The workers

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The workers

Functions of the workers

The workers perform the tasks of construction and maintenance of the comb and the jobs of feeding. They raise the brood, guard the hive, clean it and ventilate it, etc.

There is no way of distinguishing the workers except by the functions they perform, be it nursing, foraging, wax-making etc. All the workers are destined to perform all the useful tasks of the colony without distinction, according to the seasons, the time and the circumstances. Only the young workers

are exclusively occupied with the work inside the hive, as their bodies are not sufficiently developed to withstand inclement weather.

Times of sorties

It has been said that workers go out at any time of day in spring, only in the morning in summer, and never when it is raining or cold.

It is more correct to say that the workers go out when their occupation is possible, as often as they have some chance of finding nectar, pollen or propolis.

But the rain so greatly weighs down the worker that it prevents her flying, and below 8 C, bees becomes sluggish.

In summer, workers look for nectar first and foremost. But the midday sun dries up the flowers. In spring it is above all pollen that the workers forage for. But neither heat not cold completely halts production.

Some figures

A bee weighs about one tenth of a gramme. She can bring back half her weight, i.e. 0.05 g, though sometimes she brings back only 0.02 g. To bring in a kilogramme of nectar, it is necessary for the bee to make 50,000 trips or 50,000 bees to make one trip. A bee can make twenty trips a day of one kilometre return, bringing in 0.4 g nectar. The harvest of 1 kg of nectar thus represents more than 40,000 kilometres, i.e. more than the circumference of the Earth.

Life span of a worker

Workers can live a maximum of one year following queenlessness and a bad season, i.e. when workers have little activity.

In normal colonies in a good season, as a result of their incessant activity, workers live a maximum of two or three months, often only three or four weeks.

Habits of workers

Amongst the bees of the same colony one observes a unity and understanding to a degree of perfection that exists nowhere else. For all the bees have one and the same aim, one and the same ambition, namely the prosperity of the colony.

For the same reason, the workers challenge neighbouring bees. They examine them and, except in certain cases, when they have recognised that they are strangers they drive them away and often sting them to death, without realising that this act of violence causes their own death.

Bee polymorphism

The difference between a worker and a queen comes solely from the shape of the cell in which the larva develops and its nourishment. Who dares to affirm this?

If it is a question of only more or less complete development, one might accept the dominant influence of nourishment and environment. But there are divergences between queen and worker which cannot be attributed to the conditions and to the cradle. The worker possesses certain organs such as pollen baskets and wax secreting glands which are missing on the queen, and she, for her part,

has certain things that one does not find on the neuter bee. But this dissimilarity of the organism cannot be attributed to the conditions. It can only come from the nurse bees who by instinct know to what treatment they must subject a larva out of which will come a worker that will be endowed with the necessary organs for functions that she will have to fulfil; they know equally what upbringing to give a larva destined to produce a queen in order to fortify her or atrophy organs she does not need, and on the other hand develop those necessary for her maternal functions.

We have to admit that the nurse bees of a hive have an amazing ability if we wish to explain the polymorphism of the bees.

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