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The specialist international beekeeping organisation
All species of honey bees are social insects (scientifically termed eusocial). Colony members live in a single nest and work together creating, what is sometimes called, a 'superorganism'. This arrangement works to enhance the survival of the whole colony. However, it also imposes a set of demands and limitations on their biology and behaviour. For the 'superorganism' to function and thrive the colony is governed by a rigid social structure and division of labour with a colony divided into female castes. The workers are sterile, with no capacity to reproduce. Their role is to carry out the many functions imposed by social living; including collecting, processing and storing food in large quantities - this food store helps the colony survive in times of shortage.
Honey bees have reached the highest level of social organisation. Consequently, although individual bees die, the colony is essentially immortal because it persists from generation to generation - with parent colonies dividing at times to form new daughter colonies. Honey bee bodies have a typical insect form - divided into head, thorax and abdomen.They have 6 legs, 4 wings, compound eyes and sophisticated sensory and communication systems, essential in highly socially adapted creatures.
Each colony has a single queen that is the mother of the colony. There are between 10,000 and 50,000 worker bees that carry out all the tasks of the colony. Their numbers fluctuate following an annual cycle dictated by the seasons and climate around them. Drones are male bees whose sole function is to fertilise the queen. Around 500 drones may be raised by the colony when they are needed, but as 'passengers' they are expelled from the hive and die during periods of dearth, so they will only be seen during periods of plenty. As such, they are a measure of the strength of a colony. All the types of bee in the colony are essential to each and together they make up a single unit - each component of that unit being incapable of functioning alone.
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Honey bees undergo a four stage process of metamorphosis - egg, larva, pupa and adult. The young stages are known as brood and the development of the brood takes place in the honeycomb. Honeycomb is made of wax secreted from small glands on the underside of the worker bee and then formed into the familiar hexagonal cells that fit snugly together in a very efficient, space saving design. Honeycombs hang vertically and side by side. The space between the combs is fixed by the bees. It allows two bees to pass each other precisely, back to back, when they are walking up the face of the honeycomb. This space is known as the bee space and is the cornerstone of our understanding of moveable comb beekeeping.
Honey is always placed at the top of the comb, with a ring of pollen below it, close to the brood so it can easily be made into food for the young bees. The brood is always in the centre forming a ball effect with the honeycombs cutting through it. This is where it is well protected and warm, insulated by the honey stores and covered by adult worker bees who are able to maintain the brood nest at the perfect temperature for brood development (35 degrees C). The queen lays one egg in each cell, and after hatching the larvae are fed by the worker bees. When the young larvae are ready to pupate they are sealed inside the cell with a wax capping until they hatch into adults. When they emerge they are ready to join in all the activities required for the smooth running of the colony.
7 documents and 8 reference documents found
Electron micrographs of the hypopharyngeal gland of Apis cerana workers showed that the walls of the intracellular ductules are composed of an inner relatively dense incomplete layer arranged ...
Du Z.-L. Zhang Z.-B, published 1984, Acta ent. sin. 27 4 392 - 395 undefined
Paper in Chinese
New research suggests that honey bees remember the scent of the flowers they visit by allocating different types of memory to their brains. Emeritus Professor Lesley Rogers of the University ...
Pincock S., undefined
Article in English
Queens The queen is the mother of the honeybee colony laying eggs that develop into female or male drone bees. Fertilised eggs become female bees workers or a new queen. Unfertilised eggs ...
Gregory P., published 2006, Bees for Development 78 7 Text on this website
Article In Bfd Journal in English
Hisashi F, published 30/11/2009, Bees for Development BfD Journal 94 41951 PDF on this website
Article (pdf file) in English
The number of Ovarioles in 111 queens Apis mellifera ligustica was highly significantly correlated with their weight at emergence at 2 h after emergence and at 24 h after emergence. The ...
Huang Wen-Cheng Zhi Chong-Yuan, published 1985, Honeybee Science 6 3 113 - 116 undefined
Paper in Japanese
by David Cramp Honey bees always mate on the wing usually well away from the nest and often high enough off the ground to be out of sight. These two facts alone explain why most beekeepers ...
Cramp D., published 1993, Bees for Development journal
Article (text file) in English
Each human can be thirsty and hungry feel warm or cold and defend itself against diseases or enemies. So can a bee colony. The difference is that a human being is one living organism connected ...
Holm E., published 2003, Bees for Development #67 Text on this website
Article In Bfd Journal
The following documents are not available for download. There is a copy in the Bees for development library. Please contact us for access.
Atkinson J.H., published 1999,
Book in English
Rilay J.R. and Osbourne J.L., published 2001, Insect movement: mechanisms and consequences 129-157
Article in English
Harvey N., published 1993, Jajarkot Permaculture Programme Nepal
Book in English
Hassan Talib Mohammed Darwish Al-Lawati, published 2002
Book in English Arabic
Samways M.J., published 1995, Chapman & Hall London UK
Book in English
Sinclair W., published 1969, Wills & Hepworth Ltd Loughborough UK
Book in English
Dalton S, published 2001
Book in English
Anonymous, Patterns of Life
VHS in English
One of the most disappointing things that can happen to a beekeeper in a developing country is to have a colony abscond. It is not only disappointing but may seriously affect the viability of ...
The inhabitants of a honey bee colony are divided into three specialised types of bee; one type of male and two types of females. The male bees are called drones. Their only significant function ...
Honey bees are characterised by their rigid division of labour. The inhabitants of a honey bee colony are divided into three types; one type of male and two types of females (known as castes). ...
Workers are the only bees that most people ever see since they are the most obvious inhabitants of a honey bee colony - and the ones that sting. Workers are one of these two specialised female ...
For temperate bees the absconding and migration strategies are almost never used as it is likely to be fatal to the colony - a colony that absconded or migrated in its entirety would be most ...
The honeybee is a social insect whose life is so closely linked with the flowering plants in its environment that it whole seasonal cycle revolves around the flowering seasons of the plants ...
Supersedure is the replacement of a queen without swarming taking place and probably relates to a diminution of her pheromone production. The queen's pheromones are what keeps the colony together ...
Swarming is the colonies natural method of reproduction. In places where bee hive colonisation is by the collection of natural swarms, no swarm control is practised and swarms are valued then ...