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Bees


Bees
There are 20,000 species of bees, including honeybees, out of hundreds of thousands of species of pollinators. This diversity suggests that we need to provide a diversity of flowering plants so that these creatures can thrive.

The bee life cycle begins with reproduction. Sexual reproduction is the norm for insects, and honeybees—the best-known bee pollinators—are no different.
During a mating flight, the virgin queen bee may mate with many males. The male inserts his endophallus into the queen during her one-and-only mating flight, discharges his sperm, and leaves his endophallus behind in her as he withdraws. This rips his abdomen open, and the male dies after mating.
Bees

Once a queen has mated, she stores more than 5 million sperm and may lay more than 1 million eggs in her lifetime. The queen forms a new colony during the winter season by laying eggs in individual cells within a honeycomb structure made of beeswax.
The queen can choose to fertilize or not fertilize an egg as it moves through her oviduct. Fertilized eggs all become female worker bees, while unfertilized eggs become drones, or male bees. The worker bees can also lay eggs, but they are unfertilized, so the insect that emerges is a drone.
The larva spends 3 days developing nervous and digestive systems, as well as its outer body covering, before hatching. At this stage of development the larvae have no antennae, legs, wings, or compound eyes—only simple eyes.
Worker bees feed the larvae with either honey or royal jelly, a substance made of pollen and glandular excretions from worker bees, until the larvae’s adult development into workers, queens, or drones is complete. The whole process takes about a week.
When the queen can no longer lay eggs, a new queen will emerge to take her place. In honeybees, the larvae that received the royal jelly from the workers are the ones that can become queens.
In addition to all these duties nurturing larvae, workers also collect pollen. Honeybees have leg structures that are adaptive for pollen gathering and other activities. Each bee carries her pollen back to the hive, where it is pushed into a waxy cell within the comb.
Other workers care for the pollen in the hive. It is the primary source of protein for the bees in the hive. The pollen is needed in the first 5 to 6 days of a worker bee’s life to allow these creatures to secrete wax later in life. The workers that work on secreting wax gorge themselves on honey beforehand and hang in groups near the area where comb is being built through the wax-synthesis process.
Honey that is so valuable for humans is collected as nectar by the bees, and then the sugary substance is placed in the waxy cells of the honeycomb, where its water evaporates as the open cells are fanned by the bees’ wing movements.
Most bees fly tens or hundreds of yards in their quest for pollen and nectar. This is important because about 1/3 of our food crop depends on bees, yet bee species and numbers have been declining. Over the past 2 centuries, millions of acres of old fields with diverse flowering plants have changed either to millions of acres of houses with monocultures of grass in the suburbs or to millions of monocultures of food crops.
It is simply more difficult for bees to find the close-in food they have evolved to find. This complex of factors has contributed to the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, which happens when worker bees abandon their hives in large numbers, with the result that colonies cannot sustain themselves.
Research shows that 3 major factors contribute to colony collapse disorder: arrival of some stressful disease; stressors in the environment, including pesticides and other pollutants; and reduction in habitat and local plant diversity.
Individuals can offset these impacts by using their own backyards to grow pesticide-free pollinator gardens by planting native plants, or by allowing ground-nesting bees to nest in the backyard. Another way to help bees is to leave dead limbs on trees; they’re good for pollinating bees’ nesting sites.