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The Honey Bee
The life cycle of a honey bee begins with an egg. In late winter, the queen of an established colony begins to lay eggs in individual cells in the honeycomb. An established queen probably mated the previous spring, and since she is able to store over five million sperm she has no need to mate again. If the eggs are fertilized, they will hatch into worker bees, which are all females. If the eggs are unfertilized, they still hatch, but the offspring are drones or male bees. For the cycle of the hive to continue, the queen must lay fertilized eggs to produce a strong hive filled with worker bees.

A bee egg is only 1.2 mm long, about half the size of a grain of rice. It would take 50 bee eggs lined up in a row to be as long as a chicken egg! As the queen lays eggs, her movements over the comb seem to be random, and she will put her head into the cells and examine them before laying an egg. Laying an egg only takes a few seconds, and the queen can lay up to 1900 eggs a day during the early spring.

The pattern layed by a healthy, young queen has eggs closely packed in cells next to one another. As the queen ages, she may stop laying large numbers of eggs and the pattern of eggs in the comb may become patchy. In general, eggs are layed in the center of a frame and are surrounded by pollen stores with honey stores on the outer edges.

Each egg that is layed is attached to the side of the cell by a mucous strand. During the first stages of development before the egg hatches, the nervous system, the outer covering and the organs of the digestive system are formed. The egg remains in an upright position (with the soon to develop head on top) for three days then gradually leans onto its side. Each of the eggs will hatch into a new larval bee, and the eggs and developing larvae are called "brood". In three days, the egg hatches into a larva, which lacks legs, wings, antennae and eyes. The larva resembles a grain of rice with a mouth, and its sole function is to EAT and grow.

Bees in the hive called "Nurse Bees" usually feed the developing larvae a mixture of honey, pollen and glandular secretions known as "Bee Bread". A richer food known as "royal jelly" is made from special glands in the nurse bee's head. If royal jelly is fed to a larva less than three days old, the larva will develop into a queen, although this usually doesn't happen unless the colony is going to swarm, or if something has happened to the old queen. As the larva grows, it passes through five instars or stages, and sheds its skin after each stage except for the last one. During this time, nurse bees will visit an individual an average of 1300 times daily. The nurse bees spend all of their time checking on and feeding the developing brood. During this stage the larvae have 13 segments and a small head. The larval stomach is well developed and runs the length of the body. The head contains disk-like depressions that mark where the antennae will develop. At this stage the mandibles and maxillae are developed as is the duct of the silk gland and the spinneret which will be used when the larva spins its cocoon. After six days, the larva reaches the fifth instar, the cell is capped by the adult workers and the larvae spins a cocoon. In 8 to 10 days, the cocoon or pupa hatches into an adult bee.

Worker bees, which live only around 35 days in the summer, develop special wax-producing glands on their abdomens and are most efficient at wax production during the 10th through the 16th days of their lives. The bees consume honey (6-8 pound of honey are need to produce a pound of wax) causing the special wax-producing glands to covert the sugar into wax which is extruded through small pores. The wax appears as small flakes on the bees' abdomen. At this point the flakes are essentially transparent and only become white after being chewed. It is in the mastication process that salivary secretions are added to the wax to help soften it. This also accounts for its change in color.

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