Honey Bee Behavior

Because they can maintain a close relationship with humans, the behavior of honey bees has been well-researched. Honey bees live in well-organized colonies and do not require hibernation. They are best known for their production of honey, which they store in wax combs inside nests. Honey bees are generally active during spring, when they go in search of plants from which to collect pollen and nectar. From these two ingredients, they create honey, which humans have harvested for hundreds of years.

Honey bees are social creatures and live within colonies with a queen, thousands of workers and a few male drones. Workers make these nests from wax, which they secrete from their abdominal glands. Within each cell, young workers place pollen and nectar as food for developing larvae. Male drones are ejected from the nest to die during autumn, after they have completed their only task in life: to mate with queens. The age of honey bees also plays an important role in determining which individuals perform various daily activities.

Honey bees are very adaptable. While honey bees forage for food in groups, a colony can survive without foraging for several years by living on food reserves and huddling in large, compacted masses during winter seasons. Honey bees behave similarly in Africa, Asia, Europe and other parts of the world, though certain species are known to be more aggressive than others.

Like some insects, honey bees behave defensively when intruders are near, guarding the entrance to their nests. However, honey bees are able to sting only once. Because stingers contain barbs and are attached to the worker’s intestines, they detach from the stinging bee’s body after attacking a victim. While a honey bee will die soon after transferring its venom, pheromones secreted during the attack will alarm and stimulate other worker bees to attack, as well.