While ‘natural beekeepers’ are used to considering a honeybee colony more in terms of its intrinsic value to the natural world than its capability to produce honey for human use, conventional beekeepers and also the public most importantly are much more likely to associate honeybees with honey. This has been the main cause of the attention directed at Apis mellifera since we began our association with them just a couple thousand in years past.
Put simply, I believe a lot of people – whenever they think it is at all – usually imagine a honeybee colony as ‘a living system who makes honey’.
Before that first meeting between humans and honeybees, these adaptable insects had flowering plants and the natural world largely to themselves – give or take the odd dinosaur – and over a length of ten million years had evolved alongside flowering plants together selected people that provided the best and level of pollen and nectar because of their use. We could think that less productive flowers became extinct, save if you adapted to using the wind, instead of insects, to spread their genes.
Like those years – perhaps 130 million by some counts – the honeybee continuously developed into the highly efficient, extraordinarily adaptable, colony-dwelling creature that individuals see and speak to today. By means of a variety of behavioural adaptations, she ensured a high degree of genetic diversity from the Apis genus, among the propensity in the queen to mate at a ways from her hive, at flying speed and at some height in the ground, with a dozen roughly male bees, that have themselves travelled considerable distances using their own colonies. Multiple mating with strangers from outside the country assures a qualification of heterosis – vital to the vigour from a species – and carries its very own mechanism of selection for the drones involved: merely the stronger, fitter drones are you getting to mate.
A rare feature with the honeybee, which adds a species-strengthening edge against their competitors to the reproductive mechanism, would be that the male bee – the drone – is born from an unfertilized egg with a process generally known as parthenogenesis. Which means the drones are haploid, i.e. have only one set of chromosomes produced by their mother. This in turn signifies that, in evolutionary terms, top biological imperative of passing it on her genes to future generations is expressed in their own genetic acquisition of her drones – remembering that her workers cannot reproduce and they are thus a genetic stalemate.
Hence the suggestion I designed to the conference was that the biologically and logically legitimate means of regarding the honeybee colony can be as ‘a living system for producing fertile, healthy drones when it comes to perpetuating the species by spreading the genes of the most useful quality queens’.
Considering this label of the honeybee colony gives us an entirely different perspective, in comparison to the traditional perspective. We can now see nectar, honey and pollen simply as fuels just for this system and the worker bees as servicing the demands of the queen and performing all the tasks necessary to guarantee the smooth running from the colony, for your ultimate reason for producing high quality drones, which will carry the genes with their mother to virgin queens using their company colonies far away. We can speculate as to the biological triggers that create drones to become raised at certain times and evicted and even wiped out at other times. We could look at the mechanisms that could control diet plan drones as being a percentage of the overall population and dictate the other functions that they’ve inside the hive. We can easily imagine how drones seem to be capable of finding their strategy to ‘congregation areas’, where they appear to assemble when expecting virgin queens to pass by, once they themselves rarely survive a lot more than three months and hardly ever over the winter. There’s much that individuals still have no idea and might never fully understand.
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