Explain the social organization seen in honey bees.


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The honey bees are colonial, social insects. Their house is called a hive or comb. A well develop hive has 40 to 50 thousand individuals consisting of three casts namely, Queens, drones and workers.
The queen after copulation lays either fertilized or unfertilized eggs. The unfertilized eggs develop into males. The males are called drones. From the fertilized eggs, when larvae hatch, those which receive normal diet, develop into workers. Some of the larvae receive royal jelly. These develop into queens.

A. Queen:

  1. It is the only fertile female of the colony having large body and poorly developed wings and legs.
  2. The ovaries are well developed.
  3. It lays daily about 1500 to 2000 eggs; depending upon the seasonal variation.
  4. The queen constantly feeds upon royal jelly.
  5. In a life span of about 2 to 3 years, she lays about 1500000 eggs.
  6. When this queen loses its egg laying capacity, a worker starts feeding on royal jelly and becomes a fertile queen.
  7. The new queen then replaces the old queen.
  8. The old queen may be driven out.
  9. Some workers also follow her and leave the hive.

B. Worker:

  1. The worker is sterile female which develops from fertilized eggs in 21 days.
  2. The life span of worker is six weeks.
  3. Workers are smallest in size but largest in number.
  4. They are of different types and which perform different functions.
  5. For eg. Foragers of Food collectors - collect honey and pollen, Nurses - Nourish the larvae and look after the queen, Builders - construct the bee-hive, Guards - protect the hive, Scouts - give details regarding food by performing a Waggle dance, Fanners - keep the temperature of the hive low, etc.
  6. Only workers have sting with poison sac and wax glands.

C. Drone:

  1. It requires 24 days to develop from an egg.
  2. It has no sting or wax glands.
  3. Reproductive system is well developed.
  4. The sole duty of the drone is to fertilize the virgin queen.
  5. At the time of swarming, the drone follows the new queen, copulates and dies.
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