Honey Bees

Origin: A native of Europe and Asia, the honeybee was introduced to the United States for honey production and pollination of crops. The Africanized honeybee (a.k.a. “killer bee”) evolved in Africa, was introduced to South America, and found its way north into the U.S.

Biology: Honeybees are social bees, with colonies composed of a single Queen and many hundreds of workers. New colonies are begun when additional Queens are produced in a colony and all but one leave, each newly fertilized Queen taking a consort of workers with her. Males (drones) are produced only for mating with these new queens, and the males then die. Only the females can sting, but all workers are females and all of the working members of the hive can sting. Honeybees can sting humans only once, losing their stinger in the process. Larvae are fed pollen and honey, and the honey is created by continual mastication and dehydration of the nectar and other sugary fluids the workers gather. Honeybee hives remain active year-round, and often will be located within structures. Queens may live as long as 5 years while workers live less than 2 months in the active summer months.

Identification: The workers are about a half inch long and are various shades of brown and black colors, with very dark head, legs, and antennae. They are densely covered with short, pale hairs. The antennae are bent at their middle, or “elbowed”. The mouth is an elongate tongue formed by several parts, and enables the bees to reach into fairly deep flowers to take up the nectar there. The bees have 2 pairs of wings, separating them from some similar flies that mimic the bee’s appearance.

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