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Nature Profile
by Bob Thomas

Bees are among our most marvelous insects and they exist in three forms. Each colony has but one queen whose sole function is to lay eggs, thus producing the members of the hive which ultimately insure its continued existence. About 16 days are needed for an adult queen to develop from an egg. Bees produce their queen by building a peanut-shaped cell and feeding its larval inhabitant only royal jelly, a diet that is usually continued throughout life. She usually lives for two or three years, but an occasional six year old has been reported.

Drones are the males and are larger than workers het shorter in length than the queen. They are the result of unfertilized eggs, take about 24 days to mature from an egg and have no stinger. They are fed by workers and apparently exist only to breed with virgin queens. Their normal life span during the active season (spring-fall) is eight weeks. Those that are still alive in late fall are usually forced out of the hive, thus eliminating their consumption of food.

The all-female workers are the cast with a changing role. About twenty-one days are required to reach maturity. The first three days of adulthood are spent cleaning the brood area. Days four to seven see a change in activity as the workers attend to the feeding of honey and pollen to older larvae. The pharyngeal glands develop on the seventh day and allow the workers to produce royal jelly. During the next five or so days, the workers feed young larvae and/or the queen. From age 12-24 days, the worker serves numerous functions. Her wax glands have developed, so she can produce bees wax to build new comb. She also may guard the entrance to the hive, provide ventilation by fanning her wings, produce honey from nectar, pack pollen in storage cells, or assist in air-conditioning the hive by manipulating water brought in for that purpose. At the grand old age of 25 days, the worker begins foraging for nectar and pollen. Normally, the worker’s life ends somewhere afield, but some die in the hive. These are removed by other workers and dropped to the ground (of course, in New Orleans this is done by second-liner bees with little parasols). During the active period of the year, the total life span is about six weeks, but those that are healthy in late autumn normally last through the winter only to die as the queen produces the new year’s brood.