Social Organization of Honey Bee

Honey bees are the most colonized social insect. They show eusociality character or the motif to live in a society, by helping each other and care for each other. They form a colony like human society and the social organization of honey bee is very well developed. There are three types of bees are found which are separated from each other by physically and also by their duties.

CASTES: A well-developed colony of honey bees consist 1 Queen 300-400 Drones and 20000-30000 Workers. The worker bees build large combs on tree branches, under cave, under roves of high buildings.   

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) queen, drone, and worker.
Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) queen, drone, and worker.

A. QUEEN: A queen is the mother of the colony, which presence in very necessary. It is the fertile diploid (2n=32) female bee. She influences her colony by a variety of pheromones or queen substance.

CHARACTERS OF QUEEN:

  1. It is developed from the other two castes and its length is about 15-20 mm.
  2. It possesses a long tapering abdomen, which is distinguished it from the others. Pollen basket and wax gland is absent.
  3. A curved scimitar like sting is present at the tip of the last abdominal segment. She uses it like a defence organ.  Only the queen can use their sting several.
  4. It has 2 golden wings and 6 short legs.
Apis mellifera, Queen Honey Bee.
Apis mellifera, Queen Honey Bee.

FUNCTION: The queen mates the drone (the male bee) during nuptial flight. She can lay 10000-15000 eggs per day. After fertilization the queen lays both fertilized and unfertilized eggs. The fertilized eggs developed into worker (those feed on bee bread) and queen (feed on royal jelly). unfertilized eggs developed into drone.

Queen bee on the bee hive.
Queen bee on the bee hive.

B. DRONE: The Drone is the male member of the bee’s colony. They are haploid (n=16) fertile male developed from the unfertilized eggs. The drone which fertilizes the queen known as king. There are about 200 to 300 drones present in a colony.

CHARACTERS OF DRONE:

  1. They are the second larger caste of the bee colony, larger from the workers but smaller than the queen.
  2. The last segment of their abdomen is squarish but do not possesses sting. Wax gland and proboscis is also absent.
  3. Large compound eyes are situated at the apex of the head.
  4. They contain a very well developed male reproductive organ.
Drone bee.
Drone bee.

FUNCTION: Drones perform no work in the maintenance of the hive (house of bees) but eat vigorously. The only duty of the drone is to fertilize the virgin queen.

C. WORKER BEE: Workers are most important caste of bee’s colony. They are sterile diploid (2n=32) female developed from the fertilized eggs. In a bee hive there are about 20000-50000 workers.

CHARACTERS OF WORKER:  

  1. Workers are the smallest caste of bee society. They are about 10-12 mm in length.
  2. Their body is covered by hairs and possesses a well-developed, powerful sting on the apex of the head. They only can use their sting only for one time. They possess one pair of stong wing.
  3. They contain wax gland, which produces wax. Wax is very important to build the bee hive.
  4. They possess sucking type mouth parts with a well-developed proboscis which help the worker bee to collect nectar. They also contain pollen basket.
Worker honey bee (Apis Mellifera).
Worker honey bee (Apis Mellifera).

FUNCTION: Worker bees perform all the duties for the maintenance of the hive. There are two types of bees which are classified according to their work.

  1. Outdoor Workers: They perform the outdoor duties like collecting nectar, pollen, gum and water.
  2. Indoor Workers: They perform all the duties of the house hold. They look after the queen, eggs, and the offspring. They produce wax for the formation of the new hive. They maintain the cleanliness of the hive cells. They also produced honey, bee bread and royal jelly.  
Worker bee collecting nectar.
Worker bee collecting nectar.

The social organization of honey bee is a proof of that the insects (a species belonging to the phylum Arthropoda and class Insecta and order- Hymenoptera) also can live in a well developed society, by helping each other.

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