The honey bee presents an example of social and organized living. The members are well defined into various castes with their special works. They are divided into: 1. Queen 2. Worker and 3. Drone.
Type # 1. Queen:
Largest of all the bees with small legs and weak wings. Queen bee is the real ruler of the hive. She has an extended abdomen, full of eggs and the last segment is modified as an ovipositor. She has no work except eating and laying eggs. She lives for 3-3 % years and lays about 14-15,00,000. eggs during her life span. The rate of egg laying under favourable conditions may be 2,000 eggs per day.
Generally only one queen is founding in a comb but in case when her egg laying capacity is reduced she can be changed and replaced by another queen. In extreme cases such an old queen comes out of the hive and establishes another hive. In some of the cases a colony may have more than one queen but only one is allowed to live in the hive rest are pressed to leave the nest.
Queen is supposed to be the mother of all the drones and workers and queens (if they are) present in the comb. She lays both fertilized and unfertilized eggs which later on develop as male and workers. Some of the workers which are in real sense the females are fed with a special substance called “Royal jelly” and the larvae fed on royal jelly develops as a queen rest as workers. By the time the egg laying capacity of the queen goes slow a new larvae is fed with royal-jelly and is developed as future queen.
A single fertilization is sufficient for the whole life. The queen moves from cell to cell of the comb and lays eggs. She has no special cell to live in and is always surrounded by the workers. She is generally found in the lower border of the hive. A mated queen collects the sperms in a receptacle and it is on her will to decide which batch of the eggs should be fertilized and which should not the males or drones are generally unfertilized whereas the queen and the workers develop from the fertilized eggs.
There is no difference in the organs or morphology of the worker or queen but for the size of legs and wings. The queen bee is fed with a highly nitrogenous food mixed with pollen honey and a secretion from the lateral pharyngeal glands. All these are mixed and make as Royal jelly. An egg develops as a larva in 3 days and grub into pupa in 5-7 days. The pupa emerges out after a week as an adult.
Type # 2. Workers:
More than 90% of the total population present in the comb consists of workers. These workers are the atrophied female which are unable to lay eggs and they sacrifice their total life in the service of queen and the hive and its residents. The longevity of a worker depends upon the type of work and activity, generally they live for about three months in an off season but in busy seasons this is reduced to half.
The newly developed worker has weak wings, so she is employed feed the grubs, help the queen in laying eggs, feeding the queen and cleaning the hive. The work is allotted to them according to their age and they are named after their work as nurse bee, cleaner bee or builder bee.
The builder bees are provided with a wax gland in their 4 to 7th abdominal segments on the ventral side and these are engaged in making the nest cells whereas some of the bees produce bee glue (propolis), which is used in repairing the cracks and crevices, there are known as repairers.
The duty of a nurse bee is to produce Royal jelly for die developing queen and “bee breed” for rest of the grubs. She looks after the development of the grub and before they pupate she seals the door of the cell. Cleaning of cell, maintenance of hygienic conditions removal of debris and dead bodies are done by the cleaners.
The workers have other important job to maintain the temperature of the hive. At the time of production of honey a fairly good amount of water is found which in later stage may spoil the honey. So to avoid the loss the worker bees assemble near the newly filled cell and deep that cell worm. The water vaporizes and level is lowered down.
On reaching a certain point the bee seals the cell and protects the honey. On the other side the temperature may not damage the egg laying capacity of the female in hot summer she is always kept cool by the workers. There are certain bees with long wings they always vibrate their wings so the temperature is lowered down: In the month of June when the sun is too hot, some of the fanner bees go out and take a dip in water and again come near the queen. This gives an air conditioning to the queen.
In the same way they keep the queen worm during winter by assembling themselves near the queen:
Collection of food, pollen and honey is again an important work of the workers. These workers are good flier and can cover a long distance in a shorter duration. They have their own language and by dancing before other bee they tell the direction and distance of the food from the hive quantity of the food and its quality. Such bees are provided with long and powerful flight muscles and wings. Their legs are provided with pharyngeal legs. These legs are armed with big structure above the tibia called pollen basket, which helps in collecting the pollen grains.
Workers are the soldiers also they have a powerful sting in their last abdominal segment and protect the hive from outside attacks. They have a tendency to chase the enemies.
In terms of their body structure the workers are the most adapted to perform the duties in the colony.
The adaptions are:
1. Well-developed proboscis for nectar collection.
2. Wax plates and wax glands are well formed for constructing and repairing the bee hive.
3. Very powerful sting to defend the colony.
4. Fully formed salivary and mandible glands honey stomach for jelly secretion.
Workers are the back bone of the colony. They carry out the routine chorus of the colony. The duties to be performed in the colony are divided among the worker bees based on their age.
The major works they perform (in ascending order of age) are:
1. Cleaning the cells of the comb.
2. Secretion of royal jelly and feeding the larvae and young ones. They are called ‘nurse’ bees.
3. Secretion of bees wax and construction and repair of honey combs.
4. Defend against intruders and protect the colony.
5. Collect pollen, nectar and water and keep the colony cool.
6. Act as scouts in locating new food sources and lead the members during swarming.
The life span of worker bee is 3 months to one year. During active seasons they have a short life span.
Type # 3. Drone:
The males in the colony are called drone. They develop parthenogenetically and have no stings. They depend on workers for their own food and have the sole responsibility to fertilize the queen. They are of intermediate size and pupae period ranges from 10-13 days. Total adult life span ranges from 7-8 weeks.
The reproductive organs are well developed and sometimes they die just after copulation. They are developed only at the time of breeding when a new queen is under process otherwise they are kicked out of the colony in day of scarcity. A hive generally keeps 200 drones at a time. Drone cells are little bigger than the workers cell and smaller than the queen cells.