The most characteristic pollinating stinging insect, these bees form large colonies and demonstrate complex eusocial organization in their intricately constructed hives. Colonies that can number as many as 60,000 individuals are centred around a single queen, thousands of steriles female diploid worker bees, and hunderds to thousands of male haploid drone bees.
Honey bees are a light brown to amber colour. Their bodies are covered with fine short setae that form tight striped pattern of white black and yellow along their backs. Worker bees, the most recognizable size and shape, are 8-15mm in length with a venomous barbed stinger at the posterior end of their abdomen. Drone bees are larger than worker bees but rarely larger than the queen bee with a stouter broader body shape, and a stingerless abdomen. Queen bees can be up to 25mm in length, they lack wax producing glands, though they do have a stinger but it does not have barbs like the worker bee. Queens posess ovaries for producing eggs, a spermatheca for storing male sperm after mating.
Honey Bees will find nesting sites in any recessed, sheltered caivty in rock or hollow trees. Their nests exhibit the characteristic shape of patterned hexagonal wax cells. It is common for honey bees to smooth the bark of a tree around the entrance to the hive. These bees will occupy a single nesting site for several years, over hibernation periods during winters. New swarming populations generally prefer nesting sites that are more than 300 meters from the parent site. Most hives are 1-5 meters from the ground and the entrance to the hive tends to point downward to protect the nest from moisture and rain. Although honey beesgenerally avoid nesting sites with high rates of human activity, it is not uncommon for honey bees to take up residence in wall voids or underneath decks in areas of the home or apartment that are less frequently used.
Behaviour and Life Cycle
Like the bumble bee, the honey colonies demonstrates advanced eusociality. The queen bee will venture out from the nest to a drone congregation area where mating occurs with drones unrelated drones. The queen stores the sperm from this mating in a spermatheca and selectively fertilizes eggs to determine the sex of the offspring. Fertilzed eggs hatch as diploid, sterile female worker eggs, and unfertilized eggs hatch as male drones, with an exact replica of the queens genetic material. Eggs are laid singly within wax honeycomb cells in which a ball of pollen and nectar is deposited to nourish the larva after hatching. Hatched larva develop quickly and pupate within the larval cell. The pupal stage will normally last only a couple of days and an adult emerges from the larval cell shortly after. Most adults emerge throughout the springtime, the males emerging first and beginning their search for female mates. While most bees are fed the coveted royal jelly for the first 3 days of their development the queen will select a female offspring who will receive royal jelly throughout her development. This female will develop into a fertile virgin queen which will make fly out from the nest in late spring or early fall with a congregation of worker and drone bees to find a new nesting location scouted in advance by a forraging worker bee.
Worker bees have the widest variety of tasks and duties within the nest. These duties change over their life time and include cleaning their own larval cell after they emerge as adults, feeding subsequent broods of larvae, cleaning the hive, heating and cooling the have, guarding the hive and forraging for nectar and pollen.
Drone bees are more stout than their female counterparts with eyes that are twice the size of the workers. Drones central purpose is to mate with a queen from another colony. TO this end the drones will drift from hive to hive, passing through many so-called drone congregation areas, where queens come looking for mating opportunities. Shortly after mating drones will die. By late summer to early autumn most drones are ejected from the hive and die off with the onset of winter. Drones are unable to sting and do not gather pollen.
Since most honey bees form their nests in hollow trees and rock cavities, they do not pose a significant threa to human dwellings. They do not cause any structural wood damage, and are generally docile unless the hive is disturbed in any way. In the event that honey bees to take up residency in or close to a human dwelling, and the inhabitants have a sensitvity or allergy to bee sting venom, removing the nest and preventing future bees from exploiting the same favourable nesting site is highly recommended.
A combination of chemical and physical measures is the most effective way to ensure ongoing protction against honey bees in your home. Removing the nest and patching up entry and exit points is a crucial first step. If no nest can be discovered it is important to use a crack and crevice powder treatment as well as a residual surface spray in areas where the bees are most active.
Nests of these bees can frequently attract secondary pest problems as they are preferred hiding and breeding spots for wax moths, carpet beetles, meal moths and other scavenger insects.