Thanks to a generous donation from the UMD Biology Department to Glensheen’s Gardening Crew, we now have a microscope! Now we have several great zoomed in photos of our bees! Before we begin, all of the insects used in the photos were found already dead, and no insects were harmed in the making of this blog.
The Honeybee Worker
Pictured above is a honeybee worker. The worker caste is entirely composed of female bees and nearly all of the bees in any hive are these ladies. In her life, a single honeybee will labor to produce roughly one twelfth of a teaspoon of honey. She can perform a wide variety of tasks. They forage for nectar and pollen, guard the hive entrances, raise and care for the brood(brood are baby bees), build comb, and even clean the hive. She has four wings, the smaller pair hides behind the larger. All of the hair on her body helps her gather pollen.
The Honeybee Drone
Above you see a honeybee worker, left, next to a honeybee drone on the right. The drone is the male honeybee, and is quite different when compared to his sisters. His eyes are much larger, covering most of his head, and he is physically bigger too. Drones are rather loud flyers too, giving off a deeper buzz than their smaller sisters. Interestingly enough, drones have no stingers at all, making them harmless. Their only role is to mate with a virgin queen.
See the little needle sticking out with the droplet of clear liquid on it? That’s the bee’s stinger and a little bit of venom leaking out. Most people are not allergic to bees, but some can suffer life threatening reactions from a single sting. A bee sting is a sharp pinch, followed by an itchy burn and swelling. As mentioned before, reactions can vary. Some beekeepers build up a resistance from being stung regularly.
Above is a close up of a stinger. Honeybees do not want to sting you. When a honeybee stings someone, her stinger is pulled out when she flies away because of the small barbs on it. This eventually kills her, as you can see a large portion of her guts come with it. A honeybee on guard duty will often fly around you in a circle, giving you harmless headbutts. Walk away calmly and without swatting her, and you aren’t likely to be stung! But if you are ever stung, use a knife or finger nail to quickly scrape off the stinger! The venom gland will continue to pump venom even after removed from the bee. Also take care not to crush to venom gland because it will push the rest of the venom through the stinger and into you.
The Yellow Jacket
For comparison, this is a yellow jacket under the microscope. Her stinger is a good deal bigger, and she can sting multiple times and even bite. They make paper nests, often in high nooks, and are incredibly aggressive in the defense of their nest.
Overall we are thrilled to have the microscope. It is a huge addition to our educational program and was recently used at an educational Sunday Funday about bees. The kids and their parents got a chance to get an up close look at the bees.