Honeybees

Honeybees are absolutely incredible. I worked with some children on a topic all about them. I learnt today that they are the hardest thing I’ve tried to photograph yet.

Male bees are called drones. Their job is to mate with the queen bee and… that’s it, really. Drones are forced out of hives in the winter when the bees are trying to survive and these mating machines are just another mouth to feed.

Queen bees lay eggs to ensure the continuation of the hive. They can live for up to 5 years (much longer than the drone’s 90 days) but when they die, a larva in the hive is fed royal jelly and, in this way, encouraged to develop into a queen. This didn’t really make sense to me until I learnt that worker bees (the third type, all female) are simply sexually undeveloped. The royal jelly, then, must stimulate this growth. Queens also produce chemicals which help to control the behaviour of the rest of the bees in the hive.

Worker bees are the type that I tried to get photographs of today. They have a multitude of jobs: collecting pollen, build and protect their hive, help to ensure the honey being created is of the right moisture content by flapping their wings, producing wax which is used to cover the hexagonal cells where honey is stored.

Melittology is the study of bees, and comes from the greek ‘Melitta’, meaning bee. The fear of bees is called either melissophobia (from the same root) or apiphobia, from the Latin. It seems odd that the study of bees comes from the Greek, the phobia shares two routes, and a bee-keeper (apiarist) is Latin.

Wonderfully, Dumbledore is likely named after a bee too, as it is the rarest form of bumblebee, dumble being evocative of the sound and dore specifically meaning flying, buzzing insect. The ‘dumble’ element was also used to label people who were considered stupid – sorry, Albus!

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