Ecology And Environment

The Ecology of Honeybees



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Honeybees have a very interesting way of interacting with each other and with other forms of life.
In order for a honeybee to produce honey it collects a sweet sugary substance called nectar from flowers. As it lands on the petals of a flower to suck nectar from its base, it collects a powdery substance - pollen on its surface. It also collects pollen into a flattened structure on its hind leg referred to as the pollen basket. After it has collected enough nectar from a particular plant it moves to another plant and in the process some of the pollen grains which it collected from the previous plant are deposited on the new plant.
This process may seem insignificant to a casual observer but is in fact very important in ensuring the perpetuation of certain plant species.

Apart from pollination, honeybees transport nectar to honeycombs in their hives and then allow it to evaporate into a thick, sticky substance honey, which they use as food during lean seasons like winter. Honey is used by man as a sweetener and has many advantages when compared with other man-made sweeteners. Animals also feed on the honey that honeybees produce.

Amongst honeybees there is a system of interdependence that is beautiful to observe. In the bee hive there are castes and each caste has a specific function. The queen is the biggest member and her function is to produce more bees which she does by mating with the males-drones and then laying eggs.
The workers are the busy ones; they go about foraging for nectar and pollen before winter. They clean the hive and early in their lives produce a substance beeswax which they use to build the honeycomb, where they produce and store honey and also eggs from the queen bee.
The drones are actually quite lazy as they do nothing apart from mating with the queen during the mating season. Most of them die after that.

Honeybees can be quite aggressive when they feel threatened. Visitors are not welcome in their hives and one can be sure that any intrusion would be met by an aggressive group of worker bees who would defend the hive with their painful sting. Unfortunately for them they all have only one sting after which they die. The only exception is the queen bee that can still live after stinging.

The interesting thing about honeybees is that they seem to understand what ecology is all about the interactions among living things in their natural habitat. It is amazing how even the most insignificant organism (such as the drones in the hive) or processes (such as collection of pollen on a bee) could be so important to all the living organisms in a habitat. Each individual, as it carries out its natural life processes, (feeding, reproduction, respiration, locomotion) contributes to keeping the ecosphere in perfect balance and harmony.

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