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Honeybee Hives: A Matriarchal Matrix

May 15, 2020

by Aaron Pflug • Kidzeum Staff

If you’ve seen the Observation Hive at Kidzeum (or observed a functioning honeybee hive some other way), you were probably impressed by everything those little honeybees accomplish. From construction of the well-known honeycomb structure(s) that store honey, eggs, and developing larvae to the flurry of daily activity covering all aspects of hive maintenance and survival, honeybees are always busy (as a bee should be)!

Well, ladies, take a bow! Because virtually everything that happens in a honeybee hive is done by female honeybees!

Of course, there’s the queen. And, while the queen may not be “in charge” in the sense her title suggests, she does have a critical and unique function: egg laying. Constant egg laying. And, without her egg laying prowess, the hive would struggle to maintain the population necessary to build and sustain a successful hive. So, really, it all starts with her.

But the bulk of the work will be done by the aptly titled worker bees. Throughout their adult life, worker bees might do several different jobs: cleaning of egg cells, construction of new honeycomb, caring for the queen, protecting the hive from outside threats, regulating temperature…or anything else the hive may require. That’s before you even get into nectar and pollen collection and the production of honey! And every, single, one of these fanatic workers is female.

That leaves the male honeybees, known as drones. What is it they do to keep up the hive? Unless the hive temperature moves outside the comfort zone, and the drones are pressed into duty to help cool or warm the hive, they do absolutely nothing. In fact, they spend a great deal of time away from the hive in congregation areas, waiting for an unfertilized queen to arrive. And, then, they die.

There’s a lot to do around the hive, day-to-day, week-to-week. The projects hives undertake – from the initial construction of the honeycomb to the production and storage of honey – are massive in relation to the size of a honeybee. Hives need a voluminous and relentless workforce to get it all done!

Yes – it really does take everybody pitching in to ensure the hive not only survives but thrives!

And by everybody, I mean everybody except the drones.

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