Honey bees are arguably one of the pillars of food on earth because human beings would not survive for long without them. It is bees that pollinate the majority of the human food plants around the world to the point that some farmers set up beehives near their farms to pollinate their crops for increased harvest. But in any hive, there are different classes of bees. A hive usually has a queen bee, worker bees, and drones, and all are of different genders and serve different roles.
In a hive, all the worker bees are females together with the queen, a specialized female worker bee. Also, some bees are drones which are males. Fertilized eggs hatch into female worker bees while drones hatch from unfertilized bees to become males.
- 1 Which Bee Is Not Female?
- 2 Can A Worker Bee Become A Queen?
- 3 Do Male Bees Do Any Work?
- 4 What Gender Are Worker Bees?
Which Bee Is Not Female?
The hive operates by a caste system where there are different categories of bees, with each serving its unique role.
The most important member of the hive is the queen bee. She is responsible for ensuring the hive continues to grow and has the specific role of laying eggs. A queen lays both fertilized and unfertilized eggs. If the queen dies or stops laying eggs because of age, the colony would not survive for long because there would be no replacement for the dying worker bees that usually have a short lifespan.
Although a queen is the nucleus of the cell, without which a colony would die, she cannot sustain a colony alone. It takes the input and hard work of other bees designed differently.
In addition to the queen bee, a hive also has worker bees. They hatch from fertilized eggs. Worker bees are the lifeblood of the hive. They are responsible for all the tasks and do the heavy lifting. Even the queen is taken care of by the worker bees. She is fed, groomed, and protected by the worker bees. She does not remove her excretion for the worker bees handle it for her.
The fact that worker bees are females does not mean that they are weaker and cannot do much because they are not humans, where females are not as physically strong as males. Worker bees are the ones that forage for food for all inhabitants of the hive, moving from flower to flower the whole day, collecting nectar and pollen for making honey, and collecting water for drinking and temperature regulation within the hive.
The other category of bees within the hive and whose role can also not be downplayed are the drones. Drones grow from unfertilized eggs. Although a queen is mated early in her reign, she has thousands of eggs within her, and not all are fertilized. In case all the eggs a queen lays are fertilized ones, there would be no drones.
The males are the ones that have the important role of mating with a new virgin queen before she settles down to a life of laying eggs. Drones are usually lesser in number compared to the females within a hive because they are there for one job and one job only, after which they die immediately after; mating with a new queen.
Male bees are different in stature and structure; they have larger bodies than the workers, although not as large as the queen bee.
Although their life is less demanding for the most part because it entails just eating while waiting for a new queen to mate with, they are sometimes ejected by the worker bees, especially when the winter period sets in to reduce the demand for the little honey reserve. If ejected from the hive, they will barely survive a few days.
Another distinguishing feature of drones from the females, including the queen, is that they do not have stingers. The repercussion is that the drones are incapable of stinging anyone. Drones do not even need a stinger since they don’t serve any defensive role in the hive, neither do they need to eliminate any competitor. But worker bees and the queen bee have stingers, and they use them when necessary at various points in their lives.
Can A Worker Bee Become A Queen?
The queen bee is an adult female bee that was mated early in her life before she started laying eggs. She never leaves the hive unless the colony is migrating to a different location or during those times when a colony may exhibit swarming behavior because the population has grown too large.
The queen bee’s reproductive organs are fully grown to make her qualified to lay up to 2000 eggs in a day without having any issues. Most times in a hive, at any particular time, the queen bee is the mother of most of the bees, sometimes even all the bees.
However, not any female bee can become a queen. For a bee to become a queen, there is an entire process involved. It is not just a matter of any female worker bee deciding to take the place of the queen bee.
Although worker bees are females, the fact that they have matured into adults means they are incapable of becoming queen bees. By the time a worker bee has hatched, it is too late for her to turn into a queen.
The reason why a worker bee cannot become a queen bee is that a queen becomes a queen even before it hatches because of the kind of process a fertilized egg is taken through with the help of the worker bees.
For an egg to become a queen bee, the process starts right when it is still an egg. Not any egg can qualify for this special recruitment process, for it must be a fertilized egg. Only fertilized eggs can turn out to be females.
The egg is set apart for special treatment and attention by the worker bees. The larva is fed special food famously known as royal jelly, unlike the other larvae fed normal food. The royal jelly will empower it to grow the specialized features required by a queen and even be larger a size befitting a queen.
After a few days, the virgin queen emerges and takes her mating flight with several drones before returning to lay eggs for the rest of her life.
Before mating, the queen will eliminate any competition and kill any other unhatched queen bee while still in the cell or if they hatch at the same time, they will fight each other to the death, and the survivor takes the crown.
Although a queen bee is the one that lays eggs, all other worker bees can lay eggs because they also have a female reproductive organ. However, because they have never been mated, the eggs they will lay will all be unfertilized and hatch to become drones.
Worker bees start laying eggs when the queen dies or becomes too old, and her pheromones are not powerful enough to stop the worker bees from laying eggs. When this happens, the colony is on the path of destruction because the number of male bees will soon exceed the number of worker bees, and there will not be enough food for all the bees since males do not work or forage for food.
For this reason, worker bees cannot become queen bees, and the system is designed to hinder them from laying any eggs for normal functioning.
Do Male Bees Do Any Work?
Male bees are the lazy bunch in a hive; they do not do any work at all. The presence of male bees in a hive is for one purpose only: to mate with a queen, and even this role is done only by the select few who are fit for the task. The rest of the time, drones hang out in the hive doing nothing, awaiting a new queen to mate with.
It is the additional responsibility of the worker bees to take care even of the drones, foraging for food, and cleaning the hive for everyone else since the drones do nothing.
The luxury of sitting around doing nothing for the drones is only possible during summer. When the winter season comes, their luck runs out. The worker bees forcefully kick out most of the drones to reduce the dependents on the meager food supplies, which will help the colony survive the winter.
Even if the chased drones try to return to the hive because the harsh winter temperatures outside are unconducive for them, the guard worker bees will not allow them, and consequently, the drones die outside the hive.
Another way that drones die-off is after they have mated with the queen, but it is an honorable death because they would have fulfilled their purpose for being born by then.
Considering that both the drones and queen bees do zero work in the hive, it is the heavy responsibility of the worker bees to take care of the daily running of the hive activities. From the day a worker bee is born, it dedicates its entire life to serving its colony until it eventually dies from exhaustion, if not predatory attack when out minding the hive.
There are various categories and specializations of roles among worker bees based on a bee’s age. Roles range from guarding the hive to cleaning, feeding the bee brood, building honeycomb, foraging for nectar and pollen, or collecting water.
Younger worker bees do lighter duties within the hive, such as feeding the larvae and cleaning the hive. As they mature, they shoulder heavier duties, with the climax of their life being foraging for food because it is a very risky and highly demanding job. Foraging demands the worker bee to venture outside the hive and visit flowers or water sources and flying back with the heavy load of pollen and nectar. A young bee cannot carry out this job.
Worker bees are truly special; they even have their own way of passing information to their sisters on the best food sources and where to find water.
Water is required by the bees for the digestion of food and also for temperature regulation within the hive. The worker bees evaporate the water by buzzing their wings, which will cool down the temperatures in the hive during summer. In winter, the same worker bees have a mechanism of raising the temperatures and preserving heat. They produce wax that is used to seal openings to stop cold wafts of air from entering the hive, and they also pile around the queen bee to form an insulation layer and combine their body heat to survive the winter.
Guard worker bees are so keen that they can even identify stranger bees from other hives that have come to steal their reserve honey.
Worker bees do their role, including taking care of the lazy drones without complaining or going on leave. Such fascinating members of the colony.
What Gender Are Worker Bees?
All worker bees are female. The gender of a bee is determined by the nature of the egg from which it was hatched. If the egg was fertilized, it turns out to be a female, and if the egg was unfertilized, it turns out to be a male.
Worker bees only develop from ordinary fertilized eggs. To be a queen, the normal egg is treated differently and given special attention. It is placed into a different special cell that is larger and given special food known as royal jelly, and within six days, it will hatch and become a queen.
A colony can have up to 60,000 bees at a time, and most of these are female worker bees. A few are drones while there is one queen unless it those times when she gets too old, and a replacement is found. In such times, the old queen can be left to survive alongside the new queen, and it will die naturally due to age; at times, the worker bee can eliminate her.
Although worker bees are all female, they do not breed under normal circumstances. It is the queen bee who breeds unless during times of turmoil when the queen dies and the pheromones she was releasing that inhibited the worker bees from laying eggs wear off. In those instances, the worker bees go on a rampage and start laying unfertilized eggs, but this will stop when a new queen is reared or introduced by the farmer.
Can a worker bee mate with a drone? ›
A drone egg is the only type that can be laid by either the queen or a worker. This is because the drone eggs are not fertilized. It should also be noted that drones have a grandfather, but no father. Since drones comes from an unfertilized egg, they only receive their genetic components from the queen.Are all drone bees female? ›
Hives include one queen, hundreds of drones, and thousands of worker bees. The worker bees are female, but they do not breed. The queen bee is female and creates all the babies for the hive. The drone bees are male and do not have a sting.What is the difference between drone bees and worker bees? ›
A drone is a male honey bee. Unlike the female worker bee, drones do not have stingers. They do not gather nectar nor pollen and are unable to feed without assistance from worker bees. A drone's only role is to mate with a maiden queen in nuptial flight.Do drones mate with their own queen? ›
Drones don't necessarily mate with their own queen, but instead, they gather outside the hive with other drones from neighboring colonies. It's like a mating meeting place. Drones collect in mating swarms up to a mile away from the hive.What happens to the drones that don t mate with the queen? ›
Drones are incapable of feeding themselves or foraging for food, they lack stingers, and they die immediately after mating. And, when times are lean or during the winter (when the queen does not mate), worker bees force drones outside the hive, leaving them to starve. But, don't worry…Can drone bees have daughters? ›
Her drone offspring will only have a mother, whereas if she fertilizes an egg to create a female she will use a sperm from one of many different potential fathers.Do drone bees have father? ›
A honey bee drone has no father, but he does have a grandfather! Drones are 'haploid', having been reared from an unfertilized egg. As a result, a drone has only half the chromosomes of a worker bee or queen bee - the drone has 16 chromosomes, workers and queens have 32.Do drone bees have a purpose? ›
Drones are male bees and their sole purpose is to mate with the queen: they don't work, don't make honey and can't sting. Since a queen only needs to mate once, most of the drones won't even get the chance to fulfil their role. But worker bees keep them around, just in case a new queen needs mating.Can a worker bee become a queen? ›
Virgin queen bee.
|Metamorphosis of the queen bee|
|Egg laying||c. day 23 and up|
Drones don't do any work throughout their lives. Their sole purpose is to mate with the queen. In fact, they are such a drain on resources and provide so little that the worker bees actually kick out any drones in a hive each fall so that they don't eat through all their honey stores throughout the winter.
Can worker bees lay drone eggs? ›
A laying worker bee is a worker bee that lays unfertilized eggs, usually in the absence of a queen bee. Only drones develop from the eggs of laying worker bees (with some exceptions, see thelytoky).Who do drone bees mate with? ›
During that time, you're not a productive member of the hive—you can't collect pollen or help incubate eggs, like worker bees—and you can't even sting anyone. Drone bees live with one purpose in mind: mating with a queen.How long does a drone bee live? ›
Drones make on average 2–4 flights per day and fly up to 7 km from their hive (Currie, 1987). Lifespans seem to be highly variable, and means of 12–14, 21–24 and 54 days (Currie, 1987) have been reported.How does a queen bee get pregnant? ›
When a virgin queen flies to a site where thousands of male honey bees may be waiting, she mates with several males in flight. A male drone will mount the queen and insert his endophallus, ejaculating semen.Why is my queen bee only laying drones? ›
A drone-laying queen arises after a queen has run out of sperm or when a virgin queen fails to mate properly. In either case, the queen does not lay any fertilized eggs so the colony is unable to raise a new queen.How many drones does a queen mate with? ›
The average number of drones with which a queen mates is 12. The queen stores the semen from her mating flights for the remainder of her life, two to three years for a long-lived queen. However, some queens are not so long-lived. They are rejected by the workers of the hive.How many drones does a virgin queen mate with? ›
Within 15–30 min, the queen mates with 10–20 drones, which die directly after copulation35, 39, 40. After one or two nuptial flights, the queen returns to the colony and after a delay of a few days, starts laying eggs30.Do beekeepers cut off the queen's wings? ›
Beekeepers sometimes clip the wings of queen bees to prevent their leaving with swarms. Clipping also identifies the queen, so allowing the keeping of reliable records that may be particularly important in experi- mental work. Clipping for swarm control is recommended by Manley (1948).What happens to drone bees in the winter? ›
The male bees, called drones, exist solely to fertilize virgin queens and have no purpose in the winter. The worker bees are female and at the end of autumn they will stop feeding the drones and expel them from the hive. Unable to feed themselves, they will quickly die off.Do drones return to hive after mating? ›
The unsuccessful drones will return to their hive and die a few months later. The drones that succeed in mating with the queen are much less fortunate. The endophallus (sex organ) of the drone enters the queen, and as he pulls away it is torn from his abdomen.
Where does queen bee mate with drone male? ›
To mate, the virgin queen honey bee leaves the hive or nest. She will have taken several earlier, short flights which will have strengthened her wings. When ready to mate, she flies to what looks like a mini-swarm of male honey bees (drones), called a drone congregation area or drone assembly area.Why are male bees kicked out of the hive? ›
If there are no queens around to mate with, then drones are a suck on resources and worker bees stop rearing drones. Any drones left get booted out of the hive. In fall, it is common to see drones being pulled out by worker bees or drones lying dead in the grass.Do drone bees sleep? ›
We can therefore surmise that bees do indeed sleep! When a bee is in deep sleep, they have a distinct sleeping posture. Their antennae droop downwards, the upper body (thorax) drops as does the tip of the abdomen (or tail), and the wings rest on the body. Look closely, and you can see this in the images below1.Do drone bees ever leave the hive? ›
Drones will leave the hive and fly in mating swarms where they release pheromones as a group to attract queen bees looking to mate. Drones who don't die in mating are evicted from the hive in the fall and left to starve and freeze. Why do Drones Equate Healthy Hive? Drones are a sign of a successful hive.Why are my bees killing the drones? ›
The bees may begin bearding on the outside of the hive in order to keep the brood nest cool enough. And since drones are a burden on colony resources, taking up space and eating honey, the workers just dispose of them.Why are my bees making so many drones? ›
Too many drones in the hive means that your queen wasn't mated properly and is only laying unfertilized eggs. Drone cells are easy to recognize. They are domed and larger than worker bee cells. Typically, they are grouped together on the outer edge of a frame.What is the lifespan of a worker bee? ›
Honey bees (Apis mellifera) are eusocial insects that exhibit striking caste-specific differences in longevity. Queen honey bees live on average 1–2 years whereas workers live on average 15–38 days in the summer and 150–200 days in the winter.Why do bees reject a queen? ›
Older worker bees will reject queens that they are not familiar with and tend to view them as a colony invader, even when they have no hope of raising a new queen on their own. This is especially true if the queen is unmated, or not well-mated, with numerous drones from unrelated colonies.Is there a king bee? ›
There's no such thing as 'king bee' in the wildlife. A honeybee queen is the single most important bee in a colony, as she produces the population in a colony. Studies show that the mating between queen bee and its drone bees are quite complicated.Why can't drones defend the colony? ›
Drones have bigger eyes and lack stingers. They cannot help defend the hive and they do not have the body parts to collect pollen or nectar, so they cannot contribute to feeding the community.
How many drones live in a hive? ›
Honey bee colonies contain three distinct types, or castes, of individuals. Each hive contains a single female queen, tens of thousands of female workers, and anywhere from several hundred to several thousand male drones during the spring and summer months.How do you stop a swarm of drones? ›
There are several options that can be partially successful to include the use of microwaves, lasers, jamming systems, building underground, and fighting swarms with other drones. Two options deemed to be unsuccessful, whether employed individually or together, are the use of machine guns air defense systems.Can a worker bee mate? ›
Worker bees are generally unable to mate, but are capable of laying unfertilized eggs which can develop into male offspring. To assure dominance over reproduction the Queen often selectively eats any worker laid eggs.What percentage of a hive is drone bees? ›
Drone bees are a sign of a well fed, healthy colony and a healthy colony will want about 15 percent of the bee population to be drones. If you don't see drones in your hive (in the summer) your colony likely has a problem and you should be looking into it.Do drone bees go with a swarm? ›
The drones tend to congregate in a remote part of the nest away from the brood nest when inactive and take no part in any of the functions within the nest. They never appear to follow the foraging or swarming dances of the workers or are located in the area where the dances take place.What happens if a queen bee stings you? ›
Our colleagues and friends from other queen producing companies report the same; queens, whatever their genetics, simply don't sting humans. In the miniscule times where it has been reported that a queen actually has stung a person, we have heard that the sting is not as painful to a person as that of a worker bee.Do worker bees mate with the queen? ›
The drone's job is to mate with a queen and spread the hive's genetics to other hives. He gives his life fulfilling this duty. The queen's job is to lay eggs and when she can no longer provide the fertilized eggs that the hive needs, she is no longer the priority and a new queen is created.Do queen bees mate with drones from their hive? ›
"While we already knew that queens mate with a large number of drones, this study is suggesting that's a lot more than has been previously recognised, because a lot of those drones that queens are mating with are actually only fathering a very small number of her total offspring," Mr Withrow said.Can worker bees mate with each other? ›
Worker bees are generally unable to mate, but are capable of laying unfertilized eggs which can develop into male offspring. To assure dominance over reproduction the Queen often selectively eats any worker laid eggs.Can a laying worker bee mate? ›
But given that the workers are females, you may be wondering whether worker bees can lay eggs. The short answer is: Worker bees are able to lay eggs. Since the workers do not get to mate, all of these eggs will be unfertilized and would produce drones only - i.e. they are male haploid eggs.
Can a drone bite a bee? ›
Drones are male bees and their sole purpose is to mate with the queen: they don't work, don't make honey and can't sting. Since a queen only needs to mate once, most of the drones won't even get the chance to fulfil their role. But worker bees keep them around, just in case a new queen needs mating.Why do drone bees get kicked out? ›
When the weather turns cold, drones are unable to perform their sole function. If there are no queens around to mate with, then drones are a suck on resources and worker bees stop rearing drones. Any drones left get booted out of the hive.Do queen bees mate with their own offspring? ›
A virgin queen bee will never mate inside of her own hive as she needs to take flight to mate. By mating during flight, a queen bee is able to increase the odds that she will mate with drones that did not originate from her own colony, and thereby minimize the chances of inbreeding appearing in the next generation.Can a queen bee mate inside the hive? ›
To mate, the virgin queen honey bee leaves the hive or nest.Why is my queen laying drones? ›
A drone-laying queen arises after a queen has run out of sperm or when a virgin queen fails to mate properly. In either case, the queen does not lay any fertilized eggs so the colony is unable to raise a new queen. In time, the colony will dwindle and die.Can a worker bee turn into a queen? ›
Virgin queen bee.
|Metamorphosis of the queen bee|
|Egg laying||c. day 23 and up|
A queen mates during the first 1-2 weeks of her adult life. She can take multiple mating flights and mated with several males – on average 12-15. Increasing the genetic diversity of the colony is important for colony productivity and disease resistance.How many times can a drone bee mate? ›
Male honey bees are only able to mate seven to 10 times during a mating flight, and after mating, a drone dies quickly, as his abdomen rips open when his endophallus is removed. Even drones that survive the mating flight are ejected from their nests, as they have served their sole purpose by mating.