To Jones Bee
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Busy, Busy, Honey Bees
By Marj Jones
From egg to insect emergence requires a passage of 21 days. A worker must cut through the capping of her cell without assistance. She crawls from the capsule, her body still moist, her wings fragile. The honeybee hatchling is full-sized and ready to accept her responsibilities to the society of her home hive.
Function and precision trademark livelihood of the worker honeybee. All honeybee workers are infertile females. The only fertile female in the hive is the queen. One of the many duties of a worker bee is providing servitude to the matriarch. They encircle their mother attending to her every need as long as she continues to renew the society by laying eggs.
Workers live a very short, active, productive life. Her life expectancy is six weeks. Most often she will meet fate much earlier when she bee-comes a foraging field worker. Few honeybees find their way to longevity. All honeybees will readily give their lives in defense of their hives.
After emergence a honeybee’s first job is to turn-about and clean the cell which was her nursery. Honeybees are meticulous housekeepers. Upon cleaning and inspection of her own brood enclosure, it is prepared for the queen’s acceptance, approval, and consequential placement of a new egg. Housekeeping is the primary procedure for the first few days of a honeybee’s life. She will move from cell to cell maintaining an immaculate environment.
As a nurse bee she accepts the additional responsibilities of tending the growing brood and storage of nectar or pollen provided by the field bees. Nurses care, clean, and feed the future of the hive. Once the egg is laid in a cell, it becomes the duty of the working nurses to provide all the larval requirements including proper incubation temperature. The nurses will cap each larvae when time for pupation commences.
Nurses move on to bee-come guardians. Guard bees protect the hive from invasion, predation, and threat. The honeybee is a small, but mighty warrior. Thieving robber bees, moths, mice, even skunks face fierce opponents when ferreting the sweet golden treasure hidden in a honeybee hive. A sting will prematurely end the honeybee’s life, but she will not hesitate to defend or protect that which she believes to be her own in spite of the consequences.
Field work will be the worker’s final task. Fresh air and flowers fill her days. In the collection of nectar for honey and pollen, honeybees perform the majority of the world’s produce pollination.
Bees are frequently referred to as the busiest and most beneficial of the insects. Aerodynamically, the body of a honeybee is too bulky for the wings to support in flight. This puzzled the scientific community until it was seen that the wing beat speed fueled by the propulsion of the muscular thorax enabled the insect to become airborne. A honeybee’s wings beat 11,400 times per second. For centuries, this awesome feat has not been ignored by mankind. Many ancient cultures considered the bee a deity and associated it with hidden wisdom.
The sweet richness of the honeybee’s labors, her dedication, industrial drive, and the paradoxical ability to fly has long been viewed in the company of man. The hive, the honeybee, and the beekeeper continue to accomplish quests once considered impossible. Her hive reflects the strength and power of family and a well-orchestrated society. In her daily duties we are given the fruit of her labor, honey, the sweetness of summer sunshine. Observing the honeybee’s frequent flights, mankind is inspired to follow impossible dreams.