After days of rain, barely a drizzle this morning
from the evenly applied greyness.
A light but steady flight of bees in and out,
and in the stillness of the humid air,
a toasty, honeyed fragrance
from the warm, dry inner darkness.
There the sisterhood congregates in the tens of thousands,
shifting constantly in their work
- caring for the young, storing provisions -
the faint buzz of the hive
rising like a whispered prayer
into the cloudy sky.
… expanding the forager workforce for an early spring
Pollen - source of protein, lipids, and vitamins for the hive - is a key ingredient in bee bread - made by mixing pollen and honey. This is the first food of newly emerged adult bees and is the protein-rich diet that stimulates secretions of their hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands, so that - on their third day of adult life - these workers can function for a while as nurse bees.
As the queen begins frenetic egg laying (many hundreds a day) to produce the eventual foragers needed to gather the early spring's nectar and pollen output, the hive's pantry must be stocked to allow for feeding of the brood. Eggs hatch in 3 days.
Milky secretions ( bee milk, a.k.a. royal jelly ) from glands in the heads of nurse bees are the only food eaten by newly-hatched larvae for their first few days. Larval diet is then supplemented with pollen and honey, making the pabulum fed by nurse bees to their younger sisters over the next few days
On day 6 post-hatching, larvae spin cocoons, become pupae, and are sealed in their wax cells, metamorphosing and eating no more for two weeks. Yet, though the larvae eat no more, imaginal discs - centers that organize the cell differentiation leading to the adult bee body form - essentially digest the well-fed larval corpus, as it is replaced from within by the developing adult.
New adult bees emerge on day 21 ... hungry for bee bread.