A look at the 7 roles and responsibilities of the worker bee

Aide to the queen
In a beehive, there are 3 individuals: worker bees, drones, and the queen. Worker bees make up the majority of the hive (about 90% of the colony) and they number from 50 000 to 80 000 mature bees.

A worker bee can be found just about anywhere in a beehive because she has so many roles and responsibilities to fill. In her short life of about 30 to 45 days, a worker bee fills all of the following 7 roles:

  1. Cleaner
  2. As she is born, a worker bee's first task is to gnaw through the wax that covered her cell. She must then clean out her cell, and then proceed to clean other cells close-by so they can receive new brood and resources.

  1. Wet nurse
  2. Her next job is to prepare the cells so that eggs can be deposited and then to feed the young larvae that emerge. She will give them a mix of honey, nectar, and royal jelly. Always on duty as a wet nurse, she may visit a larvae up to 1300 times in a day.

  3. Aide to the queen
  4. Certain lucky worker bees become part of Her Majesty's court, and must tend to her every need. Because the queen is so busy laying up to 2000 eggs every day, she must be fed, groomed, and hydrated!
Wax mason
A worker bee can be found just about anywhere in a beehive because she has so many roles and responsibilities to fill.

  1. Wax mason
  2. To produce wax, a worker bee must activate her wax glands situated on the interior of her abdomen. She then excretes small transparent flakes which, once chewed and molded, become the edifice that is the honeycomb!

  3. Air flow control
  4. As an older bee, she may now take on more demanding tasks. Setting up camp at the front of the hive, she joins a line of bees that beat their wings at high speed to force fresh air to circulate inside the hive, cooling it during hot days and reducing humidity.

  1. Guard
  2. At the front entrance of the hive once again, she inspects every bee that enters, making sure they are part of the colony and that no thieves attempt to enter! She may sound the alarm with her pheromones if the colony is under threat from, say, a bear, or a skunk, or a gang of wasps.

  3. Forager
  4. Finally, the worker bee takes to the skies, visiting flowers in order to bring back nectar, pollen, and propolis to the hive. She will fly in a radius of 5 km around the hive, and will do so fervently until she dies of fatigue.
These are the 7 roles and responsibilities that a worker bee will perform. Even more fascinating is the fact that these jobs are fluid and designated based on the immediate needs of the colony.
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