With the warmer weather the past few days, our hives have been incredibly active. Bees have been out doing cleansing flights, gathering water and bringing back pollen. With all of this activity we have noticed our winter bees are looking a bit worse for the wear.
When a female bee emerges from a cell (around 18 days from egg to birth) they are furry (or hairy) and slightly lighter in color than the older bees in the hive. The first job a worker bee has after birth is to clean up the cell she came out of. After this is done, she assumes the role of nurse bee. In this role, she takes care of the eggs, larva and bees yet to be born. She will do this for a week give or take.
Next, the worker bee may spend the next few weeks constructing honeycomb, making wax, creating the best place for honey and nectar stores and guarding the entrance to the hive. She may also work as the mortuary bee, bringing the dead out of the hive, and possibly as an attendant to the queen.
Once the worker bee has reached full maturity, she leaves the hive to gather pollen and nectar. Those fine hairs (or fur) on her body help her to bring pollen from one flower to the next, pollenating the world for everyone. She will carry the fruits of her labor back to the hive on her pollen baskets and then leave the hive to do it all again.
As the worker bees fly, their wings and fine hairs begin to look more ragged. An older honeybee has wings that are tattered around the edges. When this is evident, along with diminished hair... a bee is near the end of her life.
Winter bees live longer (6 months) than the typical bee (6 weeks). They have slightly different roles, the main being to keep the colony alive during the winter by keeping the cluster warm. With that said, our winter bees are showing their age. We added a photo taken today of one of our older bees next to a bee that is younger. You can clearly tell the difference. Both are from the same apiary. One is looking tired and at the end of her life.
Next time you eat a teaspoon of Tranquil Hive Honey, you can thank our beautiful lady. She is tired but she has done an amazing job.