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Bee-Ginner's Guide

Welcome to the Bee-ginner's Guide Blog. Here we will go over topics and tips you might need as you go through your first year as a beekeeper.

Each honey bee colony can consist of several thousand bees. No matter what breed you have, all bees, in every colony, can be divided into three types; the queen, drones and worker bees. Each type not only have their physical differences but also have vastly different responsibilities in the hive.

Queen: The queen is the one bee the colony needs to survive. Without a queen, they're in trouble! Each queen comes from a selected larvae that was incubated in a "queen cell" and was fed a strict diet of royal jelly. She is the largest bee found in the hive with a long slender abdomen. The queen is the only sexually developed female so she is the only bee who can produce female worker bees. Before the queen can begin to lay eggs, she must take a mating flight where she mates with over a dozen drones. The queen can lay up to 1,500 eggs per day.

Drones: Drones are the only male bees found in a hive and they have one sole purpose; to mate with queens. They do not forage for pollen or work in the hive. They spend their life feeding and growing stronger. As they leave the hive in search of queens, once mated with a queen they die. Drones come from unfertilized eggs and those eggs are laid in comb that is usually much larger than the regular comb size which, in the end, makes the drones much larger than the worker bees.

Worker Bees: A colony may not exist without the queen but most definitely wouldn't thrive without the worker bees. While the queen lays eggs and the drones mate with queens, worker bees, which make up around 98% of a colonies population, do everything else. What job each worker bee does depends on their age and maturity. Shortly after they hatch they immediately begin housekeeping by cleaning up the cell they crawled out of followed by helping to care and feed the growing brood. Around day 12 the worker bee has matured enough that it can begin to produce wax to help build up the hive. 18 days after hatching they start working the outside of the hive helping guard the hive and with ventilation. After roughly 22 days of working in the hive, a worker bee starts leaving the hive foraging for pollen, nectar & water. The worker bee will continue to forage for the rest of its lifecycle.

Portions of information found in this blog were gathered from the following:

How to Identify the Three Castes of Bees from Beekeeping For Dummies, 2nd Edition -

The Colony and Its Organization from Mid-Atlantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium -

Organization of a bee colony from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations -

Learning about Honey Bees by The South Carolina Mid-State Beekeepers Association -