Bees

Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants. There are slightly fewer than 20,000 known species of bee, in nine recognized families. They are found on every continent except Antarctica, in every habitat on the planet that contains flowering dicotyledons.

Bees are adapted for feeding on nectar and pollen; the latter is used as food for larvae. Bees have a long proboscis (a complex "tongue") that enables them to obtain the nectar from flowers. Bees play an important role in pollinating flowering plants, and are the major type of pollinators in ecosystems that contain flowering plants. These animals are extremely important as pollinators in agriculture, especially the domesticated Western honey bee, with contract pollination having overtaken the role of honey production for beekeepers in many countries.

Female bees periodically stop foraging and groom themselves to pack the pollen into the scopa, which is on the legs in most bees, and on the ventral abdomen on others, and modified into specialized pollen baskets on the legs of honey bees and their relatives. Many bees are opportunistic foragers, and will gather pollen from a variety of plants, but many others are oligolectic, gathering pollen from only one or a few types of plant.

Species and organization

Bees may be solitary or may live in various types of communities. The most advanced of these are eusocial colonies found among the honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees. Sociality, of several different types, is believed to have evolved separately many times within the bees.

If, in addition to a division of labor, the group consists of a mother and her daughters, then the group is called eusocial. The mother is considered the "queen" and the daughters are "workers".

Highly eusocial bees live in colonies. Each colony has a single queen, together with workers and, at certain stages in the colony cycle, drones. When humans provide a home for a colony, the structure is called a hive. A honey bee hive can contain up to 40,000 bees at their annual peak, which occurs in the spring, but usually have fewer.

There are some so-called "solitary" bee species, in the sense that every female is fertile, and typically inhabits a nest she constructs herself. There are no worker bees for these species. Solitary bees typically produce neither honey nor beeswax.

Honey bee

Honey bees are a subset of bees which represent a far smaller fraction of bee diversity than most people suspect; of the approximately 20,000 known species of bees, there are only seven presently-recognized species with a total of 44 subspecies.MLike other eusocial bees, a colony generally contains one breeding female, or "queen"; seasonally up to a few thousand males, or "drones"; and a large seasonally variable population of sterile female workers.

Like other eusocial bees, a colony generally contains one breeding female, or "queen"; seasonally up to a few thousand males, or "drones"; and a large seasonally variable population of sterile female workers. Eggs are laid singly in a cell in a wax honeycomb, produced and shaped by the workers. Larvae are initially fed with royal jelly produced by worker bees, later switching to honey and pollen. The exception is a larva fed solely on royal jelly, which will develop into a queen bee.

Young worker bees clean the hive and feed the larvae. After this, they begin building comb cells. Later still, a worker leaves the hive and typically spends the remainder of its life as a forager. Workers cooperate to find food and use a pattern of "dancing" (known as the bee dance or waggle dance) to communicate with each other.

Virgin queens go on mating flights away from their home colony, and mate with multiple drones before returning. The drones die in the act of mating.

Colonies are established not by solitary queens, as in most bees, but by groups known as "swarms", which consist of a mated queen and a large contingent of workers. This group moves en masse to a nest site that has been scouted by workers beforehand. Once they arrive, they immediately construct a new wax comb and begin to raise new worker brood.

Honey

Honey is the complex substance made when the nectar and sweet deposits from plants and trees are gathered, modified and stored in the honeycomb by honey bees. All living species of Apis have had their honey gathered by indigenous peoples for consumption, though for commercial purposes only A. mellifera and A. cerana have been exploited to any degree. Honey is sometimes also gathered by humans from the nests of various stingless bees.

Beekiping

Beekeeping (or apiculture, from Latin apis, a bee) is the practice of intentional maintenance of honey bee colonies, commonly in hives, by humans. A beekeeper (or apiarist) may keep bees in order to collect honey and beeswax, or for the purpose of pollinating crops, or to produce bees for sale to other beekeepers. A location where bees are kept is called an apiary.
Source: Wikipedia: Bee, Honey bee, Beekiping.

Links

Wikipedia: Queen bee, Worker bee, Drones.

Oldest known bee fossil
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