What are the characteristics of the original honey

bee

Characteristics

What do bees look like?

Bees belong to the group of insects and thus to the articulated animals.

As with all insects, the body of the bees consists of three parts: on the head are the eyes, two antennae, which serve as a nose, and the mouthparts, which consist of two strong jaws and a proboscis.

Two wafer-thin pairs of wings and six legs sit on the chest. The largest part of the body is the bees' trademark: it is the yellow and black ringed abdomen with the poison sting.

There are three different types of bees. The ones we normally see flying around are the workers: they are sterile females. This means that they cannot reproduce - and measure twelve to 15 millimeters.

A queen bee is 16 to 20 millimeters tall. Her abdomen is much larger than that of a worker because she is responsible for the offspring and lays more than 1,500 eggs a day.

The male bees are called drones. They grow to be 14 to 18 millimeters.

Drones do not have a sting and neither do they collect honey. Their main job is to mate with the queen.

Small yellow lumps can often be seen on the bees' hind legs.

On the outside of the hind legs there are the so-called "cups" or "panties": this is a spoon-shaped hollow framed by hair in which the bee keeps pollen during its foraging flights.

Also in the hairs of the body surface, the "fur", pollen get stuck and are carried from flower to flower. As a result, bees also ensure that many plants are fertilized.

Where do bees live?

Honey bees are originally from Southeast Asia. Since they were kept as livestock by humans, they have spread all over the world. Today around three billion bees live in around 52 million beehives around the world!

Bees are excellent builders and make their own homes: they produce vertically hanging wax panels - so-called honeycombs.

There they attach hexagonal cells in which the larvae develop and supplies are stored.

The honeycombs of a beehive are a little miracle: the hexagonal shape of the cells fits perfectly into one another. So not a millimeter of space is lost.

What types of bees are there?

There are around 1300 different species of bees in Europe. However, most of these wild bees - unlike the honey bee - live individually and not in states.

By the way, bees are among the oldest living things: They have probably been living on earth for 100 million years!

How old do bees get?

The queen bee is three to five years old. A worker is only six weeks old in the summer, she hatches in the autumn and can overwinter, if she lives for up to nine months. Drones only live a few weeks.

behavior

How do honey bees live?

Honey bees are social animals that can only survive together in states. Such a bee colony is also called a colony or colony and consists of 40,000 to 80,000 animals.

Workers, queens and drones have very specific tasks.

What exactly workers have to do depends on how old they are: from one to four days old they are cleaning bees and are responsible for keeping the honeycombs clean.

When worker bees are five to eleven days old, their forage glands are developed and they supply the offspring with food.

By the age of twelve to 18 days, their wax glands have developed so that they can build honeycombs.

When they are 19 to 21 days old, they guard the entrances of the beehive from foreign intruders and enemies.

At 22 to 40 days, the workers finally fly to the bee pastures and collect pollen, nectar and water.

Bees can easily find their way back to their beehive even from far away meadows. To do this, they have developed a sophisticated orientation system: they use the sun like a compass. When a bee leaves the beehive, it remembers the position of the sun.

Since she has a very precise sense of time, she knows where the sun has to be at what time of day and therefore finds her way back to the beehive hours later.

But bees can also find their way around when the sky is cloudy, because they can perceive ultraviolet light and thus the direction of the light waves.

When a bee comes back from collecting the nectar stored in the honey stomach, it chokes the contents into the mouth of a so-called nurse bee.

She mixes the nectar with a substance that she produces in a gland, fills it into a cell and seals it with wax. This is how the honey is produced, which is used as food for the bees in winter.

A colony of bees can produce up to one kilogram of honey per day.

Drones only live in the beehive in spring and summer.

In autumn, the still living drones are driven from the hive by the workers and die.

When it gets cooler and cooler in autumn and the temperature drops below 12 ° C, the bees no longer fly out. Pressed close together, they spend the cold season in a kind of hibernation.

Friends and enemies of the bee

Bees' enemies include wasps, hornets and birds. With the sting and its poison, bees can defend themselves against enemies such as wasps. However, they only sting when they want to defend their food or the beehive, or when they feel threatened. Because the sting usually ends fatally for the bee itself: the sting remains in the attacker's body and tears out part of its abdomen.

However, the biggest threat to bees is Varroa disease. It was introduced from Asia about 40 years ago and is triggered by tiny mites that suck out the body sap from the bees' larvae and the bees themselves. The bees get weaker and weaker and eventually the whole colony can die.

How does the bee reproduce?

A queen bee can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day, which is around two million in her entire life. She also decides whether or not an egg will be fertilized with the sperm stored in her body:

From fertilized eggs queens or workers can develop - it depends on what the larvae are fed with.

The drones are created from the unfertilized eggs.

Eggs, from which queens are to be made, are laid in special, large cells and filled with so-called "royal jelly", a substance produced by the workers in a gland.

If a worker is to hatch from the egg, the egg is placed in the normal, small cells. You will only get royal jelly for the first few days. Queens evolve in 16 days, workers in 21, and drones in 24 days.

If one or more queens hatch, the old queen leaves the hive with about half of the bees and founds a new colony. The newly hatched queens fly out of the hive and are mated by the drones outdoors.

This only happens once in a queen bee's life. That's why she mates with several drones and stores the seed supply in her body. Then the queen returns to the hive, kills the remaining young queens and is now the new ruler of the bee colony.

How do honey bees communicate?

Bees are buzzing. But they have also developed another fascinating language with which they can tell real stories: the bee dance. A worker can use it to tell her colleagues on the floor where she found a meadow with lots of blooming flowers, i.e. food for bees.

To do this, she performs a dance: In the so-called round dance, the bee moves in a circle, indicating that it has found a rich bee pasture within a radius of 100 meters.

The other bees can also tell which flowers are blooming there from the scent of the pollen that sticks to their bodies.

With the help of the waggle dance, the bees indicate pastures that are more than 100 meters away.

The bee walks on the vertical honeycombs in the form of a transverse figure eight and wobbles its abdomen in the process. The speed indicates the distance from the bee pasture.

If it traverses the straight stretch of the transverse figure eight around six times in 25 seconds, the bee pasture is around 500 meters away, if it runs through it four to five times, it is 1000 meters away.

The other bees can tell which direction to fly based on the direction the bee is dancing.

maintenance

What do bees eat?

Bees feed on nectar, but also on bee pollen, which contains a lot of protein, fat, minerals and vitamins.

The honey made from the nectar is used as winter stock.

The queen almost exclusively eats "royal jelly".

Keeping honey bees

Humans have been collecting honey from wild bees for around 13,000 years. In Egypt, bees were kept in clay tubes to obtain honey as early as 6000 years ago. Keeping bees is called beekeeping, and it's a real profession.

Care plan for bees

The beekeeper provides a safe place for the bees by providing them with boxes in which to build their honeycombs.

He keeps the boxes clean, provides the bees with drinking water, regularly removes old honeycombs and checks whether the bees are healthy. He also takes the bee colonies to suitable places where they can find plenty of food - for example to fields in bloom.

And of course he harvests the honey. To do this, the honeycombs are taken from the hive and spun in a machine at high speed. The honey is released from the wax honeycomb. As a substitute for honey, the beekeeper gives the bees sugar water as winter food.