Honeybee

ZOO LOCATION: My Big Backyard


Lifespan: Workers less than a year; Queen bees up to 8 years

Wild Diet: Honey, nectar and pollen

Zoo Diet: Honey, nectar and pollen

Predators: Insects, spiders, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals

SSP: No

IUCN Status: Not Evaluated.


Habitat/Range: Honeybees live in hives, often hanging from tree branches. They also live in man-made hives, which is a key to their conservation. Wild bees are typically found in temperate zones, forests, rainforests, deserts and scrub forest.

Characteristics: Honeybees are yellow and black striped with six legs and have compound eyes for seeing flowers. Their antennae are used for detecting flower fragrances. Their legs are used for gathering pollen and they have a crop for transporting nectar. A stinger acts as a defense for the hive.

Behavior: Bees communicate through movements. They perform dances on the honeycomb to tell others the location of flowers. Honeybees living in colonies have a caste system consisting of a queen (fertile female), a few hundred drones (fertile males), and thousands of workers (sterile females). The workers depend on the queen for reproductive purposes and maintenance of the colony, while the queen depends on the workers for food. The bees collect the nectar from flowers in their crop, which is connected to the gut. The bees' legs are designed to comb pollen from the body. The workers use the collected pollen and add honey to create a mixture called "bee bread", which isfood for bees. Stored in the cells of the honeycomb, pollen supplies vitamins and proteins for the hive.

Reproduction: The queen is the only bee within the colony to lay eggs, the workers care for the brood, and carry out many other duties for the hive, including foraging and cleaning. The queen mates just once, on a 'nuptial flight' during spring, and stores enough sperm inside her body to allow her to fertilize eggs for the rest of her life. Eggs are laid from March to October; each egg is deposited into a cell, and a small, white larva emerges after about three days. Workers provide the larva with food; the larve develops into a pupa in six days, and the workers cap the cells containing fully developed larvae with wax. The adult bee will climb out of the cell 12 days later.

Drones (males) are produced from unfertilized eggs, and appear in the colony during spring and early summer; they take three days longer to develop into adults than workers, and are ejected from the colony later in the year by the worker bees. Both worker and queen bee larvae are fed on a rich liquid known as 'royal jelly' in the first days of life. Workers are then fed on pollen and nectar, but larvae that continue to be given royal jelly develop into queens. The first new queen to emerge may sting the other developing queens to death. After mating she may either take the place of her mother who may have departed the hive in a swarm, taking half of the workers with her, or establish a new colony.

Conservation: Pollinator decline has been reported on every continent except Antarctica. The conservation of honey bees, both wild and managed, is in everyone's best interest. This includes many plant conservationists and the US agricultural industry, in which bees are essential to crop production. A decline of pollination can impact farmers who depend on honey bees to pollinate their fields. As a result, this leads to higher food prices, making bee populations economically significant.


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