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Hive Hierarchy

Honey bees are social insects meaning that bees live together in family-organized groups. A honey bee colony typically consists of three kinds of adult bees: workers, drones, and a queen. Each member has a definite task to perform, related to its age and type. The colony relies on each other for everything within one another individual bees (workers, drones, and queens) wouldn't be able to survive. The whole colony is also needed to reproduce! The colony of a bee is a well-oiled machine working together to survive.


Each colony has only one queen; she is the only sexually developed female, so her primary function is reproduction. During peak production, queens may lay up to 1,500 eggs per day, one queen may produce up to 250,000 eggs per year and possibly more than a million in her lifetime. The second major function of a queen is producing pheromones that serve as a social "glue" unifying and give an individual identity to a bee colony. Her genetic makeup—along with that of the drones she has mated with—contributes significantly to the colony's quality, size, and temperament.


Drones (male bees) are the largest bees in the colony. Drones have no stinger, pollen baskets, or wax glands. Their main function is to fertilize the virgin queen. Drones become sexually mature about a week after emerging and die instantly upon mating. When cold weather begins in the fall and pollen/nectar resources become scarce, drones usually are forced out into the cold and left to starve. Queenless colonies, however, allow them to stay in the hive indefinitely.


Workers are the smallest and are the majority of bees occupying the colony. Workers have specialized structures that allow them to perform all the labors of the hive. They can clean and polish the cells, feed the brood, care for the queen, remove debris, handle incoming nectar, build beeswax combs, guard the entrance, and air-condition and ventilate the hive during their initial few weeks as adults. Later as field bees, they forage for nectar, pollen, water, and plant sap. Their lifespan can significantly depend on the season. During Summer, their life span is about six weeks, and in the Fall, they may live as long as six months.

"The Colony and Its Organization." MAAREC. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Dec. 2015

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