You might be wondering thinking about the gender of worker bees.
Well, all worker bees are female. Every one of them.
There are three types of bees found in every hive. These bees include the queen bee, the drones, and the worker bees.
The worker bees and the queen are all females.
We would help you understand more about these types of bees and their roles.
Why are all worker bees female?
The worker bees are female-only by gender. But these female worker bees do not breed.
The only female in the hive that breeds is the queen bee. The queen bee creates all the babies for the entire hive.
The drone bees are all males, and they don’t have a sting.
These bees converse with one another in the hive by making use of various dances.
Worker honey bees are all females. Even though these bees are female, they do not have the same properties as the queen bee.
These worker bees are all created and born sterile. The only purpose these worker bees have is to do nothing but work all through their lives.
Worker bees include any eusocial (female) bee which doesn’t have the total reproductive capacity of the queen bee in the hive.
Under several circumstances, these are correlated to an increase in specific reproductive activities, which the queen bee can only do.
Related: Here is an article I wrote on can bees be pets?
Can a worker bee become the Queen Bee?
The queen bee and all worker bees have the same genes. Any female larva can be the queen.
But this happens when the queen lays eggs, and worker bees randomly select around twenty of the fertilized eggs to be the new queen.
After these eggs hatch, the workers feed the larvae using a special meal known as royal jelly.
These potential queens are taken to different special cells inside the hive.
Inside these cells, the first larvae to mature would become the brand new queen.
After the new queen comes, she gets rid of her competitors. If two queens emerge, they battle one another, and then the winner remains the new queen.
Do female worker bees mate?
These female worker bees are unable to mate.
The only thing they can do is lay unfertilized eggs that could change into drones.
The queen bee usually specifically eats any eggs worker bees lay to ensure dominance over reproduction.
In a hive, is the queen bee the only female?
No, all worker bees are female too, the queen bee is simply the only one that gets to reproduce in the hive.
Worker bees are offspring of the queen, and they are all female.
There are males called drones in the hive. These drones fly off to have eggs and reproduce with other going queens to start a new colony.
How do Female Worker Bees work with the Queen Bee?
The job of the worker honey bees is to gather a lot of pollen into pollen baskets using their back legs and take it back to their hives or colonies.
That’s where it is used as food for the developing broods.
This pollen that is carried using the bodies of these worker bees might get carried to other flowers where there are small portions that might rub off onto the pistil.
This results in cross-pollination. A high amount of the world’s food supply, specifically fruit, dramatically depends on the pollination of crops by these honey bees.
Nectar gets sucked up using the proboscis that gets mixed with various stomach enzymes.
It then gets carried back to the colonies and is stored in several cells of wax. In the end, it is evaporated, and it changes into honey.
Also read this article on can and why bees change gender
What is the life cycle of female worker honey bees?
The life cycle of female worker bees includes these below;
- Swarming behaviour
The cycle first starts with their seaming swarming behavior.
Whenever a colony flees, when all the bees leave their colony, or when they divide themselves and create swarms that get broken into different brand new colonies, these bees need to change their behavior to create the first generation in their new homes.
One of the most important tasks would be to create brand new beeswax for the comb.
The comb is way more challenging to build when compared to building honey. Combs needs about six more times the power to create by worker bees.
Brand new hive swarms, which are the top bar hives or empty foundations, would usually be fed sugar water.
These could get consumed rapidly to create brand new wax for the new comb of the colony.
- Tasks progression (days to clean cells 1-2)
The blood cells need to be cleaned before any bee makes use of them in the future. The queen inspects these cells.
If any of them are not satisfied by the queen bee, they wouldn’t be used.
These worker bees from the cleaning phase would ensure that this cleaning is done.
If the cells aren’t clean enough, the queen orders the worker honey bees to clean it over and over again.
- Nursing bees (day 3-12)
The worker honey nurse bees feed the worker larvae using worker jelly secreted from their glands to produce royal jelly.
They also usually get inside the special cells. These create semi-royal jellies which are close to the royal jelly, but it tastes like honey instead.
What are the activities of the female worker bees?
The activities of these female worker bees include the following;
- Sealing honey
Sufficiently dried mature honey is sealed using wax by female worker bees assigned by the queen for this role.
The process of sealing mature honey reduces the rate of absorption of moisture from the air around the honey.
- Feeding the drones
The drones do not feed themselves as they grow. The worker bees feed these drones until the drone bees grow older to feed themselves from the available supply of honey.
- Serving as the attendants of the Queen Bee
On their 7th to 11th day, these queen attendants take outstanding care of the queen by grooming and feeding her.
An essential role played by these worker bees includes spreading the QMP (queen mandibular pheromone) all around the hive.
These pheromones are given off from the queen bee.
After coming in contact with the queen bee, these attendants spread the QMP from one part of the hive to the next.
This signals all other bees that the hive they live and work in still has a living queen.
- Building the honeycomb
Workers would usually carry their wax from several wax-producing female bee workers and create their combs using it.
- Packing of Pollen and Nectar
Nectar and pollen are taken to the hive to feed the brood.
The female worker bees have it as their job to pack these firmly into combed cells and mix them gently with some amount of honey.
Using this process would reduce the rate at which the nectar and pollen would go bad.
Apart from honey, which doesn’t support the life of bacteria, stored nectar and pollen become smelly and bad if it isn’t cared for properly.
It needs to be kept inside honey cells.
The hive walls are covered with skinny coatings of propolis.
These are resinous substances that are easily obtained from plants.
Whenever worker bees add things like enzymes to propolis, some combinations have antifungal and antibacterial properties.
This propolis can be seen at the entrance of beehives.
Propolis aids in providing sufficient ventilation.
All worker bees are female; there are only three types of bees.
The Queen Bee is female and the only type of bee that can reproduce fertilized eggs.
The female worker bees work all through their lifespans and lay unfertilized eggs.
Then, the male drones are taken care of by the worker bees before they grow up, mature, and find other queen bees to fertilize their eggs.
Generally, in common species of bees, the worker bees are usually infertile due to enforced kin altruistic selection.
These are the reasons they never reproduce.
Worker bees are female because of genetic and anatomical reasons.
The larva of bees could become a worker bee or the queen bee depending on the food they are fed for the first three days while still in its egg form.