As a social insect, the honey bee shares work tasks with other bees in its colony. Each bee performs a series of work tasks according to its age. The young bees clean the hive and feed the developing bees, the brood. As the bees age, they take on different roles including cooling the hive, curing honey, removing dead bees, and guarding the hive entrance. Usually the last job that honey bees take on is that of foraging. The foragers collect four items and bring them back to the hive. These are nectar, pollen, water, and propolys. Propolys is “bee glue” made from the saps and gums of trees. It has antifungal and antibacterial properties, and the bees use it to varnish and seal their hive.
Through most of the year, the worker bees have a life expectancy of about six weeks. They become foragers in the last ten to fifteen days of their life. Foraging is the most dangerous task that bees undertake. There are many hazards awaiting the bees as they fly miles away from the hive. These include birds, cars and trucks, rain storms, and chemical sprays. Just flying for miles and miles every day takes its toll on the foraging honey bees. They can be identified by the loss of some of the hairy covering of their body. Sometimes their wings appear tattered and torn. That is the case with this honey bee foraging on the flowers of collards. She has lost some of the hairs on her body, and her wings are visibly frayed. Foragers usually work until they damage a wing so that they cannot make the return flight to the hive. They unselfishly work to support the colony as long as their wings last.