Category Archives: Apis mellifera

Science and photography, facts and fiction: learn more about honey bees.

Video: Life Cycle of the Honey Bee

At 10 minutes in length, this video provides a good introduction to the lifecycle of honey bees. It is suitable for school science classes, for home-schooling activities, and even for new beekeepers who’d just like to see some excellent footage of what they can expect to see happening in the hive through the beekeeping season.

The life cycle of a honey bee is presented as an example of complete metamorphosis, the development of an insect from egg to larva, then pupa, then adult. Moths, butterflies and wasps also develop with complete metamorphosis. Some aspects of beekeeping are also discussed.

Metamorphosis is one of a series of science videos from Hila Science Camp, Ontario, Canada. Preview versions of these videos are made available for viewing online through Google Video and Youtube without charge, or for purchase as a higher quality download at

How Honeybee Colonies Choose a Nest When Swarming

From the National Geographic:

A single ant or bee isn’t smart, but their colonies are. The study of swarm intelligence is providing insights that can help humans manage complex systems, from truck routing to military robots.

Specifically referenced is the work of Thomas Seeley, on a small island off the coast of Maine, on how the honeybee colony picks a new home when swarming. (This starts on page two, part way down, if you want to skip the ant-related stuff).

Swarm Behavior | Swarm Theory by Peter Miller
National Geographic, July 2007

Bees Might Be Able to Sniff Out Disease

bee-powered diagnosticsYou may already be familiar with the fact that bees can be trained to find explosives, drugs, and military chemicals?

Now one British student, Susana Soares, is looking into how bees’ exceptional sniffing abilities might help humans in other ways. The possibilities might include training bees to detect a pregnancy or diagnose a disease condition, simply through the scent of a person’s breath.

Bees have a phenomenal odour perception. They can be trained within minutes using Pavlov’s reflex to target a specific odour and their range of detection includes pheromones, toxins and disease diagnosis.

Soares is a second year student at the Royal College of Art, ” the world’s only wholly postgraduate university institution of art and design – fine art, applied art, design, communications and humanities.” Her interest is in the benefits to be derived from integrating human science and design with elements of the natural world.

See also:
Active Monitoring, Conditioning of Bees to Find Chemicals and Devices

When Is the Queen Bee Not the Queen?

University of North Carolina biology student Andrew Pierce has just discovered something previously unknown about the behaviour of the European honeybee — “perhaps the most studied and economically important insect on Earth.”

It seems that the queen bee is not, after all, the absolute ruler of the hive.

“Major colony activities are initiated by the cumulative group actions of the colony’s older workers, not by the queen’s individual decision,” Pierce’s research shows. It is the older workers that signal to the queen and to the rest of the colony that it’s time to swarm. Inside the swarm cluster itself, workers make the “piping” noise that we normally associate with queens in competition with each other, telling the queen to fly.

“Researchers have never reported worker piping being done on the queen before, so some of what we found was exciting,” Pierce said. “It was generally surprising to see the level of interaction that the older bees have with the queen. This doesn’t normally happen in the hive.”

But this doesn’t mean that there’s a group of experienced bees who control the actions of the hive. Because bees have such short life spans and tiny brains, they aren’t capable of “managing the colony the way a human village might be managed by a council of elders.” Instead, it appears that the dynamics of the group itself — complex social interactions, environmental pressures or group dynamics — are “in some still-unknown way” the driving force behind all the complex group activities that honeybees undertake.

See also:
UNC Charlotte Undergraduate Publishes Significant Finding on Honeybee Societies: Older worker bees– not queen – inititate action, make decisions 11 June 2007

The Wonderful World of Bees

The Wonderful World of Bees first aired on the CBS program “Sunday Morning” back in August 2006 — but you can still see the fascinating documentary and read the related article, What’s All The Buzz About? Bees Provide Humans With More Than Just Painful Stings, on the CBS website.

Martha Teichner provides an in-depth look at the fascinating life of the bee, who travel thousands of miles and visit millions of flowers in order to produce honey.

Holley Bishop, the author of Robbing the Bees, is one of the beekeepers who talk about their favourite insects on this excellent TV documentary.