Honey bees are very hard working and are active from April till October (weather dependant).

In this section is some information about the way a colony is built up of the different kinds of bees.

A lot of this information was gained from other sources and I am just presenting it here as a reference.


The Queen Bee

The most important bee in the colony is the queen!

Queen Bee

Here you can see one of my queen bees, she is just slightly left of center of the photo and is recognizable due to her greater size and elongated body and legs.

A queen bee's life is not an easy one. After she is born, she is raised by the nurse bees in the hive until she is able to fly (a matter of days). She will then pick a day when there is good weather and fly out of the hive for mating. Once successfully mated she will return to the hive and be looked after by the worker bees until she starts to produce eggs. Once she starts to lay eggs she will be able to produce up to 2,000 eggs a day.

A bee keeper always likes to check that there is an active egg laying queen in his colonies. However, finding a queen, despite her relative larger size, in a hive containing 40,000 - 60,000 bees at the height of the season can be somewhat of a task.

Frame of Bees

In the photo above there are bees covering approx. 60% of one side of a frame, so imagine checking both sides of up to 11 frames looking for one single particular bee, the queen!

The easiest way and the most common method is for bee keepers to mark their queens with a spot of special, brightly colored, paint. This makes it a lot easier to find and identify the queen in each colony.

The international standard adopted by most bee keepers is as follows.

Queen Bee Colouring system
Colour Year Ending
0, 5
1, 6
2, 7
3, 8
4, 9

So a queen born in 2010 should have a Blue dot on her back.

Queens generally do not live longer than 3-4 years and in fact it is more common to find that as a queen gets older and her egg production slows down she will be replaced by a new queen.


Worker Bees

Here you can see the worker bees hard at work building wax honey comb and storing pollen and nectar into it.

Worker Bees

Worker bees as the name indicates do all of the work in the hive. They have a life cycle lasting only 36 days (during the summer).

Workers are the smallest and most numerous of the bees, constituting over 98% of the colony's population. One colony can consist of between 40-60,000 worker bees.

Although they never mate, the workers possess organs necessary for carrying out the many duties essential to the well being of the colony. They have a longer tongue than the queen and drones, and thus are well fitted for sucking nectar from flowers. They have large honey stomachs to carry the nectar from the field to the hive; they have pollen baskets on their third pair of legs to transport the pollen to the hive. Glands in their head produce royal jelly as food for the larvae and glands in their thorax secrete enzymes necessary for ripening honey. Four sets of wax glands, situated inside the last four ventral segments of the abdomen, produce wax for comb construction. A well-developed sting permits them to defend the colony very efficiently.

The kind of work performed by the worker depends largely upon her age. The first three weeks of her adult life, during which she is referred to as a house or nurse bee, are devoted to activities within the hive, while the remainder are devoted to field work, so that she is called a field or flying bee.

The duties of a house bee are -

a) cleaning the hive and the comb 
b) feeding the brood 
c) caring for the queen
d) making orientation flights 
e) comb building 
f) ventilating the hive 
g) packing pollen, water, nectar or honey into the combs 
h) executions 
i) guard duty

Activities involving flight may start from the third day after emergence from the brood cell, but the young worker begins her actual foraging activity later. Between the 18th and the 21st day, her hypopharyngeal and wax glands have become too weak to function, so that she cannot produce royal jelly to feed the queen and the young larvae, nor wax to build comb cells. But by this time she is in perfect condition to fly and knows the geography of the locality. She therefore starts field work, fetching nectar, pollen, propolis or water, but always concentrating her activity on the immediate needs of the colony.


Drones (Male Bees)

Below you can see two drone bees being fed by a worker bee.

Drone Bees

The drone is popularly known for exhibiting a high degree of laziness. His presence in the hive seems to be of little importance to the beekeeper. He is stout and larger than the worker. He has no suitable proboscis for gathering nectar and has no sting to defend himself or the colony. Like the queen, he possesses no baskets for collecting pollen grains and no glands to secrete wax for comb construction. He does no work in the hive but is fed, eating large quantities of food, and moves about in sunshine and on warm days making loud, frightening noises everywhere he goes. This is why he is considered useless, but he has a very important function to play, which only a few of his kind ever fulfil. This function is to inseminate the queen, and for this he is well prepared.

The compound eyes of the drone are twice as large as those of the queens and workers, and both eyes meet at the top of his head, which is not true of workers and queens. This enables him to see the queen during the mating flight. The drones also have the largest wings, which help them to reach the queen during the flight.

The spermatozoa are produced in the drone's testes during the pupal stage. After the drone emerges from the comb cell, the spermatozoa pass into seminal vesicles, where they remain until mating. During mating, they pass into the copulatory apparatus.

The colony begins to rear drones in late spring and early summer. They reach sexual maturity nine days after emerging, and fly out of the hive (mostly between 1 and 3 p.m.) searching for the queens over a distance of 8 km or more. Mating occurs in the open air, in the drones' congregation areas. During mating, the drone everts his copulatory apparatus, injecting the semen into the queen's oviducts and leaving part of the apparatus in the tip of the queen's abdomen. That part, visible in the queen returning from the mating flight, is called the mating sign. The drone dies during mating.

Toward the end of the nectar flow, when fresh nectar becomes scarce, the workers prevent the drones from feeding. At first they push the drones from the brood combs to the side combs and eventually drag them half-starved from the hive.

In unfavourable periods, drones are tolerated only in queenless colonies or those containing unmated queens. Thus the presence of drones in a colony during such periods shows that something is wrong with the queen and that action by the beekeeper is needed.