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The bee colony is well functioning as a complex organism, it accommodates, however, distinguished individuals. A single worker bee or a queen bee or a drone (male bee) cannot survive on its own as they all experience social dependency on each other. The most active season is in the first half of June when a strong bee colony’s population reaches ca. 50.000 worker bees, 2000 drones, and a queen bee.
What distinguishes a bee colony?
During the summer, the hive turns to a home of up to 50.000 bees. The population can differ depending on the bee colony. To a great extent it consists of female bees: the workers that forage for pollen and nectar, rear the larvae, defend the hive and tend to the bee queen which is the only fertile female able to lay fertilized eggs. Therefore, she is responsible for the survival of the colony and represents “the heart” of the hive. Drones (male bees) are also raised in the summer. A bee colony is operating as a socially organized entity. The survival of a single bee is possible only in the context of the colony.
Worker bees are entirely female bees developed from fertilized eggs. Due to incomplete development of their ovaries they lack the reproductive capacity. The workers are the diligent females which perform all important duties in the beehive. They clean up the honeycombs after hatching, six days later begin to feed the larvae and the queen bee and afterward participate actively in building up the comb cells. Worker bees are assigned to protect the hive from intruders. The rest of their live worker bees gather pollen, nectar, and water and produce honey.
The bee queen is a female bee which has fully evolved, developed from a fertilized egg in a queen or a beekeeping cell. During the first few days of larval development, as well as throughout her development, she is being fed with a special nutrition secreted from the glands of worker bees, so-called royal jelly („bee milk“). Thanks to this the queen bee grows far bigger in size compared to an ordinary bee. She lives up to 60 times longer that the worker bee and is able to lay up to 2000 eggs a day. The queen bee is the mother of all bees and the only one endued with the capacity of egg-laying in the hive. Therefore, she has to account for the survival of the colony. For this reason collecting food would be a waste of time for her. She relies totally on the bee colony which has to cover her daily requirements. One to two weeks after emerging, the virgin queen bees make their first mating flights. During these flights, they become fertilized by drones so that next offspring is guaranteed. Thereafter the queen bee starts laying eggs.
Drones are fully evolved male bees whose prime function is mating with queen bees. Drones are being fed by the worker bees as they are incapable of providing for themselves alone. After 14-day, drones become sexually mature and fly out of the hive in order to mate with virgin queen bees. A successful insemination ends with the drone’s death.
The bee colony – perfectly organized cluster
Obviously, in the bee colony on hand is a perfect division of tasks. The colony embodies an optimally organized structure which resembles a „superorganism“ of high collective intelligence. Bee colony hibernates in the so -called „winter cluster“. It means that the bees contract to a well-assembled formation encircling the queen bee. This way she is kept warm and safe and can feast on the stored winter stock.