Honeybees are social insects that live in a colony known as a hive, which is made up of three castes:
- The queen - the only reproductive female in the hive and can lay up to 1500 eggs daily.
- The worker - sterile females who are the most numerous bee in the hive (around 35 000 in a hive). They gather nectar, pollen and water necessary for the hives growth. They secrete wax to build honeycomb and convert nectar to honey. They also defend the hive, maintain the brood nest at 33.9°C and feed the larvae and the queen.
- The drone - stingless males whose sole function is to mate with the new queen, then he dies. He has no pollen baskets or wax glands like the worker.
- The queen bee deposits a fertilized egg into each wax cell which hatches into a larva that has to be fed by nurse worker bees. After the larva has grown until it fills the cell, a matter of about six days, the nurses cover the cell with a wax lid sealing it in for pupation. About twelve days later a sterile female worker bee emerges. A few of the eggs laid by the queen are not fertilized and these develop into male drones. Only the strongest drone will mate with the queen. Queenship is not genetically determined. A few selected larva are fed a high protein diet of royal jelly, a special glandular secretion produced by the worker bees. Only one of the developing queens will be allowed to mature. The rest will be stung to death.
- The honeybee has a very fascinating community life. When a new food source has been found, the worker bee performs an intricate dance at the entrance of the hive which informs the other worker bees of the exact distance and direction of the new flowers. In late spring with the build up of numbers in the hive, a new queen will develop and take flight to look for a new hive site, taking the drones and excess workers with her. These swarms can be a nuisance and a danger if they are provoked.
- The most common and effective method to control a bee hive is to chemically dust the entrance of the hive. This will kill some of the bees and repel the rest of them away from the hive.
- A non-chemical approach to controlling bees is to fit a reverse cone over the entrance of the hive. Bees can leave the hive easily but cannot locate the entrance on their return.
- Bee stings can be very painful, especially to young children who are most at risk. Their sting can be a serious health threat to people who are allergic to the venom. Itching, pain and swelling can be reduced with antihistamines and a cold/ice compress. But if the person who is stung is allergic to the venom, then immobilise and wrap a bandage around the stings and seek medical attention immediately. The greatest risk however, is to be stung in the mouth or throat where the swelling can restrict or stop breathing. Honey bees have a barbed stinger which is left in the skin, attached to the venom sack. Therefore a bee can only sting once.
An experienced and licensed PEST–ZAP specialist is trained in bee management. Under no circumstances should bee control be attempted or undertaken by an inexperienced or unqualified person, as this can be extremely dangerous.
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