Friday, September 28, 2007

Lesson Six: Honeybees In The Hive

Let's follow the growth cycle of the queen, drone and worker bee. Let's begin with the worker bee.

The queen lays an egg in the bottom of a cell within the brood chamber. When first laid, the egg appears like a piece of rice, only much, much smaller. The egg stands up in the bottom of the cell immediately after it is laid, and will hatch, lie on the bottom of the cell after 3 days as it molts into a larva. From day 4 to day 9 it is known as a larvae and feeds upon royal jelly and worker jelly. Around day 9 the top of the cell is capped off and between day 10- 20, the larvae spins a cocoon in the cell and begins to transform into a pupae, finally emerging from the cell on day 21.

Many people believe that once a bee emerges from its cell, it flies out of the hive and begins to gather nectar. However, the new bee will not begin visiting flowers until 22 days after hatching as a new bee. Here's what the worker bee will do first.

After she is born she will clean her cell and other cells and keep the brood warm for the first 2 days of her life. Then, from day 3-5 she is trusted with the task of feeding older larvae. From day 6-11 she is then assigned the task of feeding younger larvae. From day 12-17 she then begins to produce wax, build comb and transport food within the hive. From day 18-21 she is commissioned to guard the hive entrance from unwanted intruders. Finally, from day 22 through day 35 she flies out to gather pollen, nectar, propolis and water for the hive.

The queen determines when she wants to lay an unfertilized egg which becomes a drone. The cycle of the drone is the same as the worker bee except that drones emerge from their cell on day 24, 3 days later than worker bees. The drone has no responsibility in the hive or in gathering nectar. Instead, they simply wait to mate with a virgin queen.

Finally, the queen. The cycle of a queen is the same as the worker and drone bee except she emerges on day 16. The queen is fed royal jelly or queen jelly during the larva stage of her life. It is note worthy that a queen emerges the soonest, on day 16 because if a hive is queenless, they will perish within one month without a queen laying eggs. So she must emerge quickly to save the hive.

Each hive must have only one queen. Without a queen the hive will perish unless they replace her quickly. The hive can raise their own queen by making a queen cell on the side or bottom of the comb. The cell resembles a peanut. To raise their own queen, a hive must have eggs less than three days old. By feeding very large amounts of royal jelly to a young larva within the queen cell, they are able to raise a new queen.

When the queen emerges, she will pursue, fight and destroy any other virgin queen in the hive and immediately begin giving orders to her new hive. Within a few days, she will take her mating flight, mate with several drones, return to her hive and begin laying eggs for the rest of her life.