A Honey bee's body is golden brown and black in colour, with yellow or light orange rings on the abdomen. While their head, antennae and legs are almost black their wings are translucent. The thorax and abdomen are both covered in fine hair. Honey bees have specialized hairs attached to their hind legs which form tibiae pollen baskets.
Honey bees collect nectar from most floral species and pollinate a wide variety of plants. The body of the honey bee becomes covered with pollen during the collection of nectar. This pollen is then transferred from one plant to another as the bee visits from flower to flower.
Honey Bees are distinguished from other bee species by their construction of perennial wax colonies in which they house their nests and their production and storage of honey in wax combs. Most honey bee colonies are in man-made commercial hives. A bee swarm that escapes usually nests in rotting or hollow trees.
A colony of honeybees consists of a single queen, several thousand worker bees, and at times of the year, a few hundred drones. The primary function of the honey bee queen is to lays eggs. In a single day, a queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs. A queen’s lifespan is typically 4-5 years in which she can produce as many as two million eggs. The workers are sterile females and only live four to five weeks. The worker bee’s job is to supply the colony with food, protect the nest, and build the honeycombs. Honey bee drones are fertile males who fly out at certain times of the year to mate with new queens.
Since 2006, honey bee colonies have mysteriously struggled, and beekeepers have reported devastating losses in numbers of bees. More troubling, the cause for the demise of honey bees is unknown and is referred to as CCD or colony collapse disorder. Theories for CCD range from pesticides to more recently the result of varroa mites (external parasites), which attack honey bees and their broods. Varroa mites have been a major pest for honey bees since they were first introduced to Florida in the 1980’s. These pests suck the blood from adult bees and their broods, which shortens their lives and leaves the broods deformed. Varroa mites have the power to infect and overtake entire colonies, as a varroa mite is dependent upon honey bees for survival.
The dwindling numbers of honey bees leaves a colossal impact on our lives. Honey bees pollinate 80% of our vegetable and fruit crops, such as apples, blueberries, strawberries, onions, broccoli and alfalfa, to name a few. It is not only our food supply that will suffer - honey bees pollinate cotton crops as well. Cotton makes up 40% of the world’s fibers. Ironically, the insecticides used to treat a majority of cotton crops are known to be harming the bee population.
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