Know your honey
Fig 1: Queen, drone and worker bees
There are three different kinds of honey bees (Apis mellifera) that can be found in a hive; the queen bee, drone bees and worker bees1. Each have their roles within the hive and different characteristics to help them in their tasks.
The queen bee is longer than worker bees with an abdomen that extends beyond her wings. Her job is to lay eggs; fertilized ones to make female worker bees and unfertilized ones to make male drone bees. She has a smooth stinger that can sting multiple times but it is almost exclusively used to kill other queens when there are multiple reared at the same time.
Worker bees go through a multitude of tasks throughout their lives. They start as nurse bees that tend the brood and finish their lives as foraging bees that collect nectar and pollen. They have barbed stingers that are single use as they stay in the victim and remove a fair portion of the worker bees abdomen leading to the death of the bee.
Drone bees are large and squat with big eyes that make up most of their heads. Their sole purpose is to fertilize queens on their mating flights. They don’t have stingers so they’re harmless and good to practice on.
These are amazing creatures that work together to create a home in which they can survive, thrive and procreate. There’s definitely lots to learn about them (and from them) and hopefully you’ll take some time to explore this fascinating insect in our midst.
Fig 2: Close-up of a worker bee