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Garden Allies: Honey Bees

Articles: Garden Allies: Honey Bees

Larva, worker, queen, and drone. Illus: Craig Latker

An Insect Synonymous with Civilization

In the late 1600's, Johannes Swammerdam meticulously dissected a honey bee with home made tools and a primitive microscope. In doing so, he discovered that the "king" bee possessed ovaries and was, in fact, a "queen." His remarkable drawings remain unparalleled. Swammerdam demonstrated that insects had systems as complex as any other animal. He was also the first to elucidate the process of metamorphosis, determining that caterpillars and other holometabolous larvae did not mysteriously change into a completely different animal, but gradually transformed into an adult form.

Honey bees have long fascinated humankind. No one, for example, finds it odd that we devote entire shops to a single species of insect and its products. Honey bees are an ageless and enduring motif in human cultures around the world. They were important in Greek mythology, in which priestesses of Demeter and Artemis were known as the "Melissae," or Bees. They are featured in the creation myth of the San people of the Kalahari Desert, and appea...

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