We know that bees have been producing honey as they do today for at least
100 million years (since the Cretaceous period)*. Bees produce honey as food stores for the hive during the long months of
winter when flowers aren't blooming and therefore little or no nectar is available to them. European honey bees, genus Apis
Mellifera, produce such an abundance of honey, far more than the hive can eat, that humans can harvest the excess. For
this reason, European honey bees can be found in beekeeper's hives around the world!
Honey bees are social insects, with a marked division of labor between the various types of bees in the colony.
A colony of honey bees includes a queen, drones and workers.
The queen is the only sexually developed female in the hive. She is the largest bee in the colony.
A two-day-old larva is selected by the workers to be reared as the queen. She will emerge from her cell 11
days later to mate in flight with approximately 18 drone (male) bees. During this mating, she receives several million sperm
cells, which last her entire life span of nearly two years.
The queen starts to lay eggs about 10 days after mating. A productive queen can lay 3,000 eggs in a single
Drones are stout male bees that have no stingers. Drones do not collect food or pollen from flowers. Their
sole purpose is to mate with the queen. If the colony is short on food, drones are often kicked out of the hive.
Workers, the smallest bees in the
colony, are sexually undeveloped females. A colony can have 50,000 to 60,000 workers.
The life span of a worker bee varies according to the time of year. Her life expectancy is approximately 28
to 35 days. Workers that are reared in September and October, however, can live through the winter.
Workers feed the queen and larvae, guard the hive entrance and help to keep the hive cool by fanning their
wings. Worker bees also collect nectar to make honey. In addition, honey bees produce wax comb. The comb is composed
of hexagonal cells which have walls that are only 2/1000 inch thick, but support 25 times their own weight.
Honey bees' wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.
1. How many flowers
must honey bees tap to make one pound of honey?
2. How far does a hive of bees fly to bring you one pound of
3. How much honey
does the average worker honey bee make in her lifetime?
4. How fast does a honey bee fly?
About 15 miles per hour.
5. How much honey would it take to fuel a bee's flight around
About one ounce (or two Tablespoons).
8. How long have bees been producing honey from flowering plants?
10-20 million years.
9. How many sides does each honeycomb cell have?
12. How many wings does a honey bee have?
15. How many flowers does a honey bee visit during one collection
16. How do honey bees "communicate" with one another?
"Dancing." Honey bees
do a dance which alerts other bees where nectar and pollen is located. The dance explains direction and distance. Bees also
communicate with pheromones.