You probably may have seen some of your bees with a different color out of their original color, and you are like, “what happened?”
Yes, you are right to be surprised although, it is not an unusual thing.
Bees have been known to change their colors during their biological reproductive cycle, when they are sick and when they get old. This is a normal process that helps them reproduce and also distinguish the sick ones in the colony
It happens in some cases. And, this is what we will be discussing in this article. The question “can bees change colors” will be fully answered and at the end of the article. You will know why, how and when it happens.
Why do bees change colors?
There are three sides to these answers.
1. Biological Reproductive Cycle
Firstly, it can be a genetic natural phenomenon. As you are aware, a queen bee mates many times with different drones before she begins to lay eggs.
The sperm collected from all these different drones is mixed together and held down in “spermathecal” which is a storage organ in the queen bees’ body.
Therefore, for every egg the queen bee produces, she draws supply from these sperms held in her spermathecal to fertilizer them.
These fertilized eggs end up becoming workers or new queens.
Each new female bee gets half of her genetic material from the queen bee (her mother) and a half from one of the drones (her father).
According to Wikipedia, there are over 16,000 known species of bees in seven recognized biological families.
They include honey bees, bumblebees, and stingless bees, these three families live in colonies while most species (less than 90%) which include mason bees, carpenter bees, leafcutter bees, and sweat bees are solitary.
Let’s take, for instance, a queen bee mated with seven drones from the different bee families.
This means she has sperms from seven different species of bees. When she gets the eggs fertilized with these sperms.
At first, they may look like the drone with some mixture of the queen bee’s characteristics. Let me bring it down a little.
A queen bee has two chromosomes while the done has one chromosome.
A fertilized egg which is either a worker or a little queen bee may look like the drone at the first stage but later graduate and change colour to be like the mother. Also, sometimes the reverse happens.
So, now you see that a bee while growing tends to change colour to look more like either of its parents. So you need not worry.
But isn’t multiple mating dangerous? Won’t it disrupt the bees’ health and genetic composition? If you are bothered with the above question, we need you to relax as we unfold the answer to you.
Related: Here is an article I wrote on can bees be trained?
Multiple mating strengthens a colony
Contrary to public beliefs and some of your fears about multiple mating, it does good and no harm.
Let’s take for instance, that a queen bee was mated by seven different species of bee. If one of the species has a problem.
For instance, honeybee gets seriously sick to the point of dying when it sniffs apple pollen, this trait might be recessive or likely weaken to give its offspring more immunity. (This is an example, a honeybee does not get affected from sniffing apple’s pollens)
Although, some of its offspring will have this trait, but it will be like half of the offspring not all.
So these help to complement the deficiency of that gene. Imagine if all the offspring are from this particular drone. The queen bee will be at risk of losing all offspring.
Importance of multiple mating
- Disease resistance
- Overwintering ability
- Foraging distances
- Stress regulation
- Genetically control so-called “bad genes or traits”.
2. When the bee is sick?
The second point is that your bees may change color when they are sick. It may be that they fell ill from a disease, a parasitic infection, or some injury you weren’t able to detect.
They may start looking grey or yellowish.
Also check out this article I wrote on can bees drink sugar water?
3. When the bee is old
Lastly, when a bee is old and about to die, changes starts happening.
Some of the changes include ragged wings and loss of hair, making her look shiny and black.
So if your bees are changing colors, the above three reasons might be the cause.
If they are young, you will know that it is their natural genetic modification process. If they are adults, you can suspect the last two points.
Although the second point might affect the young bees too. You just have to watch them closely before making a decision.
When do bees change colors?
From the above information. You can see that bees change colour when they are:
- Still growing into adult bees
- Sick from disease or parasitic infections
- Old and about to die
Bees changing colors is not altogether a bad thing.
It is just the reason behind the change that can be either dangerous or not dangerous.
With utmost care, we know that you can easily detect and pinpoint out what is wrong with your bee when you see them changing color with the knowledge gotten from this article.
So the question, “can bees change colors” is not a mystery anymore but an understandable phenomenon.