The Worker Bee – All worker bees are female. However, worker bees are unable to reproduce (eusocial). Worker bees play a critical role in nearly all colony activities. Worker bees visit flowers collecting pollen and nectar. Pollen is collected on the back legs of worker bees. These pollen baskets or corbicula are transported back to the colony. Back at the hive, the pollen is converted into densely nutritious food which supports the developing brood. The nectar is collected by a “straw-like” structure called a proboscis. Once in the stomach of the bee, the nectar is mixed with enzymes. When the worker bee returns to the hive, the nectar-enzyme mixture is regurgitated into wax cells and will eventually become honey.
During the process of pollen and nectar collection, worker bees perform the critical task of pollination. The processes of pollination and cross-pollination are necessary and vital for the success of nearly every terrestrial ecosystem. Many plant species rely on various pollinators for reproduction and expansion. Honey bees are considered both a keystone species and a mutualist. Other pollinators include bats, hummingbirds, and a variety of insects.
The colonies brood population requires very specific temperatures to ensure proper development. The brood area of the hive must be kept at 34.4°C (93.92°F) to incubate eggs. Collective worker bee fanning and watering can cool the brood area and huddling to generate body heat can warm the brood area.
Worker bees are responsible for protecting the colony. They must drive out any invaders. Often they sacrifice their very lives for the colony. The stinger of the worker bee is barbed. The stinger is ripped from her body following the act of stinging, resulting in her death.
Worker bees also care for and tend to the queen’s every need. In addition, albeit reluctantly, worker bees must care for the drones. As the honey producing season comes to a close and temperatures fall, the worker bees expel all drones from the hive.
Submitted By: Brantley Crowder