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The Buzz on Worker Bees: How They Keep Our Hives Thriving and Honey Flowing

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

Hello, fellow bee enthusiasts! I'm a beekeeper here at Gees Bees Honey Company, and today, we're going to delve into the fascinating world of worker bees. In our previous blog post, we introduced you to the honeybee family: the queen, the workers and the drones. In this post we're focused on the jobs of the worker bees.

Marianne Gee holding a frame of bees
Here's a frame of worker bees

You've likely heard the phrase, "busy as a bee," and there's no better example of this than the diligent worker bees that keep our hives thriving and our honey production flowing. These tireless insects play a crucial role in the success of our hives, and without them, our honey-making process would simply not be possible. So let's take a closer look at the various jobs these tiny, hardworking creatures perform to maintain the hive and ensure a steady supply of delicious honey!

Worker bees are female honeybees that make up the majority of a colony's population. Their primary purpose is to maintain the hive's internal structure and provide for the needs of the colony. Although they are genetically equipped to become queens, they do not develop into reproductive adults. Instead, they assume various roles within the hive to ensure its smooth operation. In their 6 week lifespan, they take on each role depending on their age.

Housekeeping Bees:

One of the first jobs a worker bee takes on after emerging from her cell is that of a housekeeping bee. Housekeeping bees are responsible for cleaning and maintaining the cleanliness of the hive. This includes removing debris, dead bees, and waste to prevent the spread of disease and parasites. Additionally, housekeeping bees also help maintain the proper temperature within the hive by fanning their wings to create airflow and dissipate heat when necessary.

Nurse Bees:

After serving as housekeeping bees, worker bees move on to nursing duties within the hive. Nurse bees are responsible for feeding and caring for the larvae (baby bees) and attending to the queen. They produce a substance called "royal jelly" which is a nutritious blend of proteins, vitamins, and lipids that is fed to all larvae during their first few days of life. The queen, however, receives royal jelly throughout her entire life, ensuring she remains fertile and healthy.

Architect Bees:

As worker bees further develop, they become architect bees. These skilled insects are responsible for constructing the hive's intricate honeycomb structure. Using beeswax produced by special glands in their abdomen, architect bees build and maintain the hexagonal cells that house honey, pollen, and developing larvae. This efficient design allows the colony to maximize storage space and maintain the strength and stability of the hive.

Nectar Ripening and Pollen Packing Bees:

After their time as architect bees, worker bees assume the role of pollen packing bees. These bees collect and store the pollen brought in by the foragers in designated cells. They mix the pollen with nectar or honey to create "bee bread," which serves as an essential protein source for the colony. Pollen packing bees also help distribute the pollen throughout the hive, ensuring it's accessible for all the bees when needed. The worker bees also receive the nectar from the returning foragers, storing it in the honeycomb and ripening it into honey. For more on this, check out our blog post How Honey is Made.

Guard Bees:

Some worker bees also serve as guard bees, protecting the hive from potential threats, such as predators and other insects. They monitor the entrance of the hive and use their antennae to identify incoming bees by scent, ensuring only members of the colony are allowed entry. Guard bees also release alarm pheromones when they sense danger, alerting other bees in the colony to prepare for defence. The guards will also fan out pheromones to help foragers find the hive.

Foraging Bees:

In the final stage of their life, worker bees become foraging bees. These bees are responsible for gathering nectar, pollen, water, and propolis (a resinous substance collected from trees and plants) from the surrounding environment. Nectar and pollen are crucial for honey production and the nutrition of the colony, while water helps regulate the hive's temperature and humidity. Propolis is used to seal cracks and gaps in the hive, keeping it well insulated and protected from the elements.

Worker bees are the backbone of a healthy, functioning honeybee colony. They tirelessly carry out various roles, including housekeeping, nursing, pollen packing, guarding, and foraging, to keep the hive thriving and honey production flowing. At Gees Bees Honey Company, we recognize and appreciate the vital work of these incredible insects, which allows us to provide you with the highest quality honey. Stay tuned for more exciting insights into the world of bees and the delicious honey they produce!


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