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Life of Honeybees

Updated: Nov 23, 2021

Honeybees live in a sophisticated, well-organized society. Colonies consist of a staggering 50,000 to 60,000 bees, each performing different roles in order to maintain a successful hive and life. The lifespan of a honeybee varies, depending on the role of that individual bee within the colony. Let's take a look at these roles and what they mean for one of the most sophisticated and organized species on this planet.

Queen Honeybee: The queen bee can live up to 3-4 years, as long as she is free from disease and healthy. This is much longer than bumblebee queens or the other solitary bee species. She runs it all, and is most important to the success of the colony. A honeybee queen that produces few eggs may not be favored by the colony, and in such a case a new queen will be produced, and the old queen replaced which is called supersedure. In some beekeeping practices, the queen bee is replaced by the beekeeper after 1-2 years.

Worker Bees: In contrast to the queen, worker bees raised during the spring/summer may live for only 6 or 7 weeks. Their lives are busy, with lots of hungry larvae to feed and honeycomb to produce. The colony is at its most productive when the workers are busy collecting nectar and pollen feeding the colony. Worker bees raised in the autumn have no brood to care for, since the queen stops producing eggs. These workers together with the queen, comprise the rest of the colony for the year. Part of the colony may have left in a swarm, in order to form a new colony elsewhere, and they make a ball surrounding the queen keeping her warm.

Drones: Drones, or the male honeybees live for up to 4 months, though some only survive for just a few weeks. You usually never see them, due to them all hidden inside the beehive. They have a flat bottom instead of a pointy one like the female honeybee. Also, they're stingless and can't harm you in any way. The job of a drone honeybee is to successfully mate with the queen. Upon fulfilling their life duty to mate, they die immediately after. What a life for a male bee.

Honeybee Facts;

  • The honeybee is also known as Apis mellifera. Apis is a very old word probably with Egyptian roots, but is also related to the Greek word for 'swarm'. Mellifera means 'honey-bearing' in Latin.

  • Only female honeybees can sting, the males (drones) are not able to sting. If you are stung it will be by a worker bee most likely. Queen honeybees can sting, but they remain close to the hive, and so a sting from a honeybee queen would be rare.

  • If the queen honeybee is removed from the hive, within 15 minutes, the rest of the colony knows about it!

  • A typical honeybee colony may have around 50,000 workers.

  • Male honeybees (drones) have no father, but they do have a grandfather!

  • The queen honeybee is about twice the length of a worker.

  • A honeybee queen may lay as many as 2000 - 3000 eggs per day as she establishes her colony.

  • Foraging honey bees have to fly about 55,000 miles to produce a pound of honey, visiting around 2 million flowers.

  • Honeybees may typically fly between 1–6 km on a foraging trip, but also up to 13.5 km.

  • Honeybees fly up to 15 mph, and beat their wings 200 times per second or 12,000 beats per minute!

  • Each honeybee makes about 1/12 of a teaspoon of honey in its life time.

  • The honeybee is the only insect that produces a food eaten by humans.

  • Honeybees use their front feet, tongue, jaw and antennae to taste with!

  • The antennae on honeybees are very sensitive and important for tasting things. The tips of the antennae have more than 300 taste sensors!

  • Honeybees eat nectar and pollen, but there are times when food is scarce, and they may eat insect secretions. They are also known to eat a little fruit.

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