The A-Bee-C’s of Bees

Honey Bee

While everyone is probably familiar with the honeybee, there are at least 20,000 known species of bees, with many more probably to be discovered and named. Bees live on every continent on the global with the exception of Antarctica, and in every environment where there are flowering plants. The smallest bee is only .08 inches long while the largest is 1.54 inches.

Bees and wasps are close relatives with ants being a distant cousin. Some bees are social living in colonies while others are solitary preferring to live their lives alone. Only a few bees produce honey, but all depend on flowers for pollen as their main food. For those that do produce honey, they also make beeswax, royal jelly and a glue-like resin called Propolis. All of these bee products serve many great health benefits, and you can buy them from

Like all insects, their bodies are divided into three distinct parts: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. Bees all have a set of compound eyes that covers much of their heads, but they also have three smaller eyes that give the bees information on light intensity. A pair of antennae has a number of sensory organs that detect such things as touch, smell, taste and air movements. Bees have a pair of mandibles, or jaws they use for chewing, and a proboscis that is used to suck in nectar.

The thorax is where the six legs and the wings are attached to the bee’s body. In some species, the last pair of legs has pollen sacs that the bee uses to store pollen. The abdomen contains the stinger. When a bee stings, the stinger is left in the victim and continues to pump the bee’s toxic. Unfortunately for the bee, this is fatal and it will die after stinging someone or something.

The bee life cycle begins with a female bee, called a queen, laying an egg. The egg is usually oblong, curving slightly and tapers at one end. When the egg hatches, it develops into a larva which looks like a white grub. The care of the larva and eggs is highly species dependent, but in the common honey bee worker bees tend to the care and feeding of the eggs and larva. Should the queen die, worker bees will select up to several eggs and feed them royal jelly. This royal jelly, while fed to all larvae is fed in a large quantity to the selected larva and the increased amount stimulates the larva to become queens. A queen bee can lay up to around 1,500 eggs a day.

Besides the queen, a colony of honeybees has male bees, called drones, and worker bees. The drones have little purpose other than mating to increase the number of colonies. Worker bees are female bees that not having been fed royal jelly have failed to develop active ovaries. They are the heart and soul of a hive gathering pollen, guarding the hive against predators, doing hive maintenance and tending to the eggs and larva. There can be anywhere from 20 to 60 thousand worker bees in a single hive.