Who Lives In That Hive ?



 Three different kinds of honey bees live inside a bee hive. The hive cannot survive unless it has all three. Each of the honey bees, the Queen, the Worker, and the Drone all have their distinctive job to do.



Queen Bee

Many people think that the Queen Bee is the Big Boss of the hive ! Not true. She is essential but she does not boss anybody. She has the longest body of all three types of bees. She also has a stinger, but unlike the Worker Bee stinger it does not have a fish-hook like barb on the end if it. As a result she can sting multiple times and not die from the act of stinging. The major purpose of her stinger is to kill any rival Queen Bees that may be around when she first emerges from her cell.
              Shortly after emerging from her cell the Queen Bee will leave the hive to make her virgin flight to be mated multiple times by various drones. This will provide her with enough semen to last her lifetime. The Queen's sole job is to lay eggs. She has a retinue of young worker bees who stay with her at alltimes to feed her and take care of her needs. During the egg laying season, which in the USA, isroughly from early January to the start of Fall, she lays eggs continuously and can lay up to 800 or so a day. This maximum production is intended to build up the supply of Worker Bees to be ready and get out there to gather nectar when the flowers first emerge in the Spring. She can live three or four years or so. However, her egg laying ability may deteriorate in mid-life. In this case the Worker Bees will decide that it is time to replace her and will begin to build special larger cells, which resemble peanut shells, in which to raise new Queens. This is a process called 'supercedure'. If the Queen cannot lay a sufficient number of eggs, then the chances of the hive being able to survive is not good.
             It only takes 16 days from the day her egg is laid to her eventual emergence as a mature Queen Bee. The egg is the same egg that can become a Worker Bee. It is believed that the quantity of food that is fed to the pupa leads to her becoming a Queen Bee. It has been observed that after three days of being fed, when the cell is sealed, a large quantity of food is left inside the sealed cell. This not the case when a Worker Bee cell is capped.

The Worker Bee

The Worker Bee is the one that you see flying around the flowers and is also the one that can bring terror to some people's faces as this is the bee that can sting you ! She really is not interested in stinging anybody. She will only sting if she feels threatened or to protect a bee hive that is being threatened by whatever. The only problem with stinging is that her stinger has a barb on the end, like a fish-hook and when she pulls away or is knocked away by your hand, the stinger and its sack of venom is ripped out of her body and she dies ! The Worker Bees is really only interested in doing her job, which is to fly out and visit flowers and suck up the nectar to bring back to the hive that eventually gets turned into honey that we all love to eat. In the process she also brings back pollen that gets gathered on her rear legs. Pollen is used as food for the young pupa. When she first emerges from her cell as a mature bee after 21 days, she performs various jobs inside the hive which can involve being an attendant to the Queen, cleaning old material out of cells for the Queen to lay an egg in, carrying out dead bee bodies, transferring honey and pollen from the incoming Workers into cells, standing by the entrance to the hive in hot weather to fan her wings and move air inside the hive to keep it cooler, etc.,etc.
        During the summer honey flow, June through August, Worker Honey Bees travel about 55,000 miles to
gather enough nectar to produce one pound of honey. Each individual Worker will only produce about 1/2 of a teaspoon of honey and about 1/80th of a teaspoon of beeswax. However, an entire colony will produce up to 200 pounds of honey annually! She will work so hard during the nectar gathering season that she actually wears herself out and dies in about three weeks. In late fall there will only be about 12,000 honey bees living inside a hive, compared to the near 50,000 plus that live in the hive during the nectar gathering season. Most of these bees that are the youngest will still be alive inside the hive when Spring arrives. While the Worker Bee is a female she is not fertile and cannot lay an egg that can become a Queen Bee! It often amuses me when I tell a housewife/mother that the Worker Bee is a female who really does most of the hard work in a hive. They always smile and move their head up and down like they are saying, “What else is new ?”.

The Drone

This male honey bee is the largest bee living in the hive, at least in its width and bulk. It's body is longer then the Worker Bee and shorter then the Queen Bee. The noise their larger wings make when flying around my head remind of the sound of World War II Bombers flying overhead. The drone performs no useful functions inside the hive of any kind. It goes inside the hive to rest and eat. It also does not have a stinger to defend itself or its hive. It's sole function in its life is to fly around about hundred feet or so above the ground ever on the alert for a Virgin Queen Bee on her once in a lifetime maiden flight.
Most men may think that this is the ideal lifestyle. Not so, as the act of sex with the Queen Bee will culminate with its seminal sack being ripped out of its body to be stored for future use inside the body of the Queen Bee. Now if he is one of the gazillion drones who don't have the good fortune to hook up with a Virgin Queen Bee, he is not long for this world in the end. When the cold weather comes along in the fall, all the drones are either kicked out of the hive or are no longer allowed to come inside. From the Worker's point of view they are not necessary for the survival of the hive through the winter as they serve no function, they just hang around and eat honey.
                 The Worker Bees can create new Drones when they are needed the following spring.