ground. When spring comes, they will emerge to seek suitable places for building their nests. Thus the cycle is repeated.

Tropical Sting less Bees

Commonly kept for their honey, tropical sting less bees are widespread throughout Mexico and in Central and South America. A few are found in tropical Africa, Asia, and Australia.

Bee keepers provide these bees with sections of hollow log for their nests and they plug the ends of the log with clay. To obtain the honey a plug is removed, and the whole nest may be taken out, crushed, and the honey strained.

Worker bees construct the combs of cerumen, a mixture of wax and plant resin. Most species of tropical sting less bees build inner walls of thin, paper-like cerumen that contain a number of tiny holes as passageways inside the nest. Some species construct long entrance halls. Remodelling of the nests goes on continually. Used cells are rebuilt; walls are moved; and the locations of entrances are changed so that additions can be made to the comb. Unlike the honeybees, who hang their combs vertically with the cells opening on the sides, the tropical sting less bees arrange their combs horizontally with the cells opening at the top. Some combs resemble a spiral staircase, while others are irregular clusters of many-sided cells.

Tropical sting less bees form social units that are in many ways as complex as those of honeybees. Some species have a dance similar to that of the honeybees, providing directions for flying to a source of food. Other species, during their return trip to the nest from a good food source, will light repeatedly and rub scent from glands on their jaws, marking an aromatic trail the other bees can track back to the source.

Solitary Bees

Most bees are solitary. They have no caste system and do not cooperate with others in building nests and providing for the young. Each female can mate and lay eggs, and each makes her own nest of cells. However, they often live as close neighbours to others like themselves, and they sometimes share the same hole in the ground as an entrance to separate nests.

After mating, the female bee makes a small nest, usually in the ground, often digging her tiny entranceway either vertically or horizontally into a bank of soil. Inside the nest she digs a cell, or makes one of wax, wood, or other material, and lays an egg in it. She then gathers pollen, puts it in the cell with the egg, and closes the cell. When the egg hatches, she will be gone, but her larva will be provided for. The female bee may make several more cells and stock them in the same way. She then seals them before she leaves the nest to die. Both female and male larvae eat their provisions and become pupae. They emerge as adults, fly away, and seek mates. The young mated females in turn will make their own nests.

Leaf cutter bees are found throughout the world. The female bee searches for a convenient, ready-made space in such places as a hollow stem, rotten wood, or the ground. There she shapes her nest in the form of a long tunnel. She constructs a cell, using circles she cuts from the leaves of shrubs such as roses or other plants. She begins by cutting a circle for the end of the cell. Next she cuts a series of oval pieces for the side walls. When the cell is made, she stores a mixture of pollen and honey inside, lays an egg, and finally closes the cell with a perfectly fitted disk of cut leaf. Then she begins the sequence again, constructing another cell in the same way, and continues her activities until the nest is filled.

Mining bees tunnel into soil or clay banks. The bee begins her nest with a long corridor, which she lines with clay moistened with regurgitated water. Short hallways lead off the main corridor to the nursery cells. The bee then fills the cells with nectar for her future young and lays an egg on top.

Carpenter bees bore into plant stems or even into solid wood buildings, fences, or posts. They then make their nests in the tunnel.


Hymenoptera, an order of insects having four membranous wings and mouth parts fitted for both chewing and sucking; includes bees, wasps, ants, sawflies, and ichneumon flies.

The more than 20,000 species of bees belong to a super family called Apoidea, of the order Hymenoptera, which includes ants, wasps, and hornets. They are one of the large class of Insecta of the phylum Arthropoda (invertebrate animals with jointed legs and segmented bodies).

Megachilidae, family of bees including leaf cutter bees, some sweat bees, and some parasitic bees.

There are three important and large families of bees. The Apidae, small to large bees found throughout the world, includes all social bees (honeybees, bumblebees, and tropical sting less bees), carpenter bees, and some mining bees. Most honeybees native to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East have the genus and species name, or scientific name, Apis mellifera. Most honeybees native to India, Indochina, and Japan are Apis cerana. Bumblebees are of the genus Bombus, which has about 200 different species. The Megachilidae family, medium to large bees found throughout the world, includes more than 1,000 species of leaf cutter bees, some sweat bees, and some parasitic bees. The Halictidae family, small bees found throughout the world, includes some of the sweat bees.


Posted 2012/02/15 by Stelios in Education

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