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Gilgameshan honey bee
Adstringitus semotus
Biological information
Homeworld

Gilgamesh

Physical description
Height

7.6 mm

Weight

65 mg

Military and Political information
Equipment

Pollen basket

Other Names

Gilgameshan honey bees, honey bees, bees

  [Source]

The Gilgameshan honey bee (Latin Adstringitus semotus, "isolated astringent," referring to the Latin ceris adstringitur, "beeswax") was a species of stingless bee native to Gilgamesh.

Biology

Gilgameshan honey bees were stingless bees that were widespread across Gilgamesh. They were superficially similar to sugarbag bees native to Australia on Earth, although Gilgameshan honey bees were physically larger. Despite their small size relative to most bees, they were capable of traveling distances of up to 3 kilometers without landing, although after doing so they would need to consume roughly 35% of their body weight in nectar to regain the energy to fly long distances. They were fairly adaptable; a colony that lost half its workers could replenish them within a week, and as a result the bees were able to establish themselves in large numbers in most non-polar regions of Gilgamesh. When their nests were disturbed, they usually defended themselves by biting, although they were capable of picking up insects up to 1.2 times their body weight, which they usually did to remove other insects that entered their nests.

Communication

Like eusocial Earth bees, Gilgameshan honey bees communicated largely through pheromones, with functions similar to the pheromones produced by Earth bees (although the chemical compounds of the pheromones were different).

Social structure

Gilgameshan honey bees had a similar social structure to eusocial Earth bees, with a worker caste of infertile female bees, a queen caste of egg-laying bees, and a drone caste of male bees. However, unlike Earth bees, most large Gilgameshan honey bee nests contained as many as three coexisting queens, and fighting between newly born queens was a rare occurrence. Additionally, queen bees took on more of a leadership role, producing pheromones capable of reaching a significant quantity of bees in a nest when signals needed to reach the entire nest.

Lifespan

Gilgameshan honey bee queens lived for an average of 8-10 years. Small workers could live anywhere between 1-3 years; however, larger workers rarely survived for longer than 6 months. Because of this, it has been theorized that larger workers were only raised during the highly productive summer months, during which larger quantities of nectar needed to be collected for the production of honey. The larger sizes of these workers was believed to put unnatural strain on their bodies, similar to the effects of gigantism on humans.

Nesting habits

Gilgameshan honey bees made nests towards the middle sections of large trees. They preferred locations 8-20 meters above ground, although nests have been seen as low as 2 meters above the ground. Unlike Earth bees, Gilgameshan honey bees made nests out of hardened, dried clay-like soil. To camouflage their nests and protect them from rain, they often covered the outsides of their nests with moss. However, this process caused the nests to resemble ghillie suits. As a result, some nests would occasionally be shot by people who thought they were snipers during times of conflict on Gilgamesh.

Defending nests

Because Gilgameshan honey bees had no stingers, they had to defend themselves and their nests using other means, specifically biting. The jaws of Gilgameshan honey bees were more developed than those of most bees, and as a result this was an effective defense. However, their small size meant that any damage done to larger threats would be superficial at best. A single bite from an average bee was only capable of causing mild pain and irritation that would subsist for no longer than twenty minutes, while a determined bee was only capable of piercing the outer layers of skin without drawing blood. Gilgameshan honey bees used an "attach-and-lift" biting attack technique against large targets similar to the method by which they picked up insects from their nests; as a result of this, larger bees were sometimes capable of removing pieces of the outer layers of human skin, although these were often no more than 1.5mm in diameter. They also swarm large targets. This behavior, coupled with the "attach-and-lift" biting attack, has led some children on Gilgamesh who climb trees to disturb low-lying nests to report that the bees had physically picked them up and dropped them out of their tree (although what actually happens is the children simply lose their grip).

Response to nest destruction

When a Gilgameshan honey bee queen determined that a damaged nest is incapable of practical repair, she releases a pheromone to her brood that signals the workers to stop attacking and abandon the nest. After the attack has stopped, the bees fly to a lower altitude and begin slowly searching for raw materials with which to build a new nest, tilting their heads downward to focus a wider area of their compound eyes on the ground. Because their preferred flight level for searching for materials is similar to most humans' eye level, and because during their searches they fly more slowly than normal, many people believe that the bees are experiencing emotional devastation and heartbreak during this time. While misplaced, their pity for the bees means that most Gilgameshan honey bee honey is sourced from artificial beehives rather than from the destruction of natural nests.

Relationship to humans

Compared to stingless bees on Earth, Gilgameshan honey bees were fairly large. However, they were smaller than Earth honey bees, and as a result they did not produce quantities of honey in a significant enough volume for commercial nutritional consumption. However, also like stingless bees on Earth, the honey produced by Gilgameshan honey bees was high in antimicrobial substances. As a result, Gilgameshan honey bee honey was often used for medicinal purposes, and Gilgameshan first-aid kits such as those issued to soldiers of the Gilgamesh Free State frequently contained 250 grams of Gilgameshan honey for field treatment of wounds and/or emergency rations.

Beekeeping

Since Gilgameshan honey bee queens released a pheromone to signal her brood to leave a destroyed nest, it was thought that Gilgameshan honey bees would be easy to keep since all a beekeeper would need to do to clear a hive was to spray a synthesized version of this pheromone into it. However, trials with this were largely unsuccessful; at the time, it was thought that the mere presence of the pheromone was what signaled the bees to abandon the nest. Hives sprayed with the synthesized pheromone, which was present in significantly larger volumes than what the queens would produce, would be almost completely abandoned within five minutes of being sprayed, with only the queens, the larvae, and dead or dying bees that were incapable of flight remaining behind. From there, it was discovered that the bees responded to the volume of the pheromone present in addition to the actual presence of the pheromone. Experiments with synthesized pheromones were abandoned when it was discovered that the mere act of removing frames from beehives would trigger the pheromone, although in a low enough quantity for the bees to return to the hive within an hour of its reassembly after the honey had been removed from the frames.