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Bees, Pacific Northwest

Bees, Pacific Northwest
Bees, Photo By Bud Logan

Bees are capable of seeing ultraviolet light, which is invisible to humans. They are capable of navigating by ultraviolet light, which even penetrates cloud cover. Honey bees also use the sun as a reference point to communicate to others the angle of flight to be followed to arrive at newly discovered nectar bearing flowers.

They occur on all continents except Antarctica. They are most frequent in hot, arid habitats. There are about 3500 species  in North America. All live on nectar and pollen. We need them, without them plant pollination would be difficult and time consuming.  One third of our food production directly  depends on insect pollination, and they are our most productive pollinators. They have a long tongue called a proboscis that allows them to drink the nectar from deep within blossoms. Honeybees are social insects that live in hives. The hive consists of a single queen, a few hundred drones, and thousands of workers.

The workers are all female, and they do almost everything for the hive. From her birth to her death 45 days later, the worker is  responsible for everything, feeding the larvae, tending to the queen, cleaning the hive, collecting food, guarding the colony and building honeycomb.

bees,Pacific Northwest
Bees, Photo By Bud Logan

The males are drones and their only job is to mate with queens from other hives. After mating, they die. If they do not mate, they can live up to 90 days. You can tell which bees are drones by their bigger bodies and large eyes.

There is one queen per hive and she is the mom of all the others. She can lay about 1,500 eggs a day during spring and summer. Queens are distinguished from the other members of the hive by their long abdomens and small wings. Soon after birth, queens will go out and  mate with as many drones as she can, then she returns to the hive and will not leave again. When the colony needs a new queen, the workers will choose a healthy larva and feed it royal jelly, royal jelly is produced in the heads of young workers, it helps this larva grow into a queen. Queens can live from 4 to 7 years.

There are many types of bees, some live in large hives and others are more inclined to live solitary lives, some nest as individuals in a common nesting site like the digger bees. There are also many types of bumble bees, before the import of honey bees from Europe, the bumble bees were the best pollinators here.

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