Updated: Aug 3, 2021
Join us as we take a peek into the inner workings of this intricate tiny society during the warmer months...
It never ceases to amaze me how complex and efficient the lives of honeybees are. There are many moving parts, however we will share a glimpse into some of the roles in and around the hive.
Busy As A Bee
Every bee is assigned a role determined by age and each has a lifespan of approximately 30-45 days during the summer months. The first couple days of life are spent cleaning out the hive cells in preparation for the Queen to lay her eggs, and keeping the brood warm. For the next three days, the worker bees concentrate on feeding the older larvae. After the older larvae are fed, the workers move on to feeding the younger larvae for the next six days. Now comes one of the most important tasks, the honeycomb. With all of the "baby bees" satiated, the worker bees start the task of producing wax, building combs and transporting honey around the hive. The final important job of the workers over the course of the next 4 days, is guarding the entrance to the hive.
We now jump over to the Foraging Bee department where the bulk of their time is spent soaring over gardens, visiting flowers, depositing and collecting pollen, propolis, nectar and water. This continues for the remainder of the month until the bee reaches the end of its life cycle as a summer bee around 35-45 days.
Also hard at work, are the male bees of the hive known as the "Drones". They can be found spending their days lounging dutifully around a water puddle, in hopes that a new Queen may fly by. With their eyes located atop their head, they are able to sense a Queen flying as high as 20 feet above. Once she is spotted, the race is on to reach her first for the best chance of a mating opportunity. The Queen, sensing the game is afoot, begins her ascent higher into the air with the males following in pursuit. The end goal is that whichever five to six males have the stamina and fortitude to reach her would receive the reward of mating and inadvertently meet their end. Apparently, the male barb is left in the Queen to fertilize her eggs and with the mission accomplished, the Drones fall to the ground. Interestingly enough, the Queen's fertilized eggs will be female and the unfertilized are male. This poses the conundrum that a bee can have a grandfather, without a father. I'll leave you to ponder that one a bit!
Back at the hive, the reigning Queen is carrying her own bodyweight in eggs and lays as many as 1000 eggs per day. Her primary responsibility until she reaches old age is to eat and lay eggs. While the Queen is busy being tended to, there is another interesting situation happening at the front door. With foragers coming and going, there must be someone in charge of quality control. The week old worker bees wait at the entrance of the hive for their older sisters to return with nectar. If the nectar isn't sweet enough, the younger sister will spit it out at the older and actually make her wait for a suitable sample to arrive. When the taste tester receives a nectar sample that she approves of, she will break out into a dance known as the "Waddle Dance" to indicate to all that they have found a new source for the sweetest nectar.
So as you can see, the phrase "busy as a bee" certainly has some credence when we take a peek into the lives of the honey artisans. Check out our "A Bees Garden" post to learn about a few plants and flowers that you can add to your yard and encourage some of this action in your garden!