Bees of all varieties live on nectar and pollen.
Without bees, pollination would be difficult and time consuming - it is estimated that one-third of the human food supply depends on insect pollination.
Bees have a long, straw-like tongue called a probiscus that allows them to drink the nectar from deep within blossoms.
Bees are also equipped with two wings, two antennae, and three segmented body parts (the head, the thorax, and the abdomen).
Honeybees are social insects that live in colonies.
The hive population consists of a single queen, a few hundred drones, and thousands of worker bees.
The honeybees we know and love here at Honeybee Centre forage for nectar and pollen from flowering plants.
They use the nectar collected to create our favourite sweet treat - honey!
When carrying the nectar back to the hive, their bodies break down the complex sucrose of the nectar into two simple sugars, fructose and glucose.
Tucking it neatly into a honeycomb cell, the bees will then beat their wings furiously over top of this syrupy sweet liquid to fan out the moisture and thicken the substance.
When it is complete, the bees will cap that cell with beeswax, sealing the perfected honey for consumption later on.
Worker bees are all female, and they do almost everything for the hive.
From birth to her death 45 days later, the worker bee is given different tasks to do during different stages of her life.
Worker bees are responsible for everything from feeding the larvae (the baby bees), to tending to the queen, to cleaning the hive, to collecting food, to guarding the colony, to building honeycomb.
The stinger of the worker bee is barbed, so when she is forced to defend herself or the hive, her stinger will become stuck in the skin of her victim.
She is unable to pull it out, and dies when she inevitably tears herself away from the stuck stinger, leaving it behind with the venom sack still pumping venom into her victim.
Consequently, honeybees are very gentle - they don't want to die any more than you want to be stung.
Be nice to them, and they'll be nice to you.
If one lands on you, DO NOT swat it, simply GENTLY blow on it to depart.
Their job is to mate with queens from other hives.
If they do get the opportunity to mate, they die immediately afterwards.
If they do not mate, they can live up to 90 days (that's twice as long as a worker bee!)
You can identify drones in the hive by their big round bodies and large eyes.
Drones are incapable of stinging.
Queen bees are distinguished from the other members of the hive by their long abdomens and small wings. Soon after birth, queen bees will go out and have a wild weekend, where they mate with 15 or more drones over a three day period before retiring to the hive to lay eggs. The queen will not leave the hive again unless the colony swarms (looking for a new home).
When the colony needs a new queen bee, they simply choose a healthy larva, hatched from an egg of the current queen, and feed it royal jelly, a special, super-nutrious food. Royal jelly, produced in the heads of young nurse bees (worker bees whose job it is to care for the larvae), helps this larva grow into a queen. Queens can lay about 1,500 eggs per day and can live from 4 to 7 years, that's up to 57 times longer than a worker bee - it's no wonder humans love adding royal jelly to their diets, too!
Life In A Hive
To seal their hive and to protect against diseases, the bees make a substance called propolis. Propolis is a combination of beeswax, honey, and tree resins, and is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-viral. It disinfects and protects their hive. It is also very sticky, and honeybees love to use it to seal up any cracks or holes they may encounter on a housekeeping mission.
With such a large population all working together, some great communication skills are needed. Bees do their talking in two ways - by scent and by dancing. When a honeybee is warning the hive about an intruder, or if the hive is particularly happy, honeybees have the ability to release a special hormonal scent called pheromones. The bees can detect these scents and interpret their message. A happy bee pheromone smells suspiciously like lemons, and a warning-smell has a banana-like scent.