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What’s in a Honey Bee Colony?

You may not think about it when you put the honey in your tea or use it for your baking or any one of the other hundreds of fantastic uses for honey, but a honey bee hive is made up of very efficient working system.  Let’s take a look at each role.

The Colony

Honey bees living in a colony within a hive.  Think of it like this:  The hive is their physical home.  The colony is the structure that allows each bee a part in the system to do their job.  Inside the colony, we have three roles.  Queen, worker bees and drones.

Drones

Drones are male honey bees that exist for one purpose.  To mate with the queen during mating season.  When that season is over, usually in late summer or early fall, the drones’ job is done and they are cast aside.  They are not allowed to enter the hive for winter.  They are left out in the cold, literally, dying if there is nothing for them to eat.

Worker Bees

Worker Bees are female bees that do everything except reproduce.  In their first days, they tend to the queen.  After that, they stay busy building the comb where eggs are laid.  They collect pollen and nectar and create the honey from the nectar when needed.  They tend to the queen, the young drones and the larvae.  They defend the colony if needed and they insulate the colony during winter.

The Queen

Since it appears that everyone’s job is to care for the queen, it may seem that she has it easy.  There can only be one fertile female in the entire colony with thousands and thousands of honey bees.  More often than not, a newly hatched queen has to begin her life fighting in a duel to the death with any other queens present in the colony.  After that, she must destroy any potential queens that have not yet hatched.  After she crushes all enemies, she takes her virgin mating flight, followed by secreting a pheromone that essentially keeps any other females in the colony sterile.

How’s that for the life of a queen?   Doesn’t sound like tea and crumpets, does it?

It’s a complex life inside a honey bee colony.  Everyone has a job and the colony is at the heart of everything.  All of this for that wonderful thing we call “honey”.

 

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One Thought to “What’s in a Honey Bee Colony?”

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