Honey Bee Colony


A single honey-bee cannot live for very long on its own. There would be no point in doing so. A worker bee cannot reproduce; a queen bee cannot construct comb, collect food or even feed herself; and a drone bee is able to accomplish only one task and that is to mate. All three castes of honey-bee that live in a colony of bees-the queen, the worker and the drone-therefore can live only as part of a colony. The colony is in effect the organism, with the individual bees acting as the cells that make up that organism. In order to keep bees successfully, the beekeeper has to understand that organism: how and why it works and what it needs for its survival. Only then can the beekeeper work with bees, adapting his or her requirements to theirs. You can't direct bees, but you can encourage them to work your way to a certain extent.

    When you first look into a hive and see thousands of bees apparently moving around at random and flying off the comb in all directions, the colony appears to be a place of chaos. But it isn't. All this movement has a purpose and, within a short time in beekeeping, you will begin to see this purpose for what it is, and that is a highly organized society going about its business. You will also begin to notice when things aren't going right in the colony and, with more experience, you will be able to look at each comb and, almost instantly, will be able to picture clearly in your mind the state of the colony. Is it healthy? Is there a queen? Is the queen laying well? Are the bees building up in numbers as you would expect? Will they survive the winter? Do they need feeding?

however, you should gain an understanding of the development of the three inhabitants of the hive-the queen, the worker and the drone (see Figure above). The inhabitants of the hive: worker, Drone, Queen. Each type of bee begins life as a small egg laid by the queen in the base of a wax cell in the comb. After three days, the egg hatches and the bee begins its larval phase in an open cell, being fed by nurse bees first on royal jelly and then on a mixture of pollen and honey (unless they are destined to be a queen bee, when royal jelly will be fed continuously). After another five days, (six for a drone bee), the workers cap the cell, and the larva spin a cocoon around itself and begins its pupal stage during which it gradually changes into an adult bee. The bee then chews through the capping of wax and emerges as an adult. This means, of course, that every bee you see is an adult. Above figure shows this development and how long it takes. While it is important to remember the timings of this development.

If climatic conditions permit, the queen will make a mating flight around five or six days after emergence. She will start to lay eggs 36 hours or more after a successful mating flight, usually more after three days.
These are fed by workers until around seven days old. They remain in the hive until approximately 12-13 days old (when they are sexually mature). Thereafter, they undertake mating flights during the afternoons. They are removed from the hive during the autumn or during times of dearth.
This is a complex subject we can only touch on here. A worker's lifespan will vary according to the time of year. During the summer, the average life span is 15-38 days; during the winter it can be 140 days or more. This depends very much on the prevailing conditions.
The number of days until emergence can vary considerably (e.g. for a queen, 14-17 days; for a worker, 16-24 days; and for a drone, 20-28 days). This variability may be due to environmental factors (especially temperature) and nutrition.