Honey bees are of course known for their honey, but they are also responsible for pollinating many plants and flowers we are all so accustomed to seeing.
Honey bees did not originate in the United States. In fact, honey bees came to North and South America with European colonists.
Since the 1940s, the bee population has been in steady decline and is now half the size it was over 50 years ago. Without bees, we would lose up to a third of our food crops, most wildflowers, and ecosystems would begin to collapse.
If there were no bees, we would soon miss many of our favorite foods, like tomatoes and coffee. Flowers and crops would need to be pollinated by hand, which is tedious, extremely time-consuming, and expensive.
The Queen Bee
A hive will only ever have one reigning Queen at a time. She is responsible for reproducing, and she is the only bee in the hive to lay eggs. Without her, the colony will die after about three to four weeks.
She is easier to spot when comparing her size to the worker bees and drones. A queen honey bee lives much longer than any other bee in the hive. Her lifespan can last up to 3 to 4 years.
It is recommended to check the hive once every couple of weeks to make sure she is alive and thriving. If you can’t find her in the hive, another way to check on the general health of the queen is to check for new eggs, which can usually be spotted at the bottom of the cells.
Another noticeable feature of the queen bee is that her stinger is not barbed, and she rarely uses it. A gentle, patient beekeeper should be able to avoid being stung by the queen. Some more experienced beekeepers report never being stung by the queen herself.
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The Worker Bee
Worker bees are all female and do not lay eggs unless a hive has become queen-less for more than three weeks. If a worker bee does begin laying, then eggs she lays produce only male honey bees—the drones.
A worker bee begins her work outside of the hive around three weeks after hatching when her wings are in full use. Then she starts her work of collecting nectar and pollinating. She will do this until she dies, with a life span of around 40 days.
The male bees are the drones, and their main job is to mate with a queen. Drones do not typically mate with the queen from their home hive, because they drift and wander from hive to hive.
A drone will die after mating, and if they are around the hive in the winter, they are kicked out by the other bees. A drone has a life expectancy of about 90 days.
The drones are the much larger bees crawling around in the hive. They don’t have stingers. You can pick them up and play with them without fear of getting stung. Drones don’t really help the overall survival of the hive, that is up to the queen.