When we start talking about beekeeping, we usually associate this concept with honey or pollination of cultivated plants. And few people are interested in the main character - a bee, without which there can be neither honey nor pollination. But not every beekeeper can tell about the life of bees. Ivan Andreevich Shabarshov - the author of many books and journal publications - is familiar with beekeeping firsthand. An experienced beekeeper, he knows not only the theory, but also the practice of beekeeping. For many years, Shabarshov worked in the journal “Beekeeping”.
The bee forever caused the sympathy of people. Her lifestyle, industriousness, skillful wax buildings have been the subject of attention of naturalists, scientists, poets and thinkers for many centuries. I was captivated by the very appearance of a bee - a beautiful mill, a graceful torso, rare shades of clothing, slender strong legs, easy flight, sharpness of reaction. It is as if nature combined its perfection in it. She did not deprive her of virtues.
© Andrew Bossi
From time immemorial, a bee feeds people with honey, sweeter than nothing in the world, prepares wax for them, heals with poison, provides the most valuable products of medicinal and active biological effects - propolis, royal jelly, pollen. Pollinating bee increases the yield of crops, and in many cases it forms it entirely. The honey bee is the first among insects, rightly worthy of admiration.
A bee is called a hard worker. She really created just for work. In the process of evolution, the bee (except the uterus and drones) lost the ability to produce offspring, continue the genus, although at the beginning of its evolutionary path, like all insects, the bees entered into sexual relations, laid eggs and raised their own kind. Having lost the function of a female, the bee developed to a very high degree the working organs and glandular system.
Bee is a vegetarian. She feeds on plant foods - nectar and pollen. This food is rich in carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins, and it is not only eaten, but also stored for the winter, as it does not hibernate during the cold season. Bees try to harvest a lot of food, because they live in large families.
A bee sucks nectar with a proboscis - a kind of pump, which it lowers to the flower nectaries. The length of the proboscis allows you to get nectar from almost any flower, including a long one. The longest proboscis have gray mountain bees of the Caucasian breed — 7.2 millimeters.
© Armin Kübelbeck
Nectar enters a honey goiter - a highly stretchable reservoir that can hold up to 80 cubic millimeters of sugar liquid, that is, by mass almost equal to the mass of the bee itself. Her workload, as we see, is very large. That is why families combining 70-80 thousand insects, for a short flowering period of strong honey plants, produce a large amount of honey.
To collect flower pollen, the bee has special devices, the so-called baskets located on the hind legs. She compresses pollen in these baskets, compacts them into lumps that are held securely in flight, even with strong winds. During flowering of plants that abundantly produce pollen - willow, dandelion, yellow acacia, sunflower, bees return to their nests with multi-colored pollen pollen. Up to 50 kilograms of this valuable protein feed is prepared by the family during the season.
Indefatigable bee in labor. Having a little rest from the burden she brought, she immediately hurriedly, literally with a bullet, flew “out of the wax cell” to get fodder. From morning to night in business. Only bad weather keeps her in the nest.
The honey bee “owns” many professions; it can be a builder, educator, nurse, cleaner, watchman, and water carrier.
The bee flies very well. All four wings of her force powerful pectoral muscles. During the flight, the front and rear wings, thanks to the hooks, are connected in wide planes, increasing the area of the support. In the air, without changing the position of the body, the bee can move in any direction - forward and backward, up and down, in any direction, soar in one place. It develops a flight speed of up to 60 kilometers per hour, successfully overcomes headwinds and crosswinds. All this allows her to quickly reach the source of the bribe and bring the load to the nest.
The amazing ability of a bee to navigate the terrain. This was demanded of her by life in the forest among thousands of trees. It only takes her one time to fly out of the nest and examine the surroundings, as she remembers the area for life. Everything is imprinted in her memory, as on a photographic film. The bee is oriented in flight on ground objects and in the sun.
The bees and sense organs are well developed. The complex eyes located on the sides of the head consist of 5 thousand small eyes of high sensitivity, which allows her to clearly see objects and their color during flight, very quickly adapt to different lighting conditions - bright sunlight and the darkness of the hollow or hive where she lives. Not everyone knows that a bee does not have eyes, but five. In addition to large, complex, there are three independent independent simple eyes located on the crown of the head, which also help her in orienting herself on the ground and in the nest when finding flowers.
A bee is able to capture the finest odors. Its antennae-antennas contain a huge number of olfactory fossa locators and numerous very sensitive hairs. This helps her quickly detect nectar in the flower, without spending time searching.
Very accurately, it can establish the difference in relative humidity and its temperature and respond to these changes. That is why, even long before the rain, bees try to return home as soon as possible. By the way, a bee can determine the weather for a whole day ahead and even make long-term forecasts, in particular, prepare in advance for a harsh winter.
Possesses a bee and a sense of time. If flowers secrete nectar only at certain hours - in the morning or at the end of the day, then it flies on them only during nectar secretion. The rest of the time he switches to other honey carriers.
The so-called flower constancy is also inherent in a bee, that is, attachment to a certain type of plants, while they secrete nectar. The insect, as it were, gets used to them. This feature of behavior is very beneficial to plants, contributes to cross pollination and high productivity.
The bee also has a means of self-defense - poison: she uses it when she or her nest is in danger. However, stinging is deadly to the bee itself. Its sting has notches, and a bee after stinging cannot pull it back. It comes off together with the poisonous bubbles. A bee is bleeding, lacking the ability to coagulate.
The bee does not live long: in the summer - only 35-40 days, in the winter - several months. Usually dies in flight, giving all his strength to the good of his family.
Honey bees are amazing insects. They are admirable and praised.
In addition to working bees and the uterus, drones live in the bee family - its male half. These are large insects with huge, almost whole head, complex eyes, powerful wings, and well-developed muscles. They are stronger than females. Fly with great speed, well oriented in space.
Drones fly out of the hive in the middle of the day, in the warmest time, in sunny weather. Their bass is clearly audible in the air. After the flight, they rest, eat food harvested by working bees, and so on 3-4 times a day.
Drones do not perform any work in the nest or in the field. They do not build honeycombs, do not feed larvae. They do not have any wax glands or organs secreting milk for this. They do not create the temperature necessary for the family in the nest. Even the proboscis of the drone is shortened, so if suddenly there is no honey in the nest and the bees refuse to feed their parasites, although the flowers around will abundantly release nectar, the drones will die of starvation - they will not be able to get the nectar themselves, they will not be able to collect pollen. They "beg" the food from the bees and take it from the cells themselves.
In contrast to other insects living in communities, drones - this strong half of the family - take part neither in protecting the nest, nor in protecting stocks, nor in fighting enemies. They are devoid of stings and glands that secrete poison. Most of the time drones spend in the nest. Their only purpose is to inseminate the queens. By the way, the uterus also fly out to the mating season in the middle of the day, and only in the best weather.
The mating act takes place in the air. Nature endowed the drone with highly developed sense organs. In the complex eye of this insect there are 7–8 thousand small eyes, while the working bee has only 4–5, and each antennae has about 30 thousand olfactory receptors, five times more than the bee. Due to the extremely developed sense of smell, a specific odor — the flying sex hormone that the uterus secretes in flight — drones and they are usually found far from the apiary and at a fairly high altitude, sometimes 30 meters from the ground. Since the drones are not adapted to any work, blaming them for laziness and idleness is extremely unfair. After all, this nature in the name of the extension of the family freed them literally from all the worries of the family.
This freedom, however, is very expensive for drones. After the marriage with the uterus, they immediately die without seeing their offspring. And those who could not take part in sexual acts, after the breeding period is over, stop receiving food from bees and are mercilessly expelled from the nest. Disadvantaged, they perish from hunger.
Drones do not live long - two to three months. Bees hatch them in the spring and drive them out in the summer, often immediately after the main honey collection, sometimes earlier. They throw out all the drone brood. At the same time, each family of bees, obeying the breeding instinct, tries to grow more drones, not sparing food on them. Usually there are several hundred in a family, sometimes up to two thousand. Such a large number of males favors the rapid detection by them of young queens in the air and guarantees mating. In addition, not one, but several, sometimes up to ten drones, take part in the insemination of the uterus. Nature is generous and even wasteful when it comes to reproduction.
However, in families where the uterus is old, infertile, there may be an unnecessarily large number of drones. Such families usually do not give honey. They can only be improved by changing the queens.
Families with a lot of drones grow where there are unmatched on time, that is, within three weeks from the date of birth (for example, due to bad weather), and hardened uterus, which have already begun to lay unfertilized eggs. Since such eggs are found in bee cells, small drones are born from them, with an underdeveloped reproductive system. Although they are thought to mate with the uterus, this is highly undesirable. The uterus receives an insufficient supply of sperm, its fertility decreases, and the quality of the offspring deteriorates.
Therefore, it is very important to have males from highly productive families in the apiary. They stimulate the withdrawal of drones, and males from weak families are caught with special devices - drone-mongers.
Drones from unfertilized eggs are born. Develop in wider and deeper drone cells 24 days. Since they do not have a father, they carry the hereditary makings of a mother. If the womb of the Central Russian dark breed, then the sons will be dark, even if she mated with the yellow Italian males. This is a feature of the biology of honey bees.
- The work of the beekeeper I. A. Shabarshov.