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By Marekiaro | plant&animalife | 20 Apr 2020

Hymenoptera of Apids (Apis mellifica), black with gray hair, object of intense breeding by man since ancient times to obtain honey and wax. The bees live in large societies in which there is only one fertile female (queen) surrounded by the workers (sterile females) equipped with prickles, baskets and brushes on the hind legs for collecting pollen. Few are the males (drones), who live only long enough for the queen's fertilization and who die after mating.


The European bee (Apis mellifera Linnaeus, 1758) is the most widespread species of the Apis genus in the world.

Native to the old world, Europe, Africa and parts of Asia, it was introduced to the American and Australian continents.

It was classified by Linnaeus in 1758 with the name Apis mellifica, a name still used by some authors.

The domestic bee is the most studied and admired animal society. It is a matriarchal, monogynical and multiannual society, made up of numerous individuals belonging to three castes, all winged. 

Normally in a hive live a queen, the only fertile female, 40 000 - 100 000 workers, sterile females destined to the maintenance and defense of the colony, and, between April and July (in Europe), from 500 to 2000 males (also called drones or pecchioni), the latter intended exclusively for reproduction. The species is polymorphic because the three castes have different morphological conformations.

Bees inside beehive; the big cell is a real cell. There the queen can be raised.
The extraordinarily prolific queen has the task of laying eggs and ensuring the cohesion of the colony; she is the first to flicker among the queens raised by the family, is larger than the workers and drones and equipped with a sting, or sting, which she uses almost exclusively to kill rival queens, her sisters, ready after her to flicker. Unlike the workers, it lacks the pollen collection apparatus, the pharyngeal glands and the ceriparous glands. The queen can also live 4 or 5 years. In relation to its intense reproductive activity, it has a higher metabolism than that of workers, and has more developed cardiac corpora, while corpora allata are less developed than in workers.

Males have only the task of fertilizing the new queens; they are larger than the workers but smaller than the queen; they have a much shorter ligula than that of the workers, and therefore are unable to suck the nectar from the flowers and lack the spike, the pollen collection apparatus, the pharyngeal glands and the ceripar glands.

The workers constitute a monomorphic and homogenetic caste, which divides the various social activities according to the age classes, which correspond to cycles of development and regression of some exocrine glands. The average life of a worker (from image) is around 30 - 45 days; it is longer if the bee is born in autumn and therefore destined for wintering.



The queen is equipped with 150-180 ovarioli and a spermatheca; it is distinguishable, in fact, by the more voluminous abdomen. The workers are equipped with 2-12 ovaries and a rudimentary spermatheca. They have morpho-physiological characteristics of which some (for example the number of ovaries) are induced or inhibited by the queen herself through the action of pheromones; other traits are induced by the type of feeding received in the larval stage (e.g. greater development of the teeth of the spine, greater length of the ligula, presence in the legs of structures for collecting pollen, presence of the wax glands, etc.) on which extrinsication acts "revealing" chemicals on the chromosomal traits that contain them coded according to the known mechanisms of epigenetics.

For the development of the brain coordination centers (pedunculated bodies), the workers prove themselves capable of extraordinary performances, such as the possibility of transmitting information with a sort of symbolic language. They also perform different tasks in orderly succession of roles according to age. The first task of the young worker who flickers from the cell in which she developed, is to clean and smooth the newly built cells or those that must be reused, in which the queen, although fertilized only once in her life, unceasingly lays eggs (from 100 up to 3000 per day) . Then, having become capable of producing "royal jelly" (for the development of the supracerebral glands that secrete it), the worker bee feeds on the larvae . At the end of the second week, no longer producing food, but wax (by regression of the supracerebral glands and development of the cerigene glands), he proceeds to build honeycombs. Then it passes outside the hive, first for defense only, then for the important task of foraging, that is, collecting nectar, pollen, propolis and water . In this capacity, it is able to transmit precise information to its companions on the exact location of a food source, even very distant (up to a maximum estimated at 3 kilometers), communicating data on the position relationships between the flower field, the beehive and the sun . Her ability to perceive polarized light allows her to identify the position of the sun, even if it is covered by clouds, provided that an area of ​​clear sky is visible. At the end of a little more than a month, she resumes housework (ventilation and heating of the nest, its cleaning and defense, etc.), until, feeling the end close, she leaves the community and dies away from it so as not to contaminate the beehive with its corpse.In workers, the ovipositor is transformed into a highly efficient weapon, the stinger, equipped with autonomy and automatic mechanisms that ensure maximum offensive possibilities.


The bee is part of the Apid family, of the order of Hymenoptera and like all insects it has six legs and has a body divided into three parts: head, chest and abdomen. Its mouthparts are structured so that it has no difficulty in collecting the liquids that the insect mixes with the pharynx secretion of the salivary glands. Once they enter the influvie or melaria bag, they undergo the action of saliva enzymes that change the nectar into honey. In addition to liquids, the indispensable element for honey is pollen which supplies zotated substances, this is collected and stored especially in the legs.

The bee lives in the hive, its initial construction is entrusted to the younger bees, who create a grouping of hexagonal wax cells to contain the larvae of the brood and to store honey and pollen. The cells where the eggs are laid are closed by a wax operculum as well as those that contain honey, while the cells with the pollen remain open. A beehive can contain up to 100,000 worker bees, these have a life of no more than 5-6 weeks in the period of assiduous work, while those born in the autumn manage to live until the arrival of spring. The bee society is matriarchal, it multiplies by swarms and is divided into three castes: queen, drones and workers.

The queen is a female destined to live in the nest by laying eggs unless she has to swarm, that is, to guide the swarm that comes out of the hive, for this reason the worker bees build more real cells, in order to have more queens that can guide them out of the hive. The drones are male, born from unfertilized eggs, laid by the queen in large hexagonal cells, are much heavier, covered with hair and rich in olfactory and tactile senses, they are used exclusively for coupling with the queen bee, they live about 24 hours. Worker bees are females who do not lay eggs and can be divided into various categories according to age: the younger ones are dedicated to cleaning the cells; from the third day of life they feed the larvae with honey and pollen, on the eleventh day of life they train to become foragers and guard the hive by placing themselves in front of the entrance to chase away any intruders. Only on the twenty-first day of life do they become permanently foragers dedicating themselves to the collection of nectar and pollen.

Mating takes place in flight, after 5-6 days from the flickering the virgin queen goes out for the nuptial flight, makes circular turns around the hive and rises higher followed by the males. After mating, the male dies and the queen, aided by the worker bees, gets rid of the male genital armor, then after a few days lays her eggs.

For this reason, bees have a very fast reproductive capacity, they are great workers and even if they are very short-lived they manage to exploit it all the way making themselves useful for the society to which they belong. They are definitely beings to take example from.

The bee is one of the insects that most fascinate not only entomologists and experts, but also ordinary people who want to understand how the complicated bee empire works. We all know the story of the queen bee, in a little we know all the "social strata" that distinguish this insect from all the others. And there is not only this to know, but much more ...


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