During the summer months, a healthy hive consists of thousands of bees. At first glance, they might all look the same to you, but there are three distinct castes. You can become a successful beekeeper relatively quickly, but understanding basic honeybee biology is the first step. Explore the differences between queen bees, worker bees, and drones to appreciate their individual roles within the colony.
The Reproductive Queen Bee
While the queen’s caste is a party of one, she’s the essential member of the colony. Although the hive is full of females, the queen is the only fertile female, and she’s responsible for laying all the eggs for the colony. In fact, the queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs each day, averaging one egg approximately every 43 seconds.
The queen is larger than her female counterparts, with a hairless back, long, light-colored legs, and a longer abdomen. Aside from her physical traits, the queen has her own pheromone profile that allows her colony to recognize and defend her and meet her needs to keep the colony healthy and robust.
Girl Power: Worker Bees
The worker bees are the most abundant caste in the colony, and they do all the work to keep their hive happy, healthy, and productive. They’re all female, and you’ll see them collecting pollen and nectar from local plants and flowers. In addition, they create honey and keep the hive clean. Most of the queen’s fertilized eggs will become female worker bees, while a select few might become queens.
Aside from keeping the colony moving, some of the worker bees are the queen’s attendants that tend to her every need. They keep her fed with the royal jelly and prepare the cells for her to lay the eggs.
Drone Bees: Buzzin’ Around
Drone bees are the only males in the colony, and their lifespan aligns with their duty. Most drones live for approximately 90 days during the summer months, and their sole responsibility is to mate with new queens. Newly-matured drones and queens from several colonies will take mating flights together, and the queens will mate with many drones and collect enough sperm in their spermatheca to fertilize eggs for the remainder of their lives.
Drone bees don’t do any work within the colony, and their life consists of eating and mating. Because queens only need them once, they can’t feed themselves, and they have no stinger to protect the colony, the male drone bees live a short life reliant on the worker bees.
Understanding the differences between queen bees, worker bees, and drones is the key to becoming a successful beekeeper. However, you can’t become a beekeeper without some bees! Check out The B Farm online for honeybees for sale in Bunkie, LA.