Animal Guide: Honeybee


Honeybee (Apis mellifera)

  • Type: Insect
  • Family: Apidae
  • Habitat: Hollow trees in forest habitats, and beekeeper hives
  • Location: Native to Africa and Europe, but spread by humans to temperate and tropical climates worldwide
  • Diet: Herbivore
  • Average lifespan in the wild: Workers, 15 – 38 days in summer; queen bee, as much as 3 years
  • Size: Worker, .5 – .6 in (12 – 15 mm); queen, .7 – .9 in (18 – 22 mm)
  • Weight: Worker, .0035 ounces (100 mg); queen and drones, .007 ounces (200 mg)

Like ants and termites, common honeybees, which are black with characteristic orange-yellow rings on the abdomen, are social and cooperative insects. Three different types of bees inhabit a colony: a queen, workers, and drones. The queen bee, which is longer and heavier than worker bees, is the only sexually developed female in the colony; using a specialized organ called an ovipositor, she lays the eggs from which all of the bees in a colony emerge. Worker bees, which forage the flowers in meadows, open woods, gardens, and agricultural fields for pollen and nectar (which is converted into the honey that helps to feed the colony), and build and maintain the hive, are sexually immature females. Their ovipositors are modified into stingers. Male bees, or drones, don’t forage; they may help maintain the temperature of the hive, although their primary role is to fertilize the queen. Because they have no ovipositors, they also don’t have stingers.

Bee colonies are maintained all over the world to pollinate agricultural crops. In the winter of 2006-2007, beekeepers in the United States and other parts of the world began to report the catastrophic loss of colonies, a phenomenon dubbed Colony Collapse Disorder. While the death of some bees in a colony is normal during winter months, the recent number of deaths has been unusually high, with some colonies losing more than 75 percent of their bees. After such devastating die-offs, the colony can no longer sustain itself. Scientists are still trying to explain the phenomenon, which threatens the economic future of the 130 fruit, vegetable, nut, ornamental, and fiber crops in the U.S. pollinated by honeybees.

Did you know? Forager bees will fly about 500 miles before their wings wear out and they die.

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  • Brenda Hatcher

    I am only a student at a local community college and have only taken one biology class, in which the whole class goes on field trips to local gardens to view the native flowering plants and wildlife, but I can already see that the problem with the bees dying from CCD is mainly due to the poisons used on the crops.

  • heyacha

    i love bees!! if they die; i will die….=) love you hondy bee

  • Mariah

    I am in 7th grade and am learining about Honey bees.
    By the matter of factim in my school right now,and my teacher is tlking=] I dont even know if im allowed to post a comments lol.
    Well yeah Honey bees rock!

  • Olga Blithy

    oh hey, mariah i’m in 7th grade too. Bees are so cool, I wish I was one…

  • Jim

    I’m trying to find where honey bees live in the world. SOMEBODY PLEASE TELL ME!!!!!!!

  • Laura

    We seem to have tons of honeybees and Africanized bees in Phoenix and Tucson AZ. My wildflowers are always covered in them in Feb-Apr and people are always getting attacked in May-Sep. Wish the media didn’t cover the attacks so much. Everyone is always afraid of bees because the media makes them look so bad. :(

  • baily

    This website has some good info., but they nee to put some more. also, they need to put the authors name. i am doing a research paper. and, heyacha, you put honDy bee , its honey bee.See ya!!=]

  • eliza

    hey jim.The honey bee National Geographic page says where honey bees live. ur welcome!

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  • Ellis on line

    Are we “scientificaly” approaching this in every way we can? Is someone looking at other common factors like the wood used in bee hives. Maybe its contaminated… Is it just commercial hives? Everyone i know with a hive has had success and no ccd. Perhaps the bees are self-regulating their population like lemmings. Commercial guys may be puting too many hives in one crop area. Are all their practices proven successful prior to the 2006-2007 winter die-off? …. just wondering.

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