honey bee, bee colony, manuka honey

Most of us are familiar with the bees but may not know the different roles the bee serves within the bee colony. A bee colony is a very complex, organized community with every bee having a specific job. There is also somewhat of a hierarchy within the hive, which can come into play when supplies are limited.

Honey bee colonies generally have about 50,000 bees working in harmony. In this colony, there is a hierarchy depending upon the bee’s role. In addition to the adult bees, there are also eggs, larvae, and pupae. Of the adult bees, every colony consists of:

• Queen
• Workers
• Drones

The Queen Bee

Every colony has one queen bee capable of laying fertilized eggs. The queen does have a stinger, but she very rarely leaves the hive. The queen will mate early on then store the sperm in her body to lay eggs throughout her adult life. She can produce about 2,000 eggs every day. Queens have a lifespan of about five years, about half of which is spent producing eggs.


The drone bee in the colony has only one job, to mate with the queen. Bees usually mate in midair and soon thereafter will usually die. As far as the colony is concerned, drones are the lowest ranking member of the hive. In fact, during the colder months when food supplies can dwindle, any drones remaining in the hive will often be ejected to conserve the food being eaten by the hive.

Worker Bees

This is the majority of the population within a colony. All workers bees are female bees and serve multiple roles within the colony. Even though they are female, they cannot produce fertilized eggs. Everything that happens within the hive, and outside of it, falls under the responsibility of the worker bee.

Defending the Hive – as you probably already know, worker bees have stingers and they will use them to defend the hive. Unfortunately, at least for the bee, when they use their stingers, it rips apart their abdomen and the die.

Foraging – one of the main jobs of the worker bee is to go out and find nectar to make honey. They will fly from flower to flower until they fill their belly and then return to the hive to regurgitate their bounty.

Working Inside the Hive – there are numerous jobs inside the hive that worker bees must also perform. They are in charge of making the combs, tending to the unborn, drones, and the queen. For more information on these duties, you can read our post about how honey is made and click here.

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