Honey bees (or honeybees)
are a subset of bees, primarily distinguished by the production and
storage of honey and the construction of perennial, colonial nests out of
wax. Honey bees are the only extant members of the tribe Apini, all in the
genus Apis. Currently, there are only seven recognized species of honey
bee with a total of 44 subspecies though historically, anywhere from
six to eleven species have been recognized. Honey bees represent only a
small fraction of the approximately 20,000 known species of bees. Some
other types of related bees produce and store honey, but only members of
the genus Apis are true honey bees.
are one of science's great mysteries
because they have remained unchanged for 20 million years, even though the
world changed around them.
have been producing honey for at least 150
true honeybee was not known in the Americas until Spanish, Dutch, and
English settlers introduced it near the end of the 17th century.
you know that bees have 4 wings?
honeybee's wings stroke 11,400 times per minute,
thus making their distinctive buzz.
bee flies at a rate of about 12 miles per hour.
many eyes does a honeybee have? Five.
communicate with one another by "dancing".
queen bee is the busiest in the summer months, when the hive needs to be
at its maximum strength. She will lay about 1,000
to 1,500 eggs per day.
the cold winter months, bees will leave the hive only to take a short cleansing
flight. They are fastidious about the cleanliness of their hive.
do not die out over the winter. They
feed on the honey they collected during the warmer months and patiently
wait for spring. They form a tight cluster in their hive to keep the queen
and themselves warm.
takes 35 pounds of honey to provide
enough energy for a small colony of bees to survive the winter.
colonies have unique odors that
members flash like identification cards at the hive's front door. All the
individual bees in a colony smell enough alike so that the guard bees can
Honey bees live in colonies that
are often maintained, fed, and transported by beekeepers. Centuries of selective
breeding by humans has created honey bees that produce far more honey than the
colony needs. Beekeepers harvest the honey. Beekeepers provide a place for the
colony to live and to store honey in. The modern beehive is made up of a series
of square or rectangular boxes without tops or bottoms placed one on top of
another. Inside the boxes frames are hung in parallel, in which bees build up
the wax honeycomb in which they both raise brood and store honey.
enable beekeepers to transport bees, moving from field to field as the crop
needs pollinating and allowing the beekeeper to charge for the pollination
services they provide.
A colony generally contains one
breeding female, or "queen"; a few thousand males, or
"drones"; and a large population of sterile female “worker” bees.
The population of a healthy hive in mid-summer can average between 40,000 and
80,000 bees. The workers cooperate to find food and use a pattern of
"dancing" to communicate with each other.
The queen is the largest bee in
the colony. Queens are developed from larvae selected by worker bees to become
sexually mature. The queen develops more fully than sexually immature workers
because she is given royal jelly, a secretion from glands on the heads of young
workers, for an extended time. She develops in a specially-constructed queen
cell, which is larger than the cells of normal brood comb, and is oriented
vertically instead of horizontally.
She will emerge from her cell to
mate in flight with approximately 13-18 drone (male) bees. During this mating,
she receives several million sperm cells, which last her entire life span (from
two to five years). In each hive or colony, there is only one adult, mated
queen, who is the mother of the worker bees of the hive, although there are
exceptions on occasion.
Although the name might imply it,
a queen has no control over the hive. Her sole function is to serve as the
reproducer; she is an "egg laying machine." A good queen of quality
stock, well reared with good nutrition and well mated, can lay up to 3,000 eggs
per day during the spring build-up and live for two or more years. She lays her
own weight in eggs every couple of hours and is continuously surrounded by young
worker attendants, who meet her every need, such as feeding and cleaning.
The male bees, called “drones”,
are characterized by eyes that are twice the size of those of worker bees and
queens, and a body size greater than that of worker bees, though usually smaller
than the queen bee. Their abdomen is stouter than the abdomen of workers or
queen. Although heavy bodied, drones have to be able to fly fast enough to catch
up with the queen in flight. Drones are stingless. Their main function in the
hive is to be ready to fertilize a receptive queen. Mating occurs in flight,
which accounts for the need of the drones for better vision, which is provided
by their big eyes.
In areas with severe winters, all
drones are then driven out of the hive. The life expectancy of a drone is about
A worker bee is a non-reproducing
female which performs certain tasks in support of a bee hive. Worker bees
undergo a well defined progression of capabilities. In the summer 98% of the
bees in a hive are worker bees. In the winter, besides the queen, all bees are
worker bees. Workers feed the queen and larvae, guard the hive entrance and help
to keep the hive cool by fanning their wings. Worker bees also collect nectar to
make honey. In addition, honey bees produce wax comb.
Of course, honey is the main
honey bee product that we are interested in here at the National Honey Board! In
addition, there are a few other products of the hive that are also extremely
In the hive the bees use their honey stomachs to ingest and process the nectar a
number of times. It is then stored in the honeycomb. Nectar is high in both
water content and natural yeasts which, unchecked, would cause the sugars in the
nectar to ferment. After the final regurgitation, the honeycomb is left unsealed
- bees inside the hive "fan" their wings creating a strong draft
across the honeycomb. This enhances evaporation of much of the water from the
nectar. The reduction in water content, which raises the sugar concentration,
prevents fermentation. Ripe honey, as removed from the hive by the beekeeper,
has a long shelf life and will not ferment.
Worker bees of a certain age will secrete beeswax from a series of glands on
their abdomen. They use the wax to form the walls and caps of the comb. When
honey is harvested, the wax can be gathered to be used in various wax products
like candles and seals.
Bees collect pollen in the pollen basket (a concave area on the hind legs of the
bee with special hairs to hold the pollen in place) and carry it back to the
hive. In the hive, pollen is used as a protein source necessary during
brood-rearing. In certain environments, excess pollen can be collected from the
hive. It is often eaten as a health supplement.
Propolis (or bee glue) is created from resins, balsams and tree saps. Honeybees
use propolis to seal cracks in the hive.
have 5 eyes
fly about 20 mph
are insects, so they have 6 legs
bees in the hive are called drones
bees in the hive (except the queen) are called worker bees
its stinger will cause a bee to die
have been here around 30 million years!
carry pollen on their hind legs called a pollen basket or corbicula
average beehive can hold around 50,000 bees
must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey.
average forager makes about 1/12 th of a teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.
per capita honey consumption in the US is 1.3 pounds.
have 2 pairs of wings.
principal form of communication among honey bees is through chemicals called
are important because they pollinate approximately 130 agricultural crops in
the US including fruit, fiber, nut, and vegetable crops. Bee pollination
adds approximately 14 billion dollars annually to improved crop yield and
of Honey Bees
bees are important pollinators in agricultural, urban, and natural
pollinate about 130 fruit, vegetable, nut, ornamental, and fiber crops in
the US contributing about $15 billion annually through improved crop yield
and product quality.
of millions of dollars are additionally generated through the sale of hive
products such as honey, wax, pollen, propolis, royal jelly, and venom.
Credit: Texas A&M University, National
Honey Board , Penn State, PBS, CBS
compiled from The British Antarctic Study, NASA, Environment Canada,
UNEP, EPA and other sources as stated and credited Researched by Charles
Welch-Updated daily This Website is a project of the The Ozone Hole Inc.
a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization http://www.theozonehole.com