During a worker bees’ lifetime in the hive, they are appointed to different jobs based on their age. Just as any healthy beehive, everyone works as if they are in a factory, each has a full understanding of their role and works hard until the last minute. From the moment a bee hatches from the egg, they immediately start working. As they get older, their age identifies their role inside the hive. We have identified each role that a bee fulfils in its lifetime.
Upon being born, each bee immediately becomes a nurse. First off, it starts cleaning the cell they hatched out off to prepare it for the next egg. As a nurse, they’re the ones that take care of the babies. They will feed the worker brood as they develop also the drones. They also feed queen cells the royal jelly, a concentration they produce from their food glands that helps the queen bee’s development. Nurse bees can also be the hive’s medical specialists! According to a study, nurse bees can distribute honey as medicine to bees that may have an infection. They also select honey that has the highest antibiotic activity and distributes it to the members of the colony.
When the bees are a little bit older, they become in charge of removing the dead bees and take them out of the hive. They also clean up bee parts and remove other debris. It’s also known they can quickly remove diseased or dead broods before they become a threat to all the members of the hive.
When bees are mature enough (approximately 12 days old), their wax glands mature and enable them to produce beeswax. Beeswax is the material they use to construct a comb. In order to produce wax flakes, they must consume large amounts of food. Wax flakes help with building new wax comb and capping ripened honey or even the brood.
Bees can be really obsessed with cleaning. This includes cleaning other bees in the hive or attending the foragers when they return from their trips. The cleaners can also be organisers, where they stay in the hive and collect the pollen and nectar from returning bees, pack them into cells and put them away.
Sometimes, house bees can also act as honey producers. Once the nectar is brought in the hive from the foragers, the house bees or honey producers will chew it for about half an hour. While doing so, they add a digestive enzyme to the nectar, breaking it down, forming a simple syrup. The same enzymes reduce water content and moisture in the nectar, making it easier to digest and resist bacteria while being stored in the hive. Once done, they will then distribute the syrup to the honeycombs. She then spreads the tops out to maximise the surface area to let the water continue to evaporate from the honey syrup to make it thicker over time. Sometimes, they will also fan inside the hive to help reduce the water content.
The fanners are responsible to control the temperature and humidity inside the hive. During summer seasons, these bees need to collect water within a short distance and bring it back to the hive. They then spread it on the fanning bees. Bees ventilate the hive by fanning their wings, creating airflow in the hive whilst cooling it with evaporated water.
Only some of the worker bees get appointed this job. They’re the ones that groom and feed the queen bee as she is too busy laying eggs. These bees can also put the queen on a diet! During swarm season, large colonies will divide in two to reproduce and propagate their species, this is called swarming in beekeeping terms. Half of the colony including the queen will fly out and start a new colony in a different location. The remaining bees will then make their new queen and continue on. The queen rarely flies out and must fly in a great distance when they swarm due to their size and weight, which is why the attendants will put her on diet as part of the preparation for swarming. The queen loses at least 1/3 of her normal body weight in order to fly out.
Being the guard bee requires a well-developed stinger, which makes them one of the oldest groups in the hive. Worker bees tend to become guards as their last position before they become foragers. The guard bees are usually the ones standing in front of your hives, watching who enters the hive. Resident bees will carry a familiar scent or pheromone that indicates that they are locals. The guard bee also protects the hive against invaders such as bumblebees, wasps, mouse, robber bees or even humans. They also emit a pheromone from a gland near the stinger that alarms other bees on any danger.
The popular group – the foragers – the prime pollinators of the hive. Once a worker bee reaches its full maturity and gains venom on their stinger, they begin to fly out and leave the hive. They are “money makers” so to speak. They’re in charge of flying at least a 3-mile radius from the hive to collect any nectar and pollen. Once their stomach and pollen baskets are full, they go back to the hive and pass on the goods. This repeats as long as the sun is up. As they continue, they eventually get their wing torn. About 6 – 8 weeks, forager bees die in the field. Being a forager may be the last known duties a bee will be in charge of – they will keep working until they are to the edge of death.