Are Bees Arthropods – Bees & Beekeeping Information

Beekeeping, or apiculture, is the practice of managing honeybee colonies for bee products such as honey, beeswax, and others.  Beekeeping is a gainful hobby for many people. Are bees playing a significant role in agriculture?

Are Bees Arthropods?

Indeed, honey bees play a remarkable role in agriculture by being the major pollinator of crops. In biological classification, the term 'Arthropoda'  means 'animals with jointed legs'. Arthropods are invertebrates. That includes all animals without a backbone.

Phylum Arthropoda is a principal taxonomic category under which there can be several subgroups called 'classes.' Being a retired biology teacher, I can recall how students I taught in different countries found it difficult to pronounce certain biological terms derived from Greek or Latin.

A typical example is the term 'Arthropoda.' The term Arthropoda is derived from the combination of two Greek words namely 'Arthro' (jointed) and 'pod' (foot). So, animals with jointed legs and segmented body among invertebrates belong to the phylum Arthropoda in the hierarchy of biological classification.

The common species of honey bee reared by beekeepers is the European honeybee called Apis mellifera. Bees are raised in beehives. In nature, bees build their hives on rocks, trees, crevices, and others.

Apiculture is the practice of keeping honeybees for producing honey and other bee products for commercial purposes. Besides, beekeepers raise honeybees for producing honeybee livestock for sale to other beekeepers. Valuable bee products such as bee pollen, royal jelly, and propolis are derived from honey bees.  

Why Bees are Arthropods?

Animals belonging to phylum Arthropoda have some basic characteristic features such as the presence of:   

  • Chitinous exoskeleton
  • Segmented body
  • Jointed appendages
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    Bilateral symmetry 
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    Open circulatory system

Honey bees possess all the basic characteristics mentioned above, and they are undoubtedly arthropods.

What are the Classes under Phylum Arthropoda?

Based on body appendages, habitat, organs of respiration, mode of excretion, etc., Phylum Arthropoda is classified into the following classes, namely:

  • Crustacea: It includes arthropods such as crabs, lobsters, shrimps, barnacles, woodlice, etc.
  • Myriapoda: It includes arthropods such as millipedes and centipedes.
  • Arachnida: It includes arthropods such as scorpions, spiders, ticks, and mites.
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    Insecta: It includes all insects including the honeybees. 

How To Become a Successful Beekeeper

beekeeper holding a hive

A beekeeper always looks for best results, be it producing bee products such as honey, beeswax or others or for pollination services. If you want to be a successful beekeeper, the basic requirement is planning.

A thorough knowledge about local nectar flow helps to know certain vital information such as the crop that yields the best nectar, pollen, time of nectar flow, location of crops and their density.  

With this knowledge, the beekeeper can shift honeybee colonies to various locations. Besides gathering bee products, the beekeeper can also help in pollinating various crops of plant growers.  

Are bees arthropods that lead a well-organized social life?  A beekeeper should know the biology of honey bees, their instincts, and social behavior well. It helps to enhance the productivity of the colony.  

Being social insects with members such as queen, drones, and workers in the colony, they exhibit a high degree of social order and division of labor.  

For successful beekeeping, management of bees should focus on the welfare of the entire bee colony rather than on individual bees.

For this, the beekeeper must have a deep knowledge of the life cycle of honeybees and seasonal cycles of their colony. Also, knowledge about the roles of various members of the colonies and bee diseases help in managing beehives efficiently.

While focusing on the commercial aspect of raising bees for honey, beeswax, and other products, the beekeeper shouldn't ignore the requirement of adequate food, water, and proper health of honeybees for sustained profit from the industry.

Apply the right beekeeping technique suitable for local conditions to ensure good colony health and maximum colony strength at desired times.

So, plan your beekeeping strategy based on factors such as local nectar flows, pollination opportunities, and market value of honey to achieve the desired results.  

Modern Beehives

modern beehives

Are bees arthropods that are too sensitive to the environment? Yes, they are. The modern designs of beehives provide an environment that mimics the natural environment of bees. The design of beehives enables easy removal of individual frames of honeycomb for inspection and manipulation.

A well-designed hive will have dimensions of the removable frames similar to that of honeycomb built in the wild by bees. By allowing about 8 mm 'bee space' between frames, you can enable free movement of bees to build additional honey comb in the spaces. Also, it will enable the easy removal of frames for inspection whenever needed.  

In a standard beehive, the following parts are present:  

  • A bottom board
  • One or two brood chambers (each with 9 or 10 removable frames)
  • One queen excluder (it prevents the  movement of the queen bee from the brood chamber to the honey supers)
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    One or more honey supers  (boxes each containing 9 or 10 removable frames)
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    An inner cover
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    A telescoping hive cover

Importance of Proper Beekeeping Tools and Equipment

Are bees arthropods that are dangerous upon provocation? If the beehive or a colony of bees is disturbed, the bees become aggressive and swarm around to attack. Bee stings are painful. Body parts such as the face, neck, chest, and hands, are more prone to bee stings.

There will be swelling and pain around the affected part. Severe allergic reaction may occur in certain cases. For protection from bee attacks, and for manipulation of the beehive, a beekeeper should be well-equipped.

The following basic beekeeping tools should be in the collection of the beekeeper for protection and manipulation of hives.  

  • Beekeeper hat with veil
  • Hive tool
  • Bee brush

For maximum protection from bee attacks, you may use a full bee suit with gloves. 

Management and Basic Examination of Beehives 

Bee keepers holding beehive

Do bees arthropods require constant monitoring? It is essential for beekeepers to examine beehives at least once in ten days from spring until fall. This is for ensuring proper nutrition, maintenance of proper health, and proper spacing.

The best time for examination will be on a warm, sunny day, when the velocity of wind is low. This prevents sudden chilling of the brood. Also, most field bees will forage, making inspection relatively easier.  

While inspecting the beehive, look for: 

  1. Presence of freshly laid eggs: This shows that the queen bee is present, even if you may not see the queen during the inspection. 
  2. Brood pattern: The brood pattern should be good. A spotty brood appearance may be due to the poor performance of the queen bee, or due to some health issues.
  3. Presence of enough honey and pollen: If you see less food storage and only less quantity of external food is present, the colony may need supplemental feeding.
  4. The appearance of disease signs: If you observe any signs of disease, take appropriate action for treatment.  
  5. Space: If the colony is healthy, and if there is an abundant supply of food, bees will multiply fast.  As a result, there will be a space problem for the members of the bee colony forcing them to swarm.  

Importance of a Beekeeper's Calendar

Are bees arthropods the beekeeper needs to maintain by using a beekeeper's calendar?  A beekeeper's calendar enables the beekeeper to keep track of all activities throughout the year.

It helps to take timely action whenever necessary. By using the beekeeper's calendar, the beekeeper can be well-organized to make beekeeping a profitable venture.
 
Usually, in February and March beekeepers examine the colony and ensure that there is an adequate supply of food and that the bees are healthy.  If a colony shows any signs of weakness, combine it with a strong colony.

If a colony becomes too strong, the beekeeper will have to divide it into two colonies. Replace the poor-performing queen and add new ones.  Remove the beekeeping equipment from colonies that did not survive the winter.

During April and May, beekeepers need to check the availability of enough space for the expanding colony. Bees that outgrow their space will swarm. During swarming, a little over half of the bee population will start another colony. This is not welcome since the beekeeper will lose that year's honey crop from the colony that swarms.

In June and July, collect maximum honey and pollen for the year. During this period, the beekeeper will have to visit the hives every day for harvesting. Remove full boxes of honey for extracting and return empty boxes to the hives for refilling. Empty the pollen traps and preserve the collected pollen in freezers.  

By August and September, collect the last of the honey crop and allow the bees to prepare for winter. Redistribute the brood to make all colonies equal in strength. Feed the colonies if needed. Combine weak colonies to make them strong. In colder climates, wrap all the colonies in an insulated blanket by October.

You Can Become A Successful Beekeeper!

If you want to become a successful beekeeper, many resources are available to gather valuable information on beekeeping.  You can gain in-depth knowledge from excellent books and periodicals on beekeeping.

Also, you can visit some successful beekeepers and discuss various aspects of beekeeping. They will be more than happy to share their experience and expertise for you to learn from them. With determination and hard work, you can be a successful beekeeper running a profitable business.  

Conclusion 

Are bees arthropods that require proper management for maximum profit? The answer is yes. In biological classification, honey bees belong to Class Insecta that comes under Phylum Arthropoda.

Arthropoda in Greek means animals with jointed legs. Being social insects, honeybees maintain social order with a remarkable level of division of labor among members. Honeybees are a gift of nature to mankind for valuable bee products and for food production through pollination.  

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