Scientific Name: Apis mellifera
Tamil Name: Thenee
Description: The honey bee (Apis mellifera) is probably one of the best-known of all insects in the world. There are three ‘castes’ within a bee hive, a ‘queen’ (the reproductive female), the ‘drones’ (reproductive males) and ‘workers’ (non-reproductive females). All three castes are broadly similar in appearance; the body is covered in short hairs, and is divided into a head, a thorax and an abdomen, the head features two large eyes and a pair of antennae.
Distribution and status: The honey bee is widespread in Britain, and is often a domesticated species. This bee is native to Africa, Europe and the Middle East, and has been introduced to most parts of the world including America, Australia, and Asia. Despite its wide range, however, it is in urgent need of conservation
Habitat: The honey bee lives in hives, which need to be close to good sources of pollen and nectar. Before they were domesticated, honey bees made their nests in hollow trees in woodlands. Occasionally, colonies may still become established in dead trees when they escape from a domesticated hive. The internal structure of the hive is built by the bees with wax.
Habit: Species of Apis are generalist floral visitors, and will pollinate a large variety of plants, Worker bees cooperate to find food and use a pattern of “dancing” (known as the bee dance or waggle dance) to communicate information regarding resources with each other; this dance varies from species to species, but all living species of Apis exhibit some form of the behavior. Colonies are established not by solitary queens, as in most bees, but by groups known as “swarms“, which consist of a mated queen and a large contingent of worker bees. Once they arrive, they immediately construct a new wax comb and begin to raise new worker brood.
Food: Feeds on nectar from flowers thus resulting in pollination of the plant and the production of honey in the honey comb.
Life cycle: As in a few other types of eusocial bees, a colony generally contains one queen bee, a fertile female; seasonally up to a few thousand drone bees, or fertile males and tens of thousands of sterile female worker bees. Details vary among the different species of honey bees, but common features include: Eggs are laid singly in a cell in a wax honeycomb, produced and shaped by the worker bees. Young worker bees, sometimes called “nurse bees”, clean the hive and feed the larvae. When their royal jelly-producing glands begin to atrophy, they begin building comb cells.
Role in the environment: Bees collect pollen in the pollen basket and carry it back to the hive. In the hive, pollen is used as a protein source necessary during brood-rearing. In certain environments, excess pollen can be collected from the hives. It is often eaten as a health supplement.
Photo source: Mr. B. Vinoth and Mr. N. Muthu Karthick