Western Honey Bees

Western honey bees, also known as European honey bees, are members of the honey bee species Apis mellifera. The Greek word “mellifera” means “honey-carrying.”

The way western honey bees designate tasks is similar to ants and other social species. Future queens leave their nests only to mate with male bees, or drones, during mating flights and swarms. They lay eggs and place them individually into cells. Drones, which are the minority in a colony, are defenseless and incapable of feeding themselves. The only task of drones is to mate with virgin queens.

Worker bees are the most productive members of a western honey bee hive. During the first few days of a young worker bee’s life, they clean the nests and take care of other generations of larvae. After they have matured, worker bees are assigned to build individual comb cells. After a week or two of cell building, they receive pollen and nectar from mature workers who forage for food. As soon as these young adults are strong enough, they begin to explore outside their nests, foraging for food and remain foragers until they die.

Western honey bee workers are responsible for building the cells in which queens place their eggs. Once each egg hatches into larva, young workers feed them until, after several molts and a week of feeding; the larvae enter the pupal stage and then emerge as adults.

One colony of Western honey bees could contain around 30,000 to 80,000 bees, including the queen, drones and workers. Western honey bee queens are the only reproductive females in colonies, and are the mothers of all workers, drones and the next generation of queens. Queens can produce up to 2,000 eggs daily.