Honeybees are fascinating creatures that play a vital role in our ecosystem. They are a species of the genus Apis, and there are several types of honeybees, but the most common is the Western honeybee - Apis mellifera. Honeybees are known for their ability to produce honey, but they are also important pollinators, and they live in highly organized and efficient families called colonies or hives. A honeybee family consists of three types of bees: the queen bee, worker bees, and drones and has about 50,000 individual members.
The queen bee is the mother of all the bees in the colony. She is larger than the other bees and is responsible for laying eggs. Her job is to ensure the survival of the colony by producing new bees to replace those that die or leave.
In the summer, the queen bee can lay up to 2000 eggs a day! She will stop from time to time in the hive, to be groomed and fed by the worker bees called her 'attendants.' In fact, she does no other work except lay eggs - she is fed and groomed by the female worker bees.
Read more about the birth, life and death of the queen be on our blog here: https://www.geesbees.ca/post/the-queen-bee
Worker bees are female bees that make up the majority (90%) of the colony. They are responsible for collecting nectar and pollen from flowers, which they use to produce honey and feed the colony. They also take care of the queen, tend to the young bees, and maintain the hive.
The workers are highly organized, and each bee has a specific role to play based on their age. The youngest worker bees are responsible for cleaning up debris in the hive. As they age they become nurse bees that care for the developing larva. Later they become architects, secreting beeswax and building honeycomb. Then, they become guards and protect the entrance of the hive from intruders. The oldest bees in the hive are the foragers, who are responsible for leaving the beehive to collect nectar that will be transformed into honey.
Communication is essential to the honeybee family, and honeybees have several ways to communicate with each other. For example, they use pheromones to signal to each other and to the queen, and they perform a unique dance to communicate the location of food sources
Drones are male bees that are produced in the colony during the spring and summer months. Their sole purpose is to mate with the queen bee, after which they die. Drones do not collect nectar or pollen, nor do they help with the maintenance of the hive. Their sole purpose is to mate with a virgin queen bee, and die in the process.
These three types of honeybees - the queen, the workers, and the drones - are considered a superorganism - a social unit of highly organized and specialized individuals that are not able to to survive by themselves for extended periods. If that isn't a family, its hard to say what is! Together they are incredibly important pollinators. They help to pollinate crops and plants, which in turn helps to produce the fruits, vegetables, and nuts that we rely on for our food. Without honeybees, many of the foods that we enjoy would become scarce, and the ecosystem would be severely impacted.
Are you curious to learn more about bees and see them in person? Check out our upcoming tours and events: