Honeybees have long provided humans with honey, bee venom, propolis, pollen and beeswax. Such commercial uses have spawned a large beekeeping industry, though many species still occur in the wild. Honeybees are cooperative, even social insects and live in domestic or self-made wild hives.
A beehive generally have three types of inhabitants, which includes worker bees, the queen bee and drone bees. Most people generally only see the worker bees. These bees are females and are not sexually developed. Below are the many duties the worker bees perform.
- Forage for food getting pollen and nectar from flowers
- Protect and care for the queen
- They build and protect the hive
- Keep the hive clean
- Act as nurses for the eggs, larva and pupa in the hive
- They circulate air by beating their wings
- Perform many other critical functions
The queen’s job is simple, she mates and the spends the rest of her life laying the eggs creating the hive’s next generation of bees. There is usually only a single queen in a hive. If the queen dies, workers bee recognize within twenty-four hours their queen’s pheromones are gone and they will create a new queen. They do this by feeding one or more of eggs a special diet of a food called “royal jelly.” This is also called bee milk and it enables the egg to develop into a fertile queen. Queens also regulate the hive’s activities by producing chemicals to guide the behavior of the other bees. A queen actually mates about one mile up in the air with the drones and these may be drones from other nearby hives as well as her own hive.
Male bees are called drones and their only responsibility is to mate with the queen. Once they mate the drones will die as his abdomen rips open when his endophallus (reproductive organs) is released. Many drones live in the hive during the spring and summer but they are expelled for the winter months when the hive goes into a lean survival mode. Drones are only produced in case a queen needs to be replaced and she needs to mate; once a queen mates she has a lifetime’s worth of eggs. Any queen bees mates only once and has a lifetime’s worth of eggs. Drones do not forage and have no duties or responsibilities in the hive.