Honey Bees, Apis mellifera
The life history of the honey bee is an incredibly fascinating and complex story that thousands of naturalists, scientists, bee-keepers, and animal-lovers have been studying for centuries. One could fill books on the details of a honeybee's life and the workings of the hive, but here is a quick introduction!
Being a eusocial insect like ants and bumblebees, the honeybee lives in colonies in which different groups, or casts, take on different roles to make up a collective hive working together as a whole. The basic components of a honeybee hive are three castes: there is one queen, thousands of workers, and (depending on the season) anywhere from 0 - 200 drones, the males.
THe honeybee world is truly a female-dominated society, with a mated queen laying between hundreds to thousands of eggs every day, which hatch into sterile female workers which take on the other jobs around the hive. These female workers almost as a rule do not lay eggs, and their tasks change as they progress through their average 2-month life: cleaning, nursing, storing, and eventually foraging.
During the summer season, a queen will lay some unfertilized eggs which will hatch into male drone bees. The percentage of males in a colony is typically only around 5%, being vastly unnumbered by female workers. The drones do not take part in the inner workings of the hive, but live off the honey and laze around until it is time for them to leave the hive, mate with another future queen, and then die.
To learn more about these incredible animals, come visit our Observation Hive and watch the inner workings of a hive. Join us during the summer months (July & August) for our daily guided tours, of which the Honeybee Tour is one of our most popular!
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