Information On Bees


planet bee

The buzzing hum of bees on a warm afternoon is surely part of everyone's mental picture of a perfect summer's day.

The industry of bees is proverbial. It takes honeybee workers 10 million foraging trips to gather enough nectar to make one pound of honey. It is estimated that honeybees visit ten trillion flowers per day. Members of a single hive may make four and a half million visits to flowers in the course of one day's work.

More than 1,000 workers will die every day in the summer. Cause of death? Sheer exhaustion. Life expectancy at the height of nectar-gathering season, a mere six weeks. The honeybee, Apis mellifera, is the best known bee simply because we have been using it's honey and wax for thousands of years. And it is one of the most intensively studied animals.

Honeybees, like stingless or meliponine bees of the tropics and the bumblebees are social insects and live in colonies. Each colony is a family unit comprising a single, egg-laying female or queen and her many sterile daughters called workers. The workers cooperate in food-gathering, nest building and rearing the young. Males are only reared at the times of year when their presence is needed.


A female cuckoo bee, Nomanda flava, feeds at a dandelion flower. This bee lays its eggs in the nests of the solitary mining bee.

The great majority of bee species are non-social or solitary. These bees have no worker caste and the individuals do not cooperate with one another. Instead each female works alone to build her own nest.

Between the two extremes of the solitary and social bees, there are intermediate levels of socialization. The solitary and semi-social species are not disadvantaged. They have different strategies to survive and rear their offspring.

This hoverfly, Criorrhina herberina, mimics the appearance of ginger-haired bumblebees, Bombus pascuorum and B. muscorum.


Bees range in size from the tiny, 1.5mm-long workers of some small tropical stingless bees, to those giant of the bee world, the carpenter bees, some of which can be thirty or forty mm long. They range in color from, archdeacon black, through thousands of nondescript 'little and grey jobs', to the gaudy exuberance of some of the tropical species, which are bright metallic green, blue or bronze.

All different kinds of wasps, together with the ants and bees, form the great insect order Hymenoptera, which has more than 100,000 described species. The name Hymenoptera literally means 'membrane wing'. They possess two pairs of membranous wings, the forewings being larger than the hind pair. In flight, the wings are linked together by a row of tiny hooklets or hamuli. These lie along the leading edge of the hindwing and engage a fold in the trailing edge of the forewing. At rest , the wasp or bee disengages the two pairs of wings and folds them over the abdomen.

Bees belong to the suborder of Hymenoptera called the Apocrita. The Aculeata is a subgroup of the Apocrita and includes the ants, bees and hunting wasps. The name 'Aculeata' is derived from the Latin aculeus, meaning 'sword' and refers to the sting, which the bee uses to defend herself and her nest.


All Hymenoptera have four very distinct stages in their development: egg, larva, pupa and adult. This is called complete metamorphosis.

The eggs of bees are pearly white, sausage -shaped and usually slightly curved. The social bees, where the queen lays enormous numbers per day, are rather small, being no more than 1.5 to 2.0 mm long. Solitary bees produce few, large eggs 15mm long.


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