The Roles of Queens, Drones and Worker Honey Bees
Honey bees are relatively small insects, but don’t be deceived by their apparent modest size! They are one of the most amazing living creatures on earth! In fact, the social structure of honey bee colonies is so complex and works so well, even humans can learn valuable lessons from them.
Honey Bee Castes
There are three hone bee types, or castes:
- The Queen
- Worker bees
One interesting thing is that the queen and worker bees have the same genes. To get a new queen, honey bees keep feeding young bee larvae royal jelly beyond the first three days they do it for worker bees. This allows the future queen to grow bigger and to develop its reproductive system to maturity. To allow for their larger size as adults, queen larvae are place in larger cells called queen cells.
By contrast, worker bee larvae get royal jelly only during the first three days after hatching from the egg. After that, they are switched to a diet consisting of honey and plant pollen (bee bread), which inhibits their reproductive organs from developing. The interesting part here is that pollen particles collected from plants by foraging bees contain a very special molecule, called a micro-RNA, which is responsible for blocking the development of the reproductive organs of workers. This ensures worker honey bees are sterile when they reach maturity, making them available for all the chores they do in the hive during the first two weeks after emerging, and for foraging for nectar and pollen in the latter part of their lives. If you think about it, this is a marvelous design, whereby plants provide future bees with what they need to become one of the most effective pollinators in nature!
In the video below, Jayden reviews the three castes of honey bees: the queen, the drones and the worker bees. His passion for these fabulous insects makes him want to invest them with super powers at times, so keep that in mind when you listen. Other than that, I think he did a pretty good job at summarizing the fascinating and complex roles each type of bee plays in the hive.