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Metamorphosis or Development of Honey Bees

The paragraphs that follow that deal with insect development in general terms, are due to David H. Headrick. The details that deal specifically with honey bees have been added by myself. This page is a general one and it will be followed at some time in the future with a page that deals with each individual day in the entire life of honey bee individuals, from the perspective of workers, drones and queens. I hope to also include variations due to race in this detailed analysis.

The eggs of Hymenoptera (bees and wasps) are laid in specially constructed cells. The eggshells of these social insects are not thick, elaborately sculptured or unusually shaped because they are protected by the cell itself.

Most insects change in form during post-embryonic development - this change is called metamorphosis.

Simple metamorphosis is a gradual change with egg - nymph - and adult stages. The nymphs are usually similar in appearance to the adults. Entomologists recognize three types of simple metamorphosis Ametabolous, paurometabolous and hemimetabolous.

Ametabolous insects are typically primitive, wingless as adults and the only obvious difference between nymphs and adults is size. This type of development occurs in the apterygote orders Protura, Collembola, Diplura, Microcoryphia, and Thysanura.

In hemimetabolous metamorphosis (incomplete) the nymphs are aquatic and use gills for breathing and differ considerably from the adults in appearance. This type of development occurs in the Ephemeroptera, Odonata, and Plecoptera. They young of these insects are also called naiads.

Paurometabolous insects (Gradual) include the remaining insects with simple metamorphosis as listed later. One example is hemipterans The adults are winged, the nymphs and adults live in the same habitat, and the principle changes during growth are in size, body proportions, the development of ocelli, and wings.

Complete metamorphosis is what we are most familiar with - it is referred to as holometabolous. The larva and adult are very different in structure, and often in habitat and feeding modes - but they are the same individual! The thought is that this cuts down on the competition between adults and their offspring for resources. The larvae are often worm or maggot like with chewing mouthparts, the wings and compound eyes form internally in special groups of cells but don't express their full development until the adult features begin to develop during pupation. Pupation follows the last larval instar and often occurs in a protective material. Pupae do not feed. Most feeding takes place during the larval stages - adults may feed but they do not grow and have no further moulting. Adults often emerge from the pupal stage as soft and pale and require time to expand their wings and for the exoskeleton to harden.

In the case of honey bees there is further development in the maturation and subsequent attrification of various glands. Behavioral changes also occur with ageing but the demarcation between these behaviours becomes blurred with some insects able to perform multifunctions or to switch between functions.

Dave Cushman.

Page created 2001

Page updated 30/11/2022