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What is a honey bee?

Honey bees are flying insects, and close relatives of wasps and ants. They are found on every continent on earth, except for Antarctica.

Bees of all varieties live on nectar and pollen. Without bees, pollination would be difficult and time consuming - it is estimated that one-third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination. Bees have a long, straw-like tongue called a proboscis that allows them to drink the nectar from deep within blossoms. Bees are also equipped with four wings, two antennae, and three segmented body parts (the head, the thorax, and the abdomen).  Honey bees are social insects that live in colonies.  The hive population consists of a single queen, a few hundred drones, and thousands of worker bees.


The honey bees we know and love forage for nectar and pollen from flowering plants.  They use the nectar collected  to create our favorite sweet treat - honey!  When carrying the nectar back to the hive, their bodies break down the complex sucrose of the nectar into two simple sugars, fructose and glucose. They tip it neatly into a honeycomb cell, and then the bees will beat their wings furiously over top of this syrupy sweet liquid to fan and lower the moisture content, which thickens the substance. When the process is complete, the bees cap those cells with beeswax, sealing the perfected honey for consumption later on.

Worker Bees

Worker bees make up about 99% of each colony's population. Worker bees are all female, and they do almost everything for the hive. From birth to her death 45 days later, the worker bee is given different tasks to do during different stages of her life. Worker bees are responsible for everything from feeding the larvae (baby bees), tending to the queen, cleaning the hive, 

collecting food, guarding the colony, and building honeycombs.

The stinger of the worker bee is barbed, so when she is forced to defend herself or the hive, her stinger will become stuck in the skin of her victim. She is unable to pull it out, and dies when she inevitably tears herself away from the stuck stinger, leaving it behind with the venom sack still pumping venom into her victim. 

Drone Bees

Male bees are called drones. Their job is to mate with queens from other hives. If they do get the opportunity to mate, they die immediately afterwards. If they do not mate, they can live up to 90 days (that's twice as long as a worker bee!), but nearing the winter season they are kicked out of the hive.

You can identify drones in the hive by their big round bodies and large eyes. Drones are incapable of stinging.

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