How often do children exclaim to parents or educators that honeybees only have the ability to sting when they observe them in parks or backyards? Although it is a fact that they have this defense mechanism, these bees present a much more amazing contribution to nature than stinging.
What are they?
They are part of the Apis genus and mostly considered to manufacture honey. They have the typical characteristics of insects such as head, thorax and abdomen. Honeybees also possess 4 wings that allow them to fly about 15 miles per hour.
These organized insects can be grouped into 3 main categories: a Queen Bee, a Drone Bee and a Worker Bee. The Queen is the only bee able to fertilize eggs during reproduction. Only one bee exists per hive. A hive is the home of bees. A Queen can live up to 5 years and is able to lay up to 2,000 to 3,000 eggs per day. It will mate with several male bees or drones.
Drones are the male bees capable of giving sperm to the Queen. There are approximately 300 to 3,000 drones in a single hive. They do not have a stinger. They live for about 90 days. And they are expelled from the hive during the winter season to conserve food resources.
Worker honeybees are infertile females. They can live up to 9 months during the winter and 6 weeks during the summer. Their main function is to collect nectar and pollen to produce honey for the hive. They also protect the hive from intruders and feed the Queen. Worker bees have a stinger, and they can only use it once. After stinging, the bee dies. There can be as much as 30,000 bees in winter and 80,000 bees in summer in a hive.
How do they make honey and other products?
Bees manufacture honey by using the harvested nectar from flowers. They will ingest and regurgitate the nectar several times and deposit it on the honeycombs. Honeycombs are hexagonal inserts in the hive. Then Worker bees will use their wings to fan the moisture out of the nectar to prevent fermentation. Amazingly, honeybees can visit about 2 million flowers to produce one pound of honey.
On the other hand, pollen harvested by the bees is used as protein source for the colony. The hind legs of bees usually carry it. Other products manufactured by bees are beeswax and propolis or bee glue.
Why are they important for pollination?
Besides producing honey and other goods, honeybees are essential organisms for pollination. Because they can carry pollen across 55,000 miles or more, these powerful insects can deposit numerous amounts of pollen. Experts believe that they function in about 80% of the pollination process. In fact, without them, many foods would not exist.
They are so important in pollination that Worker bees can encounter up to 100 flowers in a single trip. In recent years, honeybee populations are decreasing possibly due to agricultural pesticides, climate change and urbanization.
Beekeepers in the United States and around the world are committed to protect and educate about honeybees. There are approximately 212,000 beekeepers in the United States and 2.68 million honey hives.
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