One of the most familiar insects in the world is the Honeybee. While many species of insects consume nectar, honeybees refine and concentrate nectar to make honey. Indeed, they make lots of honey so they will have plenty of food for times when flower nectar is unavailable, such as winter. Unlike most insects, honeybees remain active through the winter, consuming and metabolizing honey in order to keep from freezing to death.
Honeybees have a bright color pattern to warn potential predators that they have a weapon to defend themselves. Their weapon is their stinger, combined with the venom inside, only females can sting, male bees cannot. When the hive is threatened, honeybees will swarm out and attack with their stingers to drive the enemy away.
Honeybees are social insects, in the wild, they create elaborate nests called hives containing up to 20,000 individuals during the summer months. Each bee belongs to one of three specialized groups called castes. The different castes are: queen, drones and workers.
There is only one queen in a hive and her main purpose in life is to make more bees. She can lay over 1,500 eggs per day and will usually live less than two years. She is larger and has a longer abdomen that the workers and drones have. Her stinger is curved with no barbs on it and she can use it many times.
Drones, are males so they have no stingers, they live about eight weeks, their sole function is to make with a new queen. A drone’s eyes are noticeably larger than those of the other castes. This helps them to spot the queens when they are on their nuptial flight, any drones left at the end of the season are considered non-essential and will be driven out of the hive to die.
Worker bees do all the different tasks needed to maintain and operate the hive. They make up the vast majority of the hive’s occupants and they are all sterile females. When young, they are called house bees and work in the hive doing comb construction, brood rearing, tending the queen and drones, cleaning, temperature regulation and defending the hive. Older workers are called field bees. They forage outside the hive to gather nectar, pollen, water and certain sticky plant resins used in hive construction. Workers born early in the season will live about six wees while those born in the fall will live until the following spring. They have straight, barbed stingers which can only be used once, it rips out of their abdomen after use, which kills the bee.