Reading Exercise 3
Read the passage and choose the best answer to each question.
Most bees lead solitary lives. After mating, females dig or find suitable nests in soil or wood. They begin visiting flowers, making dozens of trips for pollen and nectar. (Think of solitary bees as single moms with families back home to feed). Sugar from nectar provides “flight fuel” for their trips to and from the nest. The proteins and amino acids in pollen are vital nutrients needed for the bees’ young (larvae).
Females lay eggs on masses of pollen mixed with nectar within urnshaped earthen nest cells. The eggs hatch and the grub-like larvae devour the food placed for them. Over a period of weeks they eat pollen, defecate, and pupate, often spinning a silk cocoon. The new adult generation may emerge then or during the spring or summer of the coming year.
Solitary bees use diverse building materials for their nests: leaves, mud, sand, stones, plant resins, downy plant fibers, even abandoned snail shells. Because of the materials they collect, solitary bees are often called carpenter bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees, carder, or plasterer bees.
About 20% of the world’s more than 20,000 species of bees are social. They live communally in colonies of hundreds to tens of thousands of individuals. Each colony has one queen who is the mother of sterile daughters (the worker bees) and a few males called drones.
The best-known social bee around the world is the honey bee (Apis mellifera). Originally native to Europe, honey bees traveled with their human caretakers and now are found worldwide. Another well-known group is the fuzzy and charismatic black-and-yellow bumblebee (Bombus spp.). The sacred stingless bees (Melipona and Trigona) kept by both the ancient and modern Maya also live as highly social colonies, producing a surplus of honey.
Social bees don’t specialize in a particular floral color or shape -- their forte is finding and exploiting rich sources of nectar and pollen. In fact, their efficiency and numbers can cause problems for the solitary bees that land on flowers that honey bees have depleted. Honey bees communicate through a waggle dance in which scout bees return to the nest and inform other bees about the distance and direction to a newly discovered flower patch.
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