What is a Honeybee?

First of all, I'd like to warn you... I could talk about honeybees for hours. I love them. They are incredibly so complex and interesting. You would be astonished at the cool things that they do! But in an effort to not overwhelm you with all of their details all at once, I will try and be brief for now (and eventually dive into the super fun details later!). 

My goal for these blogs is to help spread and share the unique knowledge I have acquired in my journey to becoming a better beekeeper. These little, furry, flying creatures are so astonishing in their conquests and actions that I get so excited sharing any knowledge that I obtain about them. I am in no means an expert, but I always love learning. So, hopefully you will enjoy learning a little something new as I have and, quite possibly, sharing with me and the world in turn.

honeybee Apis Mellifera

Honeybees are found on every continent on earth, except for Antartica. Know scientifically to us as Apis mellifera, the Western or more common European honeybee are winged insects that are close relatives to the wasp and ant. 

honeybee bumblebee wasp

All honeybees are considered eusocial, meaning they have an incredibly complex level of organization and stability within their hive and in the animal kingdom. They create and maintain a social status within their colony that consists of three types of labor, in a very quick and simplified synopsis:

  1. The Worker Bee. Consisting of all females, worker bees are the honeybees that you see out and about collecting pollen on flowers and fluttering from bloom to bloom. They are essential in maintaining proper order of the hive, social status, and care taking of the new brood (or baby bees).
  2. The Queen Bee, who is the one fertile bee in the entire colony. When a queen bee is born she soon leaves the hive to seek out male bees (aka. drones) and mate with as many as she can on her single flight. Storing up as much sperm as she can, the queen will return to the hive and ultimately never leave it again. She will then lay eggs for the rest of her life, normally laying anywhere between 1500-2500 eggs in a single day.
  3. The Drone Bee. The only male bees of the hive, these drones are created from unfertilized eggs that the queen has laid. They only DNA that they possess is that of the queen, and their only true job is to leave the hive and mate with a queen of a different hive. They do not have stingers and do not forge for pollen and nectar.

honeybees, worker bee, queen bee, drone bee

Bees of all varieties live on nectar and pollen. They have a long, straw-like tongue  that allows them to drink the nectar from deep within blossoms. Honeybees are also equipped with two wings, two antennae, and three segmented body parts (the head, the thorax, and the abdomen). Bees, specifically, are very furry which allows them to gather up as much pollen from flower to flower, unlike their wasp counterparts that are typically smooth and shiny. Honeybees collect pollen to create bee-bread which is a protein source that they feed the baby bees, and they collect nectar to create and store honey which is their primary food source.

Honeybees are essential to the pollination. Of the worlds 115 most important food crops, 87 of them require pollination to produce fruit, nuts, and seeds. Statistically,  honeybees pollinate 1/3rd of the foods that you consume, which will always lead to the question.... what happens when the bees disappear? Hopefully with our combined effort, we will help ensure that the decline of the honeybee is kept at bay. They truly are magnificent, little bees and I hope that you, too, will soon think the same.