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Quick Facts
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Hymenoptera
Family: Apidae
Genus: Apis
Species: mellifera

Life Span: 0 - 2 years

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Honey Bee

Apis mellifera

Honey Bees are extremely important for farmers and many wild plants. When flying from flower to flower to collect food, they help fertilize the plants. Humans also use some of their products, such as honey and wax. Even the bee’s venom is useful for medicinal purposes. Bees are cold-blooded animals. They have to regulate their body temperature by moving their flight muscles. This way they can maintain a constant temperature in the hive, no matter what the temperature is outside!

Unlike ants and wasps, bees are vegetariansWhat does vegetarians mean?. They use their legs to collect pollen, and they have a crop for transporting nectar from many different types of flowers. If a worker bee finds an area with lots of nutritious flowers, it has the ability to let the other bees know how to find it too. When back in the hive, the bee performs an intricate dance. The movements and vibrations of this dance give the other bees directions to this plentiful food source with amazing accuracy.

The Honey Bee is found in Africa and Europe, and northern and western Asia. It was introduced to the Americas and now populates all of South America and North America, all the way up to Southern Canada. The Honey Bee colony lives in a hive made of wax. The hive is divided into small hexagonal cells, in which food is stored and eggs are laid. The wax hive is built by the bees themselves, and often hangs from the branch of a tree. Farmers also keep bee colonies in man-made hives.

The Honey Bee is a social insect. A small hive may contain 20,000 bees. These bees are divided into three castes: queen, drone, and worker. There is usually only one queen in the colony. She is the only fertile female in the hive, and her job is to lay eggs. The drone is a male bee. His only job is to mate with the queen. There can be up to 500 drones in the hive. The rest of the bees are workers. They are actually infertile females. The workers have lots of tasks to perform, such as feeding the queen, cleaning the hive, tending to the young and defending the hive from invaders. The worker is equipped with a stinger and a venom pouch. When used, the stinger is ripped out of the workers body and left in the invaders. The worker bee soon dies from the rupture. Honey Bees are not likely to sting unless they are provoked. If a hive gets overcrowded, it happens that the queen leaves the hive with some of her workers to start a new colony somewhere else. This is called “swarming”. The mother queen leaves a daughter queen behind, to take over the old colony.

Mating occurs when the queen flies to a meeting place, where hundreds of drones wait. The queen mates with several of them in the air, and afterwards these drones die. The queen lays her eggs in the hexagonal cells the workers made of beeswax. The young go through several stages before becoming adults. After 3 days, the eggs become larvae. The larvae feed voraciously for a few days, before going into the resting pupae stage. From the pupae they emerge as adults. This process takes 16-26 days, depending on the bee’s caste. All through this developing process, the workers are there to feed the young and use their wings to ventilate the hive. The development of different castes is determined by the type of food the bee is fed as a larva. When a queen dies or is lost, the worker bees pick out a few young worker larvae and feed them a special type of food called “royal jelly”. These larvae then develop into queens. The newly hatched queens will fight each other to the death, until there is only one left.

The Honey Bee has developed special senses to help it find food. It can detect fragrances with its antennae. Bees are attracted to certain colors, and their vision is very different from ours. They are not capable of seeing red, but they can see ultraviolet light, which is invisible to the human eye.

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