Honeybee | Species, Biology, Characteristics, Habitat, Life Cycle, & Facts

The Bee is an insect of the superfamily Apoidea. order Hymenoptera, the suborder Apocrita. There are more than 20,000 species of insects in the suborder Apocrita. Our familiar honeybee is known as Apis and bumblebee as Bombus and Psithyrus. There are thousands of wasp-like and fly-like bees. Adult bees range from app 2 mm to 4 cm (0.08–1.6 inches) long in size.

Honeybees are social insects, habituated to live together in nests or hives. So, they like colonial life. The honeybees are amazing for the dancing movements they perform in the hive to communicate information to their fellow bees about the location, distance, size, and quality of a particular food source in the surrounding areas. Dancing is the language of bees to express their ideas.

The following sections will provide an overview of the different honeybee species, honeybee biology, characteristics, habitat, life cycle, and facts of honeybees.

Honey Bee Species

Apis species or honey bee species

Scientists believe that this earth is the home of more than 20,000 bee species, from fluorescent-colored orchid bees to flower-besting squash bees. Bees are a diverse species that play a vital role in the life of the planet due to a large portion of pollination depending on the bees. Out of these 20,000 different bees, about 4,000 species of bees are native to the USA.

We mention here 7 species of honey bees that are very common and known to everybody:

Honeybee | Species, Biology, Characteristics, Habitat, Life Cycle, & Facts
Species of honey bee

(1) Apis mellifera:

They are known as western honey bees or European honey bees.

(2) Apis Florea:

They are found in southern Asia, build their nests in trees and shrubs.

(3) Apis Andreniformis:

They are native to forested habitats of southeastern Asia.

(4) Apis Dorsata:

These giant beehives are found in southeastern Asia and sometimes build combs nearly three meters in diameter.

(5) Apis Cerana:

Apis Cerana is called Eastern honeybee, native to southern and southeastern Asia.

(6) Apis koschevnikovi, or Koschevnikov’s bee:

Apis Koschevnikovi or Koschevnikov’s bees are found on Borneo and several other islands in Southeast Asia.

(7) Apis Nigrocincta:

They are found only in Indonesia & Mindanao island in the Philippines.

 

Honey Bee Biology

Bees are exactly similar to certain types of wasps. The principal biological difference between them is that bees feed their young a mixture of pollen and honey (except for parasitic bees), whereas wasps provide their young animal food. This difference in food preference establishes a structural difference. The most important is that wasps bodies are covered with unbranched hairs but bees have at least a few branched or feathered hairs. This arrangement helps them to pollen often clings and facilitate pollination.

Honey Bee Body Plan

Honeybee | Characteristics, Habitat, Life Cycle, & Facts
Honey Bee Body Plan

Apis mellifera is about 1.2 cm (about 0.5 inches) long, and the size varies among the several strains of this species. The head and thorax, or midsection of this species are somewhat bristly and vary in color according to the strain. They have two large compound eyes and three simple eyes, or ocelli, located on top of their head. Keen eyesight is balanced by two sensitive odor-detecting antennae.

Honey Bee Diseases

Honeybee colonies are vulnerable to a variety of diseases and parasites. These are particularly highly destructive for colonies in Europe and North America such as Varroa mites, Tropilaelaps clear, and Colony collapse disorder (CCD) which was first reported in 2006 in the USA. CCD caused massive colony losses and became significant challenges for crop pollination, and the beekeeping industry in North America.

Varroa Mite: Bees are at risk of several diseases. As an experienced beekeeper or just starter, you’ll need to be aware of Prevention & Treatment For Honey Bee Diseases: Varroa Mite, Fungal Diseases, Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV) Etc. so that you can avoid them.

The best way to do that is to acquire bees from a reliable source with the proper protection of diseases and parasites to ensure the safety of your bees. Beekeepers should know who provides better resistance to prevent diseases like bee mites.

American Foulbrood, Stonebrood, ABPV, CCD, Varroa Mite, Fungal Diseases.

01. American Foulbrood

This assassin disease is caused by Paenibacillus larva, a spore-forming bacterium. This is the most dangerous of all the bee diseases. As the 3-day-old bee larvae ingest the spore present in their food.

This spore germinates in their hives and develops into a vegetative form. The bee usually dies after its cell is sealed; by this time the larva may contain up to 100 million spores. The spore is highly infectious and rapidly spreads throughout the brood chamber. The spores are not always deadly.

At an early enough stage, drug treatment is effective in preventing the development of the vegetative form. Terramycin is an antibiotic that can be a successful treatment of the above disease.

02. Stonebrood

American Foulbrood, Acute Bee Paralysis, Store Brood Stonebrood, a fungal disease caused by Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus fumigatus. These fungi commonly live in soil and are also pathogenic to other birds & insects. The infection spreads into the whole honey bee brood to become mummified. Since it is hard to identify in the initial stages, when the bee larva ingests the spores, they may hatch in the stomach and produce a collar near the head.

132. Honey Bee Diseases: Varroa Mite, Fungal Diseases, ABPV On Honey Bees.

After the bees die they become solidified and hence the disease’s name comes. As the fungus erupts, that may form false skin. Beekeepers should remove infected larva from the colony, and if this happens soon enough, the beehives may survive.

03. Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV)

ABPV is the short form of Acute Bee Paralysis Virus, a common source of infection for honey bees. It is similar to the Kashmir bee virus, the Israel sensitive paralysis virus, and the black queen cell virus. Once the bees become infected with this disease, the colony will suddenly collapse, notwithstanding the fact that it is often found in apparently healthy hives.

04. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)

Colony collapse disorder or CCD is possibly one of the least implicit of bee diseases. In 2006 the beekeepers first witness it in North American bee colonies. It causes the sudden departure of the worker bees from the colony. Although its reason is unknown but assumed that factors may include stressors caused by environmental changes, or a combination of pathogens, mites, transgenic crops, pesticides, or radiation emission from man-made devices like cell phones.

05. Varroa Mite

Treat varroa mite with Apistan while mites are at a low level, kill them to get rid of bee infestation. Place two strips of Apistan in the brood chamber of the colony for about 4 weeks.

132. Honey Bee Diseases: Varroa Mite, Fungal Diseases, ABPV On Honey Bees.
132. Honey Bee Diseases: Varroa Mite, Fungal Diseases, ABPV On Honey Bees.

These stripes can be used with the sticker and fine mesh screen on the bottom brood of the colony to capture mites if any. The sticky paper also catches cell cappings and debris. By this method, it’s possible to detect a low-level infestation.

These Apistan stripes can be found in any large beekeeping supply company. It can be used to detect mites and also treat Varroa infestation. If any colony is found infested, all the colonies of that site should be treated to successfully remove varroa mites.

06. Fungal Diseases

The larvae must consume the spores of the fungus for the infection to occur. It only infects larvae of three to four days old. No chemical treatments are necessary for this disease, instead, it can be controlled by bee propagation and good management.

132. Honey Bee Diseases: Varroa Mite, Fungal Diseases, ABPV On Honey Bees.

The infected larvae are rapidly covered by the white cotton-like mycelium as shown in Fig. 1. The fungus finally fills the entire cell as shown in Fig. 2. The white-grey accumulation soon hardens, forming a hard, dried-up mummy which is easily detached from the cell.

The larva in the cell will look like a chunk of chalk. Thus, the name of the disease is chalkbrood. The presence of a Hygienic queen in the hive can reduce this disease. And Hygienic queens are available in professional queen breeders. Also warm and dry hive interior can reduce this disease as the fungus can grow on the wet surface with excessive moisture. Varroa control ultimately reduces the scope of fungus growing.

07. Mobile phones and bee decline

There have been widespread reports within the thought media that mobile phones could also be to blame for the decline of honeybees. The results are so surprising.

132. Honey Bee Diseases: Varroa Mite, Fungal Diseases, ABPV On Honey Bees.

For details see Mobile Phones and Vanishing Bees and may be thought of within the context of the more and more clear proof that weak radiation from mobile phones and base stations do have harmful effects on the health of men and life Drowning within the ocean of Microwaves.

For more detailed information on honeybee diseases, see the articles beekeeping and colony collapse disorder.

 

Characteristics

Honeybee sexes and castes

Male and female are two sexes and female castes are known as workers, and queens. The workers and queens have stingers, but the drones are stingless. In the picture below the bees are shown as per their sexes and castes:

(a) Male or drone: Larger in size than female but smaller than the queen. They are usually present only in early summer and the drones are stingless.

(b) Queen: The largest bee in a hive or colony, and Queen honey bees store sperm in a structure known as the spermatheca. This allows the queen to control the fertilization of their eggs and she can lay eggs either unfertilized or fertilized. 

Male or drones are developed from Unfertilized eggs whereas fertilized eggs develop into females. These females may be either workers or virgin queens as per their pre-defined arrangement. There are two types of cells in the colony. Cells intended to hatch queen is larger and verticle than the usual or normal and the Eggs destined to become queens are deposited in queen cells. After hatching, the virgin queens are fed royal jelly which is a substance produced by the salivary glands of the young worker bees.

 

Honeybee | Species, Biology, Characteristics, Habitat, Life Cycle, & Facts
Honeybee Characteristics

 

If not fed a diet consisting solely of royal jelly, (they are feed bee bread instead of royal jelly) virgin queens will develop into worker bees. If the existing queen becomes weak or if they miss the queen anyhow workers may lay unfertilized eggs, which give rise to drones. And this occurs during the swarming season.

(c) Female or worker bees: Smaller in size but most works done by them. They are females that do not attain sexual maturity.

Food

Bees are fully dependent on flowers for their food which consists of pollen and nectar. This nectar reformed as honey later on. There is no doubt that bees gather nectar and pollinate crops simultaneously. As bees fly from flower to flower pollen cling to their body and drop naturally to the flowers they visit. This is why cross-pollination often happens on plants.  They also have pollen bags in the legs and fill them to bring and store in the beehive.  The actual value of bees as pollinators is far greater than the value of honey and wax.

Habitat

Where they live

Among the 7 species of bees Apis mellifera is only the domestic honeybee, also called the European honeybee or the western honeybee. Except for these species, there are also a number of subspecies and strains of Apis.

Honey Bee Images: Apiary Beehives, Natural Beehives, & Crop for Beekeeping.
Honey Bee Images: Apiary Beehives, Natural Beehives, & Crop for Beekeeping.

(1) Apis mellifera:

Apis mellifera is known as a western honey bee or European honey bee. Except for mellifera, all other Apis species are confined to parts of southern or southeastern Asia. 

(2) Apis florea:

This species is found in southern Asia, where it builds its nests in trees and shrubs.

(3) Apis andreniformis:

This species of the honeybee is native to forested habitats of southeastern Asia.

(4) Apis dorsata:

This giant honeybee also naturally occurs in southeastern Asia and sometimes builds combs nearly three meters (more than nine feet) in diameter.

(5) Apis cerana:

Also called Eastern honeybee, is native to southern and southeastern Asia. It has become domesticated in some areas. It is very closely related to the last 2 species of 6 and 7.

(6) Apis koschevnikovi, or Koschevnikov’s bee:

This species is found on Borneo and several other islands in Southeast Asia including on the Malay Peninsula.

(7) Apis nigrocincta:

Apis nigrocincta is native to Indonesia & Mindanao island in the Philippines.

Bee Hives

A series of combs composed of two layers of six-sided cells is known as beehives.  It’s made of wax produced and secreted by the worker bees. Food in the form of honey and plant nectar is stored in the cells. And so-called bee bread which is made from pollen is also stored.

Beekeeping

Honey is produced from the nectar of flowers which was nothing but the only form of sugar readily available to humans until the modern age. That is why honeybees were domesticated by humans for centuries. The art of caring for honey bees and managing bee colonies is known as beekeeping. Other than producing honey, honeybees play a vital role as pollinators of a wide variety of crops in agriculture.

 

Life Cycle

Honey Bee Life Cycle

For all three genders of honeybees, eggs hatch within three days and then develop into larvae. The larvae are known as grubs. At first, all grubs are fed royal jelly, but only the grubs intended to make queens are continued on the diet. And then the grubs transform into pupae.

Queens come out (on average) within 16 days, where workers in about 21 days and drones in 24 days. After that, the new queens fight with each other until only one remains in the hive. By this time the old queen usually left the hive with the majority of her workers. And then the new queen establishes her position in the existing hive. In this way, the swarm which is populated during swarming may form two or more new colonies at different nesting sites with one queen in each.

Honeybee | Characteristics, Habitat, Life Cycle, & Facts
Honeybee | Characteristics, Habitat, Life Cycle, & Facts

 

 

Facts

21 Amazing Facts About Honey Bees

 

A hive is truly the contаiner in which the bees live and it can be natural or man-made.  The beekeepers hаve invented the removаble frаme.  You often see them in fields аnd orchаrds, white pаinted wooden boxes, occаsionаlly on pаllets.  Bees nаturаlly build their honeycombs inside а cаvity, а hollow tree, аn upturned plаnt bаth or а sprinkler control box. 

Honey bee nest

A honeybee nest is the combs, brood, eggs, honey аnd of course, аll the аdult bees which mаke up the colony.  It’s whаt the bees build inside the hive, аlthough occаsionаlly in very wаrm аreаs they build their nest in аn exposed plаce, perhаps just protected from the elements by overhаnging brаnches.

Bee swаrm is а mаjor cluster of bees, in the order of 20,000 bees, аnd аlmost аlwаys with just one queen bee.  It is а trаnsient thing.  When а colony of honeybees becomes too crowded in their hive, they creаte а new queen.  Just before the new queen comes out from her cell, the old queen leаves the hive аnd flies off with roughly hаlf of the worker bees. 

Honeybee | Species, Biology, Characteristics, Habitat, Life Cycle, & Facts
Honeybee | Species, Biology, Characteristics, Habitat, Life Cycle, & Facts

 

Shortly аfter leаving the hive, they congregаte somewhere, often on the brаnch of а tree.  They cluster there, sometimes just for а mаtter of а few hours, sometimes for dаys.  Scouts аre sent out to look for the right plаce for the new nest.

Once they find а suitаble plаce, they tаke off flying in whаt looks like а hаphаzаrd or аrbitrаry cloud, аnd then they drift off to the new house.  Within 20 or 30 minutes they will enter the hive аnd аlmost immediаtely the worker (female) bees will depаrt on forаging flights. 

They collect pollen аnd nectаr to fuel the employees аs they begin the tаsk of building honeycombs in prepаrаtion for the queen to begin lаying eggs so thаt а new colony will be creаted.

21 Amazing Facts About Honey Bees That You Never Knew!

You may know about the benefits of honey from my other article Honey bee facts. I stated before, honey is used in several products as a prime ingredient. Honey itself is a rich food and valuable ingredient of many high-end foods and beverages.

It’s widely used in herbal medicine for natural remedies of health and beauty purposes. Here you’ll find 21 amazing facts about honey bees including the benefits of honey. Some of them may be the first time you heard.

182: The Basis for Honey Bee Management.
182: The Basis for Honey Bee Management.

01. History of the honey bee is very old – approximately for millions of years. Cave drawing and handbooks proved his ancient history.

02. Its scientific name is Apis mellifera (honey-carrying bee). They are environmentally friendly and vital for the pollination of fruits and crops.

03. They are the only insects capable to produce honey. You’ll not find any other insect or animal to produce honey. Honey is produced absolutely in a natural way. Beekeepers only help them to work fast.

04. A Honey bee has 6 legs, 2 compound eyes on both sides of the head, 3 simple eyes on the top of the head, 2 pairs of wings, and 2 stomachs. The specialty is that 2 compound eyes are fabricated with thousands of tiny lenses, and one stomach is used as a nectar pouch.

05. The Honey bee has 170 aroma receptors, whereas fruit flies have only 62 and 79 in mosquitoes. They have an exceptional ability to recognize family members, signals for social communication within the hive, and aroma recognition for finding food.

Honey Bee Genome Project - HBGP. (145)
Honey Bee Genome Project – HBGP. (145)

Their sense of fragrance is so accurate that they can differentiate hundreds of different flower varieties and tell whether a flower carries pollen or nectar from a few meters away.

06. A male bee is known as Drone, exists in the hive only to mate with the Queen. After mating his genital organ breaks out from his body and remains in the female organ. Since the genital is a sensitive organ, he dies afterward. The next male will open the genital, mate with the queen, and lose his one in the same way.

Some of them may return to the hive but are thrown out by the female (worker) bees because they exist in the hive only to mate with the Queen. So, without genitalia they are useless.

07. Honey is only the food that contains all the substances necessary to sustain life. It includes enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and water. Also, it’s the only food that contains “pinocembrin”, which is an antioxidant associated with improved brain functioning.

08. One hive of bees can fly around 90,000 miles in total to collect 1 Kg of honey, which is equal to three orbits around the earth.

09. A bee can fly around the world with one ounce of honey as fuel. In one trip a honey bee visits 50 to 100 flowers to collect honey. A honey bee can fly 15 miles per hour, up to 6 miles with a wings speed/stroke of 200 beats per second. Hence, it makes a distinctive sound from other insects.

Bee Facts: 10 Honey Bee Facts for Kids! (161)
Bee Facts: 10 Honey Bee Facts for Kids! (161)

10. The term ‘Honeymoon” came from an old custom in Northern Europe. A newlywed couple was supposed to eat mead for a moon month. Mead was an alcoholic beverage specially made with honey. So, the honeymoon came from there.

11. Although the bee is having an oval-shaped brain about the size of a sesame seed, they have a significant capacity to learn and remember things they experienced. They are also capable to make complex calculations on distance for traveling and measuring efficiency.

12. About 20,000 to 60,000 bees live in a colony. Most of them are female or worker bees, few males, and only one queen bee. The average life span is 6 weeks for worker bees.

13. The queen bee can live up to 5 years but is not capable to lay sufficient eggs over the whole life. While eggs are not enough to keep the colony healthy, the Beekeepers usually generate a new queen and discard the old one.

Queen Pheromones and Colony Regulation. (139)
Queen Pheromones and Colony Regulation. (139)

Workers bees also always keep eyes on the queen. While they feel the existing queen becomes weak, they make queen cells for larvae and feed royal jelly instead of bee bread to produce a new queen. A queen bee can lay eggs up to 2500 per day in summer. She lays eggs for male or female bees as per the colony requirement. While she uses stored sperm to fertilize the eggs, the larvae hatch as female.

When she left the eggs unfertilized, the larvae hatch as male. So, the female bees inherit genes from mother and father, while the male-only from mother.

Polyandry

A queen usually mates with many drones in one fly. This mating behavior is known as polyandry which increases genetic diversity within a colony and thereby improves colony population, fitness, and survival. The increased population size, foraging activity, and food supplies favor the production of new queens including the formation of new colonies.

 

14. Another name of a male bee is a drone. They are larger than females in size, don’t have a stinger, and don’t work at all except mating with the queen. While food is scarce in winter, female bees try to reduce male bees. They kill some of the male bees, pull out from the nest, and throw out the colony.

15. Each honey bee colony has a distinctive aroma for members’ identification. So, they can recognize which colony a member comes from.

16. Only workers or female bees are habituated to sting while they feel vulnerable. The queen uses her stinger for her own defense only. About 1100 honey bee stings are estimated to be deadly.

17. The worker bees produce honeycomb from wax with hexagonal-shaped cells. They consume 6 to 8 pounds of honey (collected nectar from flowers) to produce 1 pound of beeswax. Their duties are scheduled naturally from the first day to the end of life.

190: Honey for Face - How to Use Honey on Your Face?
190: Honey for Face – How to Use Honey on Your Face?

Duties are assigned based on the age of worker bees. They spend full life with works until death. Although their life span is very short, they have the most saving tendency among all creatures of the earth.

18. An Average worker bee produces about 1/12th teaspoon of honey in her total lifetime. In the winter, they feed on the honey they collected during summer. Learn more about the duties of worker bees.

19. In winter they block all the unnecessary holes of the colony to make a tight shelter and keep them warm. In summer, they gather in line at the entrance and stroke their wings to throw out hot air from the colony. But in winter they stroke their wings in reverse mode intend to flow hot air from outside into the colony.

20. Their mode of communication is dancing. While they find any new source of nectar, they explain it to the fellow with dance, which indicates the distance and direction of the source.

21. They are very organized, and like colonial life which is the best example of unity. You’ll find your bees festooning (bees hanging on to one another, leg to leg, like a bridge) between the frames. Although it’s very common, still now the reason remains undiscovered.

21 Fаscinаting Fаcts About Bees, Swаrms, Hives аnd Honey!
Honey Bee Colony Structure – What They Do In The Hive?

It’s assumed that they are making unity for the preparation to tackle some possible hard times in the near future. Now you know that the bees have some special characteristics that any other insects don’t have. If you know your bees well you can play with them.

Related Topics:

1. Top 10 Honeybee Images: Different Types Of Honey Bee Hives Picture – Natural And Apiary Hives.

2. Raising Honey Bees: 6 Easy Steps To Start Beekeeping For Beginners!

3. Grants For Beekeeping: USDA Grants, Agricultural Grants, And Honey Bee Laws.

4. Types Of Bees On The Basis Of Gender, Apiary & Habit Of Sting.

5. Grant Proposal: Beekeeping Project Grants For Raising Honey Bees.

Sources of information

01. World Beekeeping Association,

02. Introduction to Managing the Honey-Bee Colony, by C. L. Farrar.,

03. American Bee Journal,

04. Experience of my own beekeeping project.

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