Italian Honey Bees
Range & Habitat
The Italian honey bee is the most widely distributed of the honey bees, because it is able to adapt to most climates (subtropical to cool temperate regions.)
The honey bee is a social insect (having 6 legs; a head, abdomen, and thorax; 2 pairs of wings) that survives as a member of a colony, which is enclosed in a nest or hive. The honey bee consists of three structurally different forms-the queen (reproductive female), the drone (male), and the worker (non-reproductive female). Field honey bees collect flower nectar in their enlarged esophagus, or honey sac, and regurgitates the nectar into the mouth of a nurse bee that puts it in a cell to convert it to honey. When the honey is ripe, the cell is capped with wax and stored for winter. Pollen is carried into the hive on the hind legs of the field bees and placed directly in the cells. The pollen of a given load is derived mostly from one species of plant, giving the honey bee their recognition as an amazing pollinator.
Honey bees are susceptible to various diseases and parasites, particularly mite two species of mites that are having a negative impact on wild honey bees worldwide. These mites have killed thousands of honey bee colonies in North America during the past ten years. Other dangers to honey bees are pesticides, fungicides, fertilizers, and other agricultural chemicals. Quick Facts: Bees fly about 20 mph. Losing its stinger will cause a bee to die. Bees carry pollen on their hind legs called a pollen basket or corbicula. An average beehive can hold around 50,000 bees, Each hive at the Brandywine Zoo holds about 10,000 bees.
Foragers must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey. The average forager makes about 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime. Average per capita honey consumption in the US is 1.3 pounds.
The principal form of communication among honey bees is through chemicals called pheromones. Bees are important because they pollinate approximately 130 agricultural crops in the U.S. including fruit, fiber, nut, and vegetable crops. Bee pollination adds approximately 14 billion dollars annually to improved crop yield and quality.
Reproduction & Growth
The male bee's (drone) only job is to mate with the female, or queen bee. After leaving its endophallus, or male fertilization organ, in the queen's body, the male dies. The queen then lays her eggs, thousands sometimes, in wax cells, leaving the eggs, larvae, and pupae in the care of the worker bees (non-reproducing females). The queen can determine whether she lays male or female eggs, laying male eggs in larger cells. If she uses stored sperm to fertilize the egg first, it's female. If she leaves the egg unfertilized, the larva that hatches is male. The worker bees feed the hatched larvae until they are full grown, then the worker seals the cell with a wax cap. The larva spins a cocoon and changes into pupa, emerging from the cell when it is an adult bee. The worker bees feed larva royal jelly, pollen or bee bread. The only exception is when workers are raising a new queen, they feed her royal jelly until she enters her cocoon. The lifespan of a queen bee can be 2-5 years, a drone can live 40-50 days, and a worker can live 1-4 months.
Nectar, pollen, honey.