Friday, February 1, 2008


The Bee Families

Most of the 20,000 species are solitary bee. The queen constructs her own nest of one or more brood cells. She then stocks the cells with pollen and nectar to provide food for the larvae and deposits her eggs just before sealing the cell.


Some species are gregarious and place their nests in close proximity to each other. When such bees share a common entrance, a division of labor may be observed for example, one bee may guard the entrance against parasites or predators. Bee are considered truly social when there is a single queen, when a worker caste of non reproductive females shares in the construction of the nest and other duties, and when the larvae are fed gradually.


The Bumble Bee

Bumble bee (Bombidae) leave their nest in the autumn, and the fertilized queens hibernate in some protected place during the winter. In the spring each queen builds a nest of moss or grass, preferably in a deserted rodent nest. From scales secreted by abdominal glands, she makes a honey pot of wax and then makes a cell and half fills it with pollen before depositing her eggs in it. The queen covers the eggs with a layer of wax and sits on them like brooding hen, sipping honey from her pot. After the larvae hatch, they eat the pollen and grow, then spin cocoons in which to pupate. When the workers emerge, they cut away the upper half of cells and the remainder is used as a receptacle for nectar.


The larger worker maintain the covering over the nest and collect food, and the smaller ones care for the young larvae and do the inside work. The difference in size of worker is dependent on the amount of food they have available with honey. 


Only males are produced late produced late in the summer and female larvae literally may jettisoned to control the population. When workers lay eggs, the queen may chase the workers away and eat the eggs. If the queen dies or is removed, one of the larger workers soon takes her place.


Drone and Worker

Drone develop by parthenogenesis from unfertilized eggs that the queen produces by withholding sperm from the eggs laid in large drone cells. Drone lack stings and the structures needed for pollen collection; in the autumn they are ejected by the colony to starve, unless the colony is queen less. New drones are produced in the spring for mating.


Both queen and worker are produced from fertilized eggs. Queen larvae are reared in special peanut-shaped cells and fed more of the pharyngeal-gland secretions of the nurse bees (bee milk or royal jelly) than the worker larvae are. The precise mechanism for this caste differentiation is still uncertain. Although workers are similar in appearance and behavior or other female bees, they lack the structures for mating. When no queen is present to inhibit the development of their ovaries, however, eventually begin to lay eggs that develop into drone.

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