WONDER OF THE BEE

What’s so special, wonderful and important about the bee? Here’s your way to find out. Click START below to learn more about the bees and their almost magical wonders.

LIFE CYCLE

Bee Anatomy

Like all insects, honeybees have exoskeletons and are made up of 3 parts: the head, the thorax and the abdomen. Bees are covered with small hairs — useful for feeling and pollination. Here are some of the anatomical highlights.

How Bees Pollinate

How Honeybees Make Honey

Bee Lifecycle Egg

Egg

On average, the queen bee lays between 300–2,000 eggs per day. Some eggs are fertilized while others are not. A fertilized egg develops into a female worker bee (or sometimes a queen), while an unfertilized egg becomes a male drone bee. After 3 days, the egg hatches and the larval stage begins.

Bee Lifecycle Larva

Larva

The larva is microscopic in size, without legs and eyes. For its first 2 days, larvae are fed a steady diet of royal jelly. As day 3 progresses, the larvae destined to develop into queen bees continue to feed on royal jelly, while the worker and drone larvae feed on honey, water and pollen. The larval stage lasts about 6 days.

 

Bee Lifecycle Pupa

Pupa

The transition from the larval form to an adult bee. Initially, the pupa is white and glistening, but soon it begins to change. Compound eyes are the first feature to take shape. Next, the wings, legs and other body parts grow. This stage usually lasts 7.5 days for a queen bee, 12 days for a worker bee and 14.5 days for a drone.

Bee Lifecycle Adult

Adult

The adult phase begins when bees are fully grown and ready to fulfill their roles. Adult queens lay thousands of eggs. Adult worker bees spend the first few weeks working within the hive, while in the final weeks they are busy with foraging for food and gathering pollen or nectar. Adult drones have the sole responsibility of mating with the queen.

Learn about bee types & how they live
Colony

The Colony

A colony is a group of bees living together that function as a single unit. Bees are social animals, with 3 types of bees each performing a specific role for the good of the colony.

Worker

Worker

The largest population in the hive with ever-changing roles, worker bees are females, responsible for the care and upkeep of the colony. They’ve made an art of foraging for pollen and nectar to make honey, tending to the queen and drones, feeding larvae, cleaning the hive, controlling the temperature and defending the nest. And if that weren’t enough, some worker bees even lay drone eggs when the queen is failing. With all that work to do, it’s no wonder that worker bees only live 28 to 40 days.

Drone

Drone

The only males in a hive, drones don’t collect nectar, don’t make honey and can’t even sting. Their sole purpose is to mate with a virgin queen. Drones are large, fuzzy bees with large eyes — good for spotting the queen when flying. About 8 days after emerging as adults, drones spend 4+ days on orientation flights. Then, they fly for 2 to 4 hours each afternoon in congregation areas looking for the queen. But few drones successfully mate, and those that do die immediately after. The rest live no more than a few months. And after being tended to by workers, they are kicked out when winter arrives.

Queen

Queen

The largest of all the bees in a hive, the queen bee basically performs 3 jobs: mating with drone bees (typically in one flight), laying all the eggs (up to 2,000 in a single day) and keeping the colony stable. The queen secretes chemical scents known as pheromones, that, among other things, give the worker and drone bees cues about the health of the hive and whether the queen mated. Queens also control the gender of their offspring through the creation of fertilized (female) or unfertilized (male) eggs. The queen lives between 1 and 3 years.

Learn about bee anatomy
Impact of Bees

Impact of Pollination on our Food

Nearly 1/3 of the food we eat comes from insect-pollinated plants — and honeybees are responsible for 80 percent of this pollination.

Impact of Bees

Impact of Pollination on our Food

Here are just a few of the foods we wouldn’t have without honeybees: apples, almonds, asparagus, broccoli, blueberries, cashews, cauliflower, cranberries, cucumbers, cantaloupes, cherries, grapes, kiwis, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums, pumpkins, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelons.

Impact of Bees

Impact of Pollination on our Food

Bees are responsible for pollinating about 1/6 of the flowering plant species worldwide and approximately 400 different agricultural types of plants.

Learn how bees make honey
Pollination

Pollen

When a honeybee collects nectar and pollen from a flower blossom, some pollen from the stamen (the flower’s male reproductive organ) sticks to the bee’s hair.

Pollination

Pistil

When the honeybee visits its next flower, some of this pollen rubs off onto the tip of the pistil (the flower’s female reproductive organ).

Pollination

Fertilization

That simple transfer of pollen fertilizes the flower, which eventually leads to new fruits, vegetables, garden flowers, legumes, nuts and other plants.

Learn how bees impact our food

Foraging

Older foraging worker bees fly from their hive in search of nectar-rich flowers.

Nectar

Using their straw-like proboscis, worker bees drink the liquid nectar and store it in their special stomach, called the honey stomach.

Breaking it Down

The bees continue to forage, visiting hundreds of flowers, until their honey stomach is full. During this time, within the honey stomach, enzymes break down the complex sugars of the nectar into simpler sugars, which are less prone to crystallization. With full bellies, the worker bees return to the hive and deliver the modified nectar to the younger hive bees.

Nectar in the Hive

The hive bees ingest the nectar, break it down more, then place it into a cell of the honeycomb.

Thickening

The hive bees beat their wings furiously, fanning the nectar to evaporate its remaining water content. As the water evaporates, the nectar sugar thickens into honey.

Beeswax

Once the honey is finished, the hive bees cap the beeswax cells, sealing the honey into the honeycomb for later consumption (usually winter when little nectar is available).

The Honey Harvest

Working cooperatively, thousands of worker bees can produce over 200 pounds of honey for the colony within a year!

Jaw

HEAD

Large brains are connected to several nerve centers that allow for complex functioning. A honeybee’s brain is actually 10 times more dense than a mammal’s brain, allowing for excellent sight and smell.

Jaw

Jaw

Honeybees have large jaws that do a lot of work — from making comb to feeding young to collecting pollen.

Compound Eyes

Compound eyes

2 of the bee’s 5 eyes are giant compound eyes with thousands of facets, each having its own lens and cells to see light, patterns and all colors but red. The facets are hairy so bees can detect wind direction and speed. Since they need to spot the queen, drones have the largest eyes. The queen, on the other hand, has the smallest, since she’s inside the hive, laying eggs in the dark.

Simple Eyes

Simple eyes

These 3 eyes, known as ocelli eyes, look like a triangle of small, reddish-brown dots at the top of the bee’s head. These are good for sensing light.

Simple Eyes

Antennae

2 antennae are located under the ocelli and are used for detecting nectar and receiving messages from other bees.

Simple Eyes

Proboscis

A long tongue that unfolds when a bee is sipping nectar or drinking. It retracts when not in use.

Learn about the thorax
Jaw

Thorax

The thorax is divided into 3 sections, with a long esophagus running through the entirety. Each section comes equipped with its own set of legs, and the last 2 sections each has its own wings.

Hind Wings

Hind Wing

Smaller wings with barbs for hooking onto forewings.

Forewing

Forewing

Larger wings with a special fold, allowing the forewing and hind wing to connect in flight.

Pollen Basket

Pollen Basket

Bees use this to store pollen and bring it back to the hive.

Hind Leg

Hind Leg

Has tiny combs and a pollen press for collecting and carrying pollen and propolis, a sealant that honeybees make to protect the hive from the elements.

Foreleg

Foreleg

Comes with its own brush and notched antennae cleaner.

Middle Leg

Middle Leg

For assistance with walking and packing pollen into hind legs.

Learn about the abdomen
Jaw

Abdomen

While the surface of the abdomen has no obvious, distinctive features, the interior has quite a few functions. In all bees, digestion occurs there. In queens and drones, the abdomen houses the reproductive organs, and in queens and workers, the stinger.

Heart

Heart

A long tube spanning the bee’s body that circulates hemolymph (bee blood).

Heart

Spiracles

Tiny holes in the bee’s abdomen and thorax that allow it to breathe.

Sex Organs

Sex organs

Worker bees have small ovaries and less-developed sperm storage areas, while queens’ are much larger. Drones’ penises and testes tuck away until needed.

Stinger

Stinger

A modified egg-laying device, it is a V-shaped organ with barbs. Only females have stingers.

Honey Stomach

Honey Stomach

Place for storing nectar. Connected to the true stomach and close to the thorax.

Glands

Glands

Includes wax glands, scent glands for communication and poison glands for stinging.

Learn about pollination

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