Worker bees live for about 6 weeks (that’s only 42 days) during the summer. As they mature, they progress through different hive jobs. Between the ages of 12 and 23 days, a small proportion of worker bees will be on guard duty for just hours to a few days of their lives. Their sting glands will develop and they will start to produce venom.
The guard stance
When a bee takes up guard duty, it stands at the entrance of the hive in single-minded guarding preoccupation. It will plant its hind legs firmly and raise its forelegs up. It will hold its antennae forward and “bee” on the lookout for strange bees or predators.
Protecting the hive
Guard bees protect the hive from two different invaders: foreign bees and predators.
Each hive has its own individual odor carried by the bees of that hive. As soon as a bee tries to enter a hive, it is accosted by a guard bee. It it doesn’t pass the sniff test, then the bee will either be ejected from the hive or killed.
Alternatively, if the guard bee detects a potential threat near the hive, it will fly out and immediately attack and sting the invader. Although this appears to be an offensive move, it is really defensive, as the guard is protecting its home. The sting releases an alarm odor that will attract and excite other members of the hive. Hundreds of bees will rush to the entrance of the hive ready to attack and defend.
The bees that defend the hive by stinging will lose their lives in the process. But other bees will step up to become guards almost immediately. It’s just another day in The Days of Their Lives: Bee Edition.
Blogging my way from A to Z as part of the 2015 April A to Z Challenge! My theme for this year: Honeybees