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Insects and other arthropods

Honey bees

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Apis mellifera

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Description

Honey bees have hairy bodies with thick waists. Their mouthparts are the licking-chewing type. They have two pairs of wings on the thorax held together with hooks. There are three castes in the species: the queen, workers and drones.

The queen is the largest bee in the colony, 16 to 20 mm long. Her pointed abdomen extends far beyond her wings and is tipped with an egg-laying organ.

Workers are all females, and are about 12 mm long. They have specialized structures on their legs for gathering and carrying pollen. Their abdomens have glands for producing wax, and are tipped with a stinger.

Drones are the males of the colony. They have massive bodies, 15 to 16 mm long. Their abdomens have rounded tips. They have large eyes and no stinger.

Life cycle

To found a colony, the queen must be fertilized by drones during a mating flight. Then she begins laying eggs, placing each one in a wax cell. After three days, a tiny white larva emerges from each egg.

The larva moults five times and then turns into a pupa. One last moult, and it becomes an adult. It takes 16 days for a queen, 21 for a worker and 24 for a drone, from the time the egg is laid until the time the adult emerges.

A bee colony operates like a living entity that goes on indefinitely, barring some kind of major accident. New queens are produced as necessary.

Geographic distribution

Honey bees were brought to North America from Europe. They are very adaptable, and live in temperate and tropical regions around the globe.

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