Reddish Vale Country Park
Honey bees survive winter as a colony, and the queen begins egg laying in mid to late winter, to prepare for spring. This is most likely triggered by longer day length. She is the only fertile female, and deposits all the eggs from which the other bees are produced. Except for a brief mating period when she may make several flights to mate with drones, or if she leaves in later life with a swarm to establish a new colony, the queen rarely leaves the hive after the larvae have become full grown bees. The queen deposits each egg in a cell prepared by the worker bees. The egg hatches into a small larva which is fed by nurse bees (worker bees who maintain the interior of the colony). After about a week, the larva is sealed up in its cell by the nurse bees and begins the pupal stage. After another week, it will emerge an adult bee.
For the first ten days of their lives, the female worker bees clean the hive and feed the larvae. After this, they begin building comb cells. On days 16 through 20, a worker receives nectar and pollen from older workers and stores it. After the 20th day, a worker leaves the hive and spends the remainder of its life as a forager.
Both workers and queens are fed "royal jelly" during the first three days of the larval stage. Then workers are switched to a diet of pollen and nectar or diluted honey, while those intended for queens will continue to receive royal jelly. This causes the larva to develop to the pupa stage more quickly, while being also larger and fully developed sexually. Queen breeders consider good nutrition during the larval stage to be of critical importance to the quality of the queens raised, good genetics and sufficient number of matings also being factors. During the larval and pupal stages, various parasites can attack the pupa/larva and destroy or damage it.
Bees produce honey by collecting nectar, which is a clear liquid consisting of nearly 80% water with complex sugars. The collecting bees store the nectar in a second stomach and return to the hive where worker bees remove the nectar. The worker bees digest the raw nectar for about 30 minutes using enzymes to break up the complex sugars into simpler ones. Raw honey is then spread out in empty honeycomb cells to dry, which reduces the water content to less than 20%. When nectar is being processed, honey bees create a draft through the hive by fanning with their wings. Once dried, the cells of the honeycomb are sealed (capped) with wax to preserve the honey.
The honey bee needs an internal body temperature of 35 °C (95 °F) to fly — which is also the temperature maintained within the cluster. The same temperature is required in the brood nest over a long period to develop the brood, and it is the optimal temperature for the creation of wax. The temperature on the periphery of the cluster varies with the outside air temperature and in the winter cluster, the internal temperature may be as low as 20–22 °C (68–72 °F).
Bees pollinate an estimated 90 per cent of Britains apple crop, 30 percent of the pear crop and much of the soft fruits such as strawberry and raspberry.
Honey bee populations have recently faced threats to their survival, European populations were severely depleted by varroa mite infestations in the early 1990s, and their numbers remain a concern.
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