Education

Learn all about Bees and Bee Hives

While it may seem small, the ripple effects of small things is extraordinary.

— Matt Bevin 

A Unique Little Creature with a Large Impact  

One of our core values is Stewardship: Manage the Natural Resources & Time that supports our business in a way that stewards the environment and provides excellent care for the bees.

Honey Bees have a unique role within our ecosystem, as they are the only insect that produces food that humans consume and are the only insect that has been managed to be able to provide “on demand” pollination services for agriculture.

Bees are also distinct from other livestock in that you cannot truly contain them. With cattle, swine, and other animals, a farmer may use fencing or other methods to maintain a safe perimeter; however, bees will venture far and wide in search of nectar and pollens to support their colony. This presents an interesting partnership between beekeepers and their community as the flowers, plants, and treatments of the community can all positively or negatively affect bees.

In our opinion, proper care begins with knowledge of how bees operate and continually investigating the way our modern world affects them. It also involves sharing knowledge with those around us, in efforts to recognize and promote the global effect of bees—an insect small in size, but large in impact. 

Just as we play various roles within our family or community, bees have a variety of roles and functions. Let’s take a look inside of a bee hive for illustrations of the specific roles bees play in their contribution to the hive:  

The World of Honey Bees

Queen Bees

Queen Bee imageThe queen of a hive has a unique role within the colony. Due to her larvae having been placed in a special “queen cell” she has been bred to be a queen by the bees feeding her larvae “royal jelly.” After the queen has successfully grown within her cell, she will chew through the wax and emerge within the hive where she will prepare for mating. A queen’s first couple of weeks will be used to conduct at least one, but may be several, mating flights to collect sperm from several drones. The queen stores all of the sperm in a spermatheca and thus has the ability to lay fertilized and unfertilized eggs throughout her lifetime (as many as 2,500 per day!). Fertilized eggs are female and unfertilized eggs are male or drones.  A benefit of the queen having several mating sources is that her “children” are not perfectly related and thus each retain differing sets of DNA which can help the hive better survive against diseases or environmental effects.

Drone Bees

Drone Bee imageDrones Bees (the male bees of the hive) take up a very limited amount of the hive population as drones only exist to mate with queen bees. These bees rely on the female bees within the colony to provide for them as they are unable to feed themselves or defend themselves (they don’t have stingers!). Drones have a fairly short lifespan as they die after mating with a queen or in preparation for winter, or times without many resources, the bees with force drones out of the hive to ensure adequate supplies for the queen, larvae and worker bees.

Worker Bees

Worker Bees ImageThe female worker bees comprise the largest group within the hive population and from their first day until they die, they are busy ensuring things are operating properly within their home.

 

Beekeeper, hive, bees

These are just a few of the unique roles and duties of worker bees within the hive:

Cleaner Bees

The first role of the worker bee is cleaning the cells within the hive. The bees will work to clean and polish all debris and old residues from the cell so it is ready for the queen to lay eggs or for honey and/or pollen to be stored within it. The queen inspects the cells for cleanliness and if she doesn’t approve, the cells will be cleaned another time prior to use.

Queen Attendant Bees

These bees ensure that the queen is well fed and groomed throughout her lifetime.

Nurse Bees

These bees take care of the brood of the hive, which are the larvae of developing bees. They ensure that the proper hive temperature is maintained and feed the larvae the appropriate type of jelly based upon their age and type.

Groomer Bees

Bees are hygienic insects and through use of grooming remove debris, dust, and other pests from the body of their own bodies or those of their hive mates.

Builder Bees

Once the bees have matured enough to have the appropriate glands, the workers can take on the role of builders as they begin to secrete beeswax to construct comb with the hive. This wax can be used to build new comb or to cap “ripened” honey and larvae that has developed into the pupae stage.

Temperature Controller Bees

These bees are responsible for ensuring that the overall temperature and humidity level within the hive remains consistent despite the exterior environmental affects. They are able to bring water into the hive to increase humidity and use their wings to “fan” in creation of airflow. In times when they need to increase the hive temperature, the bees will cluster together to stay warm.

Undertaker Bees

Bees are adamant about cleanliness within their hives, and thus one of the important roles of the worker bee is to remove dead bees from their colony and dispose of them away from the hive. Sometimes there are diseases within the brood, or brood that has died prior to hatching, and these will also be removed by the undertakers to aid in hive health.

Guard Bees

To preserve the healthiness of their hive and their resources, some of the workers act as “guards” at the entrance of their hives to ensure that the bees arriving are from their own hive and help prevent other insects or small rodents from entering their hive. These bees will use their stingers to attack any invaders and in doing so, emit a warning scent to their hive that danger is near.

Forager Bees

This is typically the role of the most mature bees within the hive. These bees are responsible for finding floral and water sources from the radius around the hive. Bees typically will fly around 3 miles in search of pollen and nectar, but evidence has been shown they will fly as many as 8 miles if needed. This is typically one of the most dangerous jobs for the bees due to environmental threats.

Education

Bee Facts:

  • A bee flaps its wings 11,400 times per minute.
  • A bee would need to fly the equivalent of 3 times around the earth to make a pound of honey.
  • Bees dance to communicate where their bee buddies can find the best flowers.
  • A bee visits around 2 million flowers to produce a single pound of honey.
  • Bees are the only insect that produces food eaten by humans.
  • The average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in their lifetime.

Additional Resources to Explore & Discover the Universe of Bees

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RESEARCH

Bees In Crisis

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The Super Bowl of Beekeeping

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How an Urban Beekeeper Spends His Sundays

Five years ago, Nick Hoefly picked up his first queen bee inread more

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Bees Are In Trouble. Here’s How You Can Help

Decimated by Colony Collapse Disorder in the mid-2000s, bees remain under assaulread more

Resources for Kids

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ARTICLE

10 Facts About Honey Bees!

Calling all budding – or should we say buzz-ing – young naturalists! Join National Geographic Kids as we get the lowdown on one of our planet’s most fascinating insects in our ten facts about honey bees!read more

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ARTICLE

Curious Kids: how do bees make honey?

Well, when we talk about “bees”, we’re usually referring to the European honey bee (its scientific name is Apis Mellifera). Humans have been drooling over its honey and… read more