Bug of the Week

Honey Bees (Apis sp.)

Hi BugFans,

Honeybees, famously, live in social groups with strictly defined roles. The workers, all female, have stingers that are vestigial ovipositers ("egg-depositers", to you classical language scholars). Some workers forage for food, some guard the hive, some are nursery workers and others care for the queen. The queens are the mothers of the hive, and the drones (males) are boy-toys.

Honey bee approaching a milkweed Honey bee rearranges her load of waxy looking, yellow pollenia
A honey bee's approach to a milkweed flower. Honey bee rearranges her load of waxy looking, yellow pollenia.

In the nursery, larval queens in are fed "royal jelly", while the larval worker bees are fed "bee bread" (a honey and pollen mix). When the old queen leaves the hive in early summer, accompanied by a group of workers called a swarm—and these can be pretty dramatic—the first larval queen that emerges from her cell kills the other queens in their cells or fights them as they emerge.

Ambush bug feeding off a dead bee
Ambush bug to the left of a dead bee.

Goldenrods and milkweeds are very popular with a huge variety of insects, including predators. If you squint, you can see the ambush bug to the left of the dead bee. Ambush bugs grab their prey firmly and inject a meat tenderizer. They wait until the prey's innards have "liquefied" (like the old SNL "Bassomatic" commercial) and then suck out the juices.

Sometimes bees get stuck and die Pollen sacs on a bee's knees as they forage
Sometimes bees get stuck and die
Photo showing pollen sacs on the bee's legs as they forage

Honeybees shows the pollen sacs on the bees legs as they forage. Studies prove that bees show an amazing flower constancy—when bees are actively foraging, more than 95% of the pollen in their pollen sacs comes from the same kind of flower!

A honeybee stores pollen in pollen sacs on her legs as she forages.
A honeybee stores pollen in pollen sacs on her legs as she forages.

The Native Americans called honeybees, which were imported by European settlers, "white man" flies.

The BugLady