Bee Facts

General Bee Information

  • Honey is the only food produced by insects that is eaten by humans
  • Bees produce 5 main products used by humans: Honey, Pollen, Beeswax, Propolis and Royal Jelly
  • In the height of a season (spring/summer) a single bee colony (hive) contains between 60,000 to 100,000 bees
  • Bees communicate with one another by smell and dances
  • Bees have 5 eyes: 2 compound eyes and 3 ocelli
  • Each compound eye is made up of 6900 facets (8600 in drones), each with its own lens to concentrate incoming light and form images
  • Ocelli cannot form images and detect light intensity
  • Bees are attracted to ultraviolet light and cannot see the colour red
  • Honey bees have four wings that are latched into pairs by hooks
  • The average honey bee flies between 20km and 25km per hour
  • A honey bee flaps its wings about 12,000 times per minute
  • About one ounce of honey would fuel a bee’s flight around the world
  • Honey bees have been producing honey from flowering plants for about 10-20 million years
  • It takes 8.4 kg of honey to produce 1 kg of wax that is made using approx 991,000 wax scales
  • 1 kg of wax can be used to construct 77,000 cells which can support 20 kg of honey
  • Beeswax consists of over 300 chemical components
  • Bee colonies require 15-30 kg pollen and 60-80 kg of honey annually for survival
  • A bee colony not only controls the temperature inside the brood nest approx 35°C but also maintain humidity at approximately 50% – ie: climate-controlled beehives
honey combo

Queen Bees

  • A bee colony consists of one queen bee, whose sole purpose is to lay eggs that produce new bees. In spring and summer she can produce over 2000 eggs a day and lives approx 4 – 6 years. (no such thing as a king bee)
  • The queen bee is feed royal jelly by the worker bees and is much larger and stronger than the other bees
  • The queen will mate with multiple drones on its virgin flights (which can last several days) this is the only time the queen will mate in her lifetime, once a queen starts laying eggs she will never mate again
  • Each queen ovary consists of 150-180 ovarioles (worker has 2-12) and produce up to 1 million eggs in a lifetime
  • The spermatothecae of queens can hold up to 7 million sperm and it takes up to 4 years after mating before they’re all used
  • It takes 16 days for a new virgin queen bee to emerge from it cell
  • The queen stinger has small barbs so it can be retracted and reused in battle against rival queens
  • The queen poison sacs contain 2-3 times the volume of worker venom
queen bee 4
anatomy of queen bee

Worker Bees

  • Worker bees are female and perform all the tasks required of a colony, collecting nectar and pollen, feeding and caring for the baby bees (Brood – eggs, larvae and pupa) keeping the bee hive clean and warm and of course defending the hive, these are the bees that will sting you if they feel threatened
  • Worker bees never stop working and will live approximately 6 weeks during the working season (spring, summer and autumn), they basically work themselves to death. Although they can survive up to 3 months during the winter season
  • The total distance foraged determines when they die; 800 km seems to be the limit regardless of how long it takes
  • Worker bee tasks are age-related; final task performed by workers is foraging which begins at about day 23
  • The median foraging radius from a hive is generally a few hundred meters, but they will fly up to 5kms if they need too
  • Foraging for nectar and pollen generally begins at temperatures above 14°C
  • 58% of foragers collect nectar; 25% pollen and 17% both; usually visiting only one plant species until the supply exhausted
  • With an average honey load (30 mg) a worker can fly about 60 km before running out of fuel
  • Worker bees maintain thoracic flight temperature at 46 °C by passing excess heat to the head where it is eliminated by regurgitating watered-down honey (i.e. sweating)
  • A worker bee can visit between 50 and 100 flowers during one foraging trip
  • The average worker bee makes 1/12 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime
  • The worker proboscis extends between 5.3-7.2 mm in length
  • A workers wings beat at a rate of over 200 cycles/sec in flight
  • Worker bees produce wax by metabolizing honey in fat cells associated with wax glands
  • It take 21 days for a new worker bee to emerge from its cell
  • The sting of a worker can continue to pump for 30-60 sec into the victim after detachment from the bee’s abdomen
workers closeup
anatomy worker bee
worker bee 2

Drone Bees

  • Drones are the male bees and their only purpose is to mate with a new virgin queen bee, they have no stringer, are bigger and fatter than a worker bee
  • Drones mate only once and die once it has mated with a virgin queen (endophallus breaks off…ouch)
  • Worker bees decide whether or not the drone bees are looked after by the colony, at the end of the working season they are generally exiled from the colony and die
  • It takes 24 days for a new drone bee to emerge from its cell
drone 2