Bees: Life Cycle
The Stages of Bee and Wasp Life
The life of bees and wasps start with living in an egg. Eggs are grown in cells, small cases which are part of a nest or in small chambers in the ground. They grow inside these eggs and then hatch out into larvae which are worm like. In nests, each larvae is fed by the workers. Others eat food such as a paralysed insect or pollen that has been left by their mother. Some species are born inside or on other insects and feed on them. When this larvae is fully grown they weave a silk cocoon. In this cocoon their body is slowly transformed into an adult bee or wasp at which point, they hatch. In case of social bees, females live for 6 weeks and males die before the winter as they are evacuated from the nests. Queen feed on royal jelly which extends her life span.
These maggot like creatures are dependent on food to hatch. Some are parasitic and have special ways of feeding on a larger creature. Some feed on galls, figs and pollen balls. The social bees and wasps are completely dependent on the female workers of the colonies to supply food. This supply of food is incredibly important as it will not only allow the wasp or bee to live but will determine whether the larvae grows to become a queen or worker bee. Honey bees produce royal jelly also known as bee milk which is made of two types of liquids. The workers feed this to the larvae that they would want to become a queen. The rich diet of royal jelly causes the larvae to grow bigger and more powerful than those supplied with honey. When they hatch those that fed on royal jelly will emerge as queens,
Sometimes the pupae is a transparent case where inside the bee or wasp has grown, eyes, antennae legs and wings. In the Honey bee family, workers take 21 days to develop, drones take 24 days and queens take 16 days. Depending on species and climate, wasps take 7 – 20 days to develop. When the adult emerges, female workers quickly clean the nest so that another egg can be laid there.
In some species the first to hatch are female workers that cannot reproduce. They work to help the queen produce more eggs. These eggs produce both male and female workers. With most bees and wasps there is a mating period. In this period male insects and young queens are reared. Some bees fly off and mate in the air. The queens store sperm in their abdomen which is used to lay eggs in the future. The males die soon after but the young queens live on and begin to lay eggs. When a male wasp courts a queen they rub their antennae with the queens and rub their abdomen against the queens abdomen. When the queen accepts, the male mounts her and they copulate.
Social wasps gather together in a swarm when trying to locate a new place to nest. They gather together under a tree attaching themselves to each other in a giant swarm. The queen lies in the middle protected by the mass crowd of wasps. The scouts then flies around and search the area. When one of them has found a new site they go back to the hive and produce a dance. This dance pattern they do tells the wasps the coordinates of where the place is. Plans for creating a swarm and staring a new nest are all planned weeks in advance.
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Bees: Life Cycle: discover the fascinating lives of the various types of bees and wasps in the world.