Well, they aren’t really people but pupae are interesting anyhow. As I mentioned before, it is bee season so lots of exciting things are going on. I suppose that you probably know that many critters, bees included, start as eggs. Eggs hatch into larva or little white wormy/caterpillar-looking things. After those larva eat and eat, they grow a lot and finally spin a cocoon after being sealed into their own little honeycomb. Inside that cocoon, they undergo a metamorphosis where they change from ugly, fat worm of a larva into a regular old-fashioned honeybee…been doing it like this for brazillions of years (or maybe 100 million years or so in a form related to current honeybees).
Bees are funny critters. They have serious OCD issues and cannot handle too much open space within their hive. “Bee space” is generally regarded as about 3/8 of an inch. That’s the optimum space for bees to walk around, make more bees, tend to the honey, etc. Leave a space larger than that and they will build comb to fill the void. Space much less than that and they will plug it with propolis, a tar-like substance that is super sticky and will stain anything and everything. Actually, old fashioned violins and furniture were often stained with propolis. Generally, there are gaps larger than the bee space between the tops of bee frames and the lid, between the top and bottom box where the bees live, and other places that just crop up. So, bees do what they do and build honeycomb. The comb is usually drone comb…that is, comb that is a little larger in diameter to accommodate the larger developing drones.
When a beekeeper works within a hive, sometimes that drone comb necessarily gets torn apart as one lifts the lid or pulls out frames. Any drone larvae/pupae/eggs are ruined of course, but it leaves a neat opportunity to see pupae in various stages of development. Early on, they are all white but look very much like a bee…a zombie bee, but still a bee. One of the first things to change during pupation is the color of their eyes. The entirety of the bee might be stark (Winter is coming) white, but their eyes turn pink and then a 3-day-old-bruise shade of purple.
Additionally, drones have a longer development cycle so varroa mites, the pesky parasite bugs that basically killed most wild honeybees in the 1980s, have a greater opportunity to hook onto the pupae. In fact, they even prefer the drones for that reason and, based on smell, selectively choose drone pupae over worker pupae. In fact, there is a school of thought that one should “plant” larger diameter foundation comb on which bees will build drone comb, to entice varroa to attach to drones in a beekeeper-selected area which can be culled.
So, as I was checking out my drone pupae, I noted a small but non-zero number of varroa mites. The level is, in my opinion, still manageable, but I will take measures to cut their number this season after I harvest honey. So, while pupae are people too, varroa mites are not and must die!
5 thoughts on “Pupae are people too”
Such a complicated dance. I’m sure honey producers and those that make their living toting bees from one field to another to pollinate are working on methods to kill the mites but not the bees. Too bad some other bug ( a mite eating bug) can’t live symbiotically in the hive with the bees.
Wow! Nice photos. That’s probably about as close as I’ll ever come to a beehive… I just watch them on the fruit trees and flowers… but it’s fascinating to see inside the hive. That mite looks like the ticks that are out in full force now.
Ron – They look very much like the ticks we see, but a lot smaller. Still nasty crappy creatures though!
Ceecee – there are def people working on the mites but since both are bugs, it is hard to kill one without hurting the other.
Very nice photos. All your posts about bees and the various aspects always remind me of all these things I have forgotten about. Such as I had forgotten about the eyes changing colors first in development. It is always nice to travel down memory lane again.
I am glad there are people like you taking care of the bees Warren.
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