The Bee Society
The Honey bee society is a complex and highly organized one. Although morphologically there are only three kinds of bees, they perform different roles during their lifetime.
Here are three types of bees found in every hive:
The Queen: Usually only one per hive, she is a female and is the only one that lays fertile eggs. In fact, this is the only purpose of the Queen as well as to set the hive’s mood with the Queen’s Mandibular Pheromone. Although genetically the same as the worker bee, while a larva she is fed Royal Jelly, that is what makes her bigger than the workers. The Queen is the longest and larger of all bees.
A healthy Queen should laying
1,200 eggs a day
Workers: All workers are females. Workers are the leading force in a hive, constituting somewhere between: 85% to 95% of the hive population. In harsh summers or winters, that number can be even higher. Is the workers that share all the roles that we describe below. All workers are sisters, usual daughters of the same Queen, but they can have different fathers, that is why they vary in color.
Drones: These are the male bees. They are haploid bees, which mean that they only have half of the genetic material. This is because Drones develop from unfertilized eggs. The drones are larger than the workers and make substantially more sound when flying than their sisters.
The Queen in the picture below is marked. Can you find her?
Roles of the workers:
Rather than one worker doing one kind of job through her whole life, they perform the different tasks as they mature and grow. Starting from the jobs that are inside the hive and ending with the ones that require flying outside.
All workers are females
Scout: The Scout is a bee that goes out looking either for food or a new home. Once she finds either one, she returns to the hive and relays the coordinates to her sisters via the famous waggle dance. This job, as well as the foraging job, is for mature bees that can fly.
Foragers: This bee is the one in charge of bringing nectar and pollen to the hive. When a forager starts collecting nectar of pollen from a particular flower, she will not collect from any other flower type until she finishes her work with that particular kind of flower. That is why honey has distinct flavor according to what the bees collect. In a well balanced hive they should number about 30,000. This is usually the last stage of the life of a worker honey bee. Foragers work their wings off. Literally. They fly endless sorties until their wings start to break apart. Once a bee starts foraging, it doesn’t live much. Usually 3 to 5 weeks. That is why in winter bees live longer, about 5 months, because they don’t forage.
Water Hauler: This bee collects water and brings it to the hive so the fanning bees can evaporate it and cool the hive down as well as maintain appropriate humidity levels. Can you spot it? Neither could we, but the water hauler usually land in the lilies, zips water and flies back to the hive.
Fanning Bees: These bees are responsible for maintaining the temperature and relative humidity of the hive. They flap their wings to provide good ventilation to the brood, evaporate water, ventilate the hive and cool it down. You can usually spot some of these bees at the hive entrance; they are standing still and flapping their wings. When you carefully place your hand behind them, you can feel the air blow. Careful though, you might get stung!
Nurse: These bees feed the brood and take care of them, This is probably the first job of a newborn bee. When they are born, their exoskeleton is still not hard, and they can’t fly. So they tend to their little sisters for a while.
Storage keeper: These bees are the ones that unload the Foragers and store the honey and pollen in the right place. This is also a job for the new born bees. These bees might also be the ones that build the comb.