About Honey Bees

One of the most familiar insects in the world is the Honeybee. This member of the insect order Hymenoptera plays a key role in the human and natural world. More has been written about honeybees than any other species of insect. The human fascination with this insect began thousands of years ago when people discovered what wonderfully tasty stuff honey is
Honeybees have a bright color pattern to warn potential predators (or honey thieves!) that they have a weapon to defend themselves. Their weapon is a modified ovipositor (egg-laying tube). This is combined with a venom gland to create a stinger (formally known as an aculeus) located at the end of the abdomen.
Because the stinger is modified from a structure found only in females, male bees cannot sting. When the hive is threatened, honeybees will swarm out and attack with their stingers to drive the enemy away.
Honeybees, like most insects, look at the world through compound eyes. These are made of hundreds of small simple eyes called ommatidia. The images received by all the ommatidia are put together in the insect's brain to give it a very different way of seeing the world.
Honeybees are social insects. In the wild, they create elaborate nests called hives containing up to 20,000 individuals during the summer months. (Domestic hives may have over 80,000 bees.) They work together in a highly structured social order. Each bee belongs to one of three specialized groups called castes. The different castes are: queens, drones and workers.
There is only one queen in a hive and her main purpose in life is to make more bees. She can lay over 1,500 eggs per day and will live two to eight years. She is larger (up to 20mm) and has a longer abdomen than the workers or drones. She has chewing mouthparts. Her stinger is curved with no barbs on it and she can use it many times.
Drones, since they are males, have no stinger. They live about eight weeks. Only a few hundred - at most - are ever present in the hive. Their sole function is to mate with a new queen, if one is produced in a given year. A drone's eyes are noticeably bigger than those of the other castes. This helps them to spot the queens when they are on their nuptial flight. Any drones left at the end of the season are considered non-essential and will be driven out of the hive to die.
Worker bees do all the different tasks needed to maintain and operate the hive. They make up the vast majority of the hive's occupants and they are all sterile females. When young, they are called house bees and work in the hive doing comb construction, brood rearing, tending the queen and drones, cleaning, temperature regulation and defending the hive. Older workers are called field bees.
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