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Natural History of Honey Bees

Last updated over 3 years ago

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    File:Apis mellifera distribution map.svg

    Map of Apis mellifera

    Apis mellifera is native to Europe, western Asia, and Africa. Human introduction of this species to other continents started in the 17th century, and now it is found all around the world, including east Asia, Australia and North and South America.

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    Bees Macro EOL

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    A Honey Bee hive is a busy place. A mature hive usually houses several tens of thousands of bees. Most of these bees are females and there is usually only one queen who is the mother of all the bees in the hive.

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    File:Honeybee sting00.jpg

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    Only female Honey Bees have a stinger. It is a modified ovipositor that is connected to a poison gland.

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    File:Apis mellifera Stachel.jpg

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    When a honey bee stings an animal with thick, elastic skin, such as a mammal, its barbed stinger gets stuck inside the skin. When the bee tries to pull it out, part of its abdomen, along with the digestive tract, muscles, and nerves get severed, and the bee will soon die.

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    nectar and pollen

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    Most Honey Bees are worker bees. The workers are all females. They forage for nectar and pollen from flowers, build, protect and clean the hive, and regulate the temperature within the hive by beating their wings.

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    Honey Bee on Mountain Mint

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    A worker bee sipping nectar from a flower.

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    File:Apis mellifera mouthparts new.jpg

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    The mouth parts of the Honey Bee consist of a tongue-like labium, which is surrounded by the labial palps and maxillae.

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    Water or nectar from flowers is drawn up the grooved surface of the labium by a combination of capillary force and the pumping action of muscles in the head. The labial lapping apparatus can be folded back under the head when not in use, leaving the short, stout mandibles free in front to chew pollen or manipulate wax.

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    File:Bees Collecting Pollen 2004-08-14.jpg

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    A worker bee collecting pollen. The pollen gets stuck to the hairs on the bee's body.

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    European Honey Bee in flight

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    When a bee is covered with pollen, it will moisten its fore legs with a little nectar and then use brushes on its legs to gather the pollen grains into a paste that is stuck to the pollen basket (corbicula) on the outside surface of the hind legs.

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    File:Bee waggle dance.png

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    When a foraging bee has found a food source, it uses a special dance, called the waggle dance, to communicate this discovery to other workers in the hive.

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    File:Bee dance.png

    Image of Apis mellifera

    In the waggle dance, the angle from the sun shows direction, the duration of the waggle part of the dance shows the distance of the food source.

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    File:Apis mellifera carnica larva.jpg

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    The tiny, legless Honey bee larvae are raised in hexagonal brood cells made from wax.

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    File:Apis mellifera carnica drone aborning.jpg

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    Honey Bee larvae grow and pupate inside their brood cell. After a few weeks an adult bee emerges from the cell into the hive.

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    Not long for the drones ...

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    Male Honey Bees are called drones. Drones are larger than worker bees, and they have huge eyes. They do not work inside the hive but are fed by the workers or help themselves from the store of pollen and nectar in the combs. When the conditions are right, they are kicked out of the hive to go look for a new queen to fertilize.

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    Abelha (Apis melifera)

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    Honey Bees sometimes form large swarms consisting of thousands of worker bees and their queen. These bees have left their old hive in search for a new home. Swarms often form around tree limbs or on the sides of buildings. Usually, the swarming location is not the new colony's permanent home, and the bees will soon relocate to a nearby hollow tree. The rest of the worker bees, left behind on the old hive, continue to collect food and take care of their nest, now without a queen. They will soon raise a new queen to replace the one that left the colony with the swarm.

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    File:Bienenstoecke Fada Bild1067.jpg

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    Humans have long kept Honey Bees in artificial hives made from hollow logs, wooden boxes, pottery vessels, and woven straw baskets or "skeps". Beekeepers (apiarists) keep bees in order to collect honey, beeswax, and pollen.

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    File:Bijenstand (Honeybees).jpg

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    In modern apiculture, Honey Bees are kept in hives that can be moved from place to place. Beekeepers often rent out hives to farmers to pollinate crops.

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