A beekeeper, or apiarist, keeps bees in an apiary. Most beekeepers use a movable frame hive called Langstroth
invented by American Reverend Langstroth. Inside the bee hive, the bees build cells upon the sheet of wax or plastic foundation in order to create complete honeycombs. But how do honey bees inside exactly operate? Let us take a closer look at these fascinating insects.
The body of honeybees is divided into three parts:
They are social insects that live in hives. They have six legs, a pair of antennae, jointed legs, compound eyes and a hard exoskeleton. All the bees inside the hive are related to one another. Honeybees eat nectar which they turn into honey. The life cycle of bees is fascinating in itself as they undergo a complete metamorphosis. It starts with the queen laying eggs in a cell inside the wax comb. These immature bees are called brood. When the egg hatches, it turns into a larva which looks like a worm. Then it finally pupates into an adult bee.
Life Cycle of Bees
Bees are like butterflies that go through several stages in their life.
1. Egg -the queen lays soft white eggs in the comb. The egg stage lasts for three days.
2. Larva – after three days, the egg hatches into a larva. Worker bees feed the larva with milk and bee bread. The larva will spin a cocoon around itself. The larva stage is from day 4 until day 9.
3. Pupa – the larva then turns into a pupa while inside the cocoon. During this stage, it will develop eyes, wings, and legs. This stage usually last from day 10 to 23.
4. Adult – the bee finally reached full growth. It chews its way out of the cell. This is the complete metamorphosis of the bee.
Body Parts of Bees
The body of honeybees is divided into three major parts which are the head, thorax and abdomen. Let us take a closer look at these and some other body parts of bees.
1. Head – the head of the bee is dominated by two large compound eyes. There are three small ocelli or simple eyes between the compound eyes. The bees’ vision is different from that of humans.
2. Antennae – This is located almost at the center of the face. The antenna is made of a basal stalk or scrape and another longer segmented flagellum.
3. Mouth – The mouth of the bees is comprised of the mandibles or the jaws which are suspended from the head at the sides. Their mandibular gland of the queen secretes a substance responsible for maintenance of the social organization of the colony.
4. Thorax – is the middle part of their body where the legs and the wings are attached. Each pair of legs performs different activities for the bee’s grooming and for pollen collection.
5. Abdomen – is where the digestive and reproductive organs are located. The sting is located at the end of the abdomen.
Being a social insect, a honeybee can fly about 15 mph, collect nectar from flower to flower and bring it back to the hive. The three types of bees with varying duties inside the hive are:
- The queen who lays eggs
- The workers who basically do much of the work like gathering food, tending to eggs, building honeycombs and guarding the hive
- The drones that are male bees whose main duty is to mate with the queen.
- Being Social creatures, a colony of honeybees have no self value and instinctively work as a whole in order to survive. Now you know what’s going on inside the honeybee hive. Next we are going to take a look at the basic equipments you will need in beekeeping.
How Bees Communicate
One of the first animal languages to be studied is the language of bees. Karl von Frisch, an Austrian zoologist, discovered a system of communication that allows worker bees to relate to the rest of the colony.
The bees use touch as their way to communicate with each other. Worker bees perform ‘dances’ when they return to the hive.
The dance is either circular dance or ‘figure eight’ dance. Bees do the circular dance to indicate the location of food sources even a hundred yards away. In figure-eight dances, the bees waggle their bodies indicating a farther location of the food which is usually up to several miles from the hive. Studies show that their system of communicating the location of a food source is accurate. They are able to precisely trace food source to within 20 degrees in direction and within 15 percent of the distance.