Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Emerging Worker Bee: The Life of a Tireless Worker!

In just about the center of the photo below, you can see a young worker bee almost fully emerged from her cell.  At the top center, you can see a worker bee has just chewed through the beeswax on her cell and will soon be joining her emerging sister.  Shortly after a worker bee emerges, she gets right to work.  Her first task usually is cleaning out her cell! 

Can you find the emerging bee in middle of cell?  Click on the photo to enlarge
As the worker bee ages, she progresses through a series of responsibilities that support the colony's life.  She begins by feeding and tending the brood (the eggs and larva) that will become the next generation workforce. After a few days, she'll graduate to taking nectar from foraging workers and evaporating it into honey.  If needed, she'll secrete beeswax and begin to build honeycomb.  As she ages, she'll progress to becoming an undertaker, removing any dead or ill bees from the hive.  After about three weeks of her six-week lifespan, she'll advance to becoming a guard bee, charged with keeping out any interlopers that threaten the colony (like wasps, skunks or humans!).  In the last two weeks of her short life, she's promoted to forager, and tirelessly brings back nectar, pollen and water for her colony. In fact, many worker bees literally die of exhaustion in their effort to help their colonies thrive. The National Honey Board claims that one worker bee produces about 1/12th a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime, which gives you as sense of just how valuable honey is!

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