Foraging worker Foraging worker bees collect both nectar and pollen to help feed the colony.

Worker bees are all female and make up about 85 percent of nest bees. They have three life stages, during which they have specific roles to fill. Young workers (1 to 12 days old) clean cells, nurse the brood, and tend the queen. Middle-aged workers (12 to 20 days old) build the comb, store nectar and pollen brought by forager bees, and ventilate the nest (see temperature). Older workers (20 days to 30 days or more, the rough life expectancy of a honeybee), are primarily foragers who supply nectar and provide the enzymes needed for converting it to honey. Flying at a speed of about 15 miles per hour, each can travel more than three and a half miles from home on a single flight. Bee researcher Thomas Seeley has likened this capability to a five-foot-tall person "flying" 375 miles, the distance from Boston to Washington, or from Berlin to Zürich.

Bee on flower Veteran worker bees, those older than 20 days, spend most of their time foraging for nectar and pollen.

Photos: (1) ©1998 ORF; (2) Maureen Dolan.