CyberDodo and Bees (1-5)
There are more than 20,000 species of bees in the world; bees are insects from the eusocial hymenoptera family. Eusociality consists of 4 characteristics:
- a haplodiploid genotype
- division of labour
- cooperation in raising their young
- overlapping generations.
The scientific name of a honey-producing bee is Apis Mellifera. It has a head with two compound eyes having 4000 facets each, 3 simple eyes, two antennae, a buccal apparatus with a tongue and also a sucking pump, and a thorax with 6 legs attached to it as well as an abdomen with a sting at the back.
The colony consists of a queen, female bees and male bees.
The queen is fertilised by 10 to 20 males and lays 2000 to 3000 eggs a day, the eggs turn into larvae, then pupae, after which, according to the type of food they have received, they either become drones or a queen bee. A queen is permanently in place so as to ensure the continued survival of the hive or colony; she is based at the centre of the hive or colony because this is the hottest place, due to the drones which emit micro vibrations with their wings. The colony consists of layers, with the queen at the center and the older bees on the outer portions, whilst the oldest bees go out to forage.
The drones are the only stable members of the colony, depending on the period of the year, there may be between 10 and 30 000 at any one time. In other words, the drone population is lower in winter and higher in spring, due to the harvest. The cycle therefore functions according to the seasons, indeed, at the beginning of spring, there are about 1000 drones and at the end of spring, the hive will have 30 000 drones ready for pollen-gathering. To be able to raise and ensure the survival of the colony, the hive needs a lot of energy, this is why the quantity of honey produced must be high, that is, around 20 kg.
Each drone has quite specific attributes in terms of its age. When they are between 0 and 10 days old, their job is to clean the colony cells. (see photo) When they are 10 days old, they are scattered all over the hive so as to ventilate it; when they are about 12 days old, they go to the periphery of the colony and receive the nectar or pollen which is used to produce honey. As of the 21st day, they become gatherers and are in charge of finding pollen, nectar, water and resin.
The colony operates in an endless cycle; when the queen becomes too old, that is, when she is about 4 years old, the drones raise a new queen. The old queen leaves the colony, taking a portion of the drones with her, specifically, 10 to 15 000 bees. This is before the new queen has hatched, and is known as reproduction by fission.
The new queen will then make a single nuptial flight, during which she will be fertilised by the males. This flight is a critical period in the life of the queen and takes place in a specific area of 100 to 200 metres around the colony. The bees which accompany the young queen issue a very powerful substance which is called pheromone, an extremely volatile substance which attracts hundreds of drones that become engaged in a ferocious competition. Mating takes place in mid-air, with the drone’s genital organs becoming detached from its body and attached to the queen, after which the drone dies. It is possible that the queen can also lay eggs for the rest of her life.
In order to ensure the survival of the colony, bees look for food in the form of nectar, pollen, resin, and also water, which takes care of the insect’s need for water, but also helps lower the temperature of the hive when this is necessary.
They can travel up to almost 20 million kilometers a year just in the hive area! A bee is capable of making all these trips because it can locate the hive from any place it may have gone to find food.
It is capable of “calculating” its trajectory in terms of the position of the sun in the sky; it can even do this when the weather is overcast.
Once the bee has found food, it returns to the hive loaded with about 20 grams of pollen and then communicates the place where it was found to other foragers. In order to do this, it uses two types of dances: the round dance and the figure eight.
The round dance is used by the bee for all sources of food found at least 50 to 100 metres away; the figure eight dance is used for greater distances. These two dances give other bees indications such as direction, distance, viability (nectar too sugary or not sugary enough), desirability (does the hive need more water, resin or nectar?).
Most studies focus on the so-called domestic bee, that is, the Apis mellifera and Apis cerena, which both guarantee 85 % pollination of species of plants. With the disappearance of bees, 65 % of plant species are under threat, that is, 35 % of our food. The fruit and vegetable crops, for example, have 90 or even 100 % dependence on bees and already the United States has had to make massive imports of bees from Australia for their apple orchards and blueberry fields. 80 % of flower plants depend on this type of insect for their reproduction and thus their very survival.
If they were to disappear, the change will have such dire consequences that it is impossible to even measure their impact on the environment and on man. The bee is considered to be a sign that the environment is in a good state and its disappearance from the scene represents the state of deterioration of the planet.
To see the cartoon on bees, click here
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