Bee Biology Basics

The Colony

Single queen (mother), thousands of workers (daughters) and a few hundred drones each with specialized tasks to complete.

Colony acts like a single organism consisting of 10,000 to 60,000 members. The organism survives through successive cycles of brood rearing. The colony duplicates itself through swarming.

The Nest

Dark enclosed cavity such as a hollow tree

•Provides protection from predators and inclement weather

•Allows regulation of the temperature and humidity

Wax combs

•Built by young worker bees

•Attached to the top of the cavity

•Ideally parallel with a spacing of 8mm (3/8”) that allows passage of all castes of bees – “Bee Space”

•Combs are 6 sided cells extending out and angled slightly upwards

•Used to rear brood and store food.

•Brood tends to be located in the center of the nest with pollen and honey stored above and to the sides of brood

•Most of the comb is worker size with drone comb usually located along the bottom and sides.

•Queens are raised in specialized cells that hang downwards (queen cup--> queen cells)

A year in a Honey Bee’s Life

•Honey Bees must maintain colony year round with food stores in excess of their day to day requirements in case of dearth or long periods of inclement weather (e.g. winter)

Spring – Raise new brood <-> Collect pollen and nectar <-> Stay warm

Early Summer – Grow colony <-> Collect pollen and nectar <-> Swarm

Mid Summer – Maintain Colony <-> Collect pollen and nectar <-> Ripen nectar

Late Summer – Produce winter bees <-> Collect pollen and nectar <-> Prepare nest for winter

Fall – Egg laying ceases <-> Start clustering <14C <-> Kick out drones

Winter – Protect queen from cold <-> Maintain cluster temperature <-> 1.5-2kg honey / month

Early Spring – Start brood rearing <-> internal cluster temp of 35C <-> 7-8kg honey / month

Figure Above: Population Model - Source: