Beginning Beekeeping

Everything you need to know to become an enthusiastic beekeeper !

Honey Bee On Flower
Learning About Honey Bees And What Is Inside A Beehive.

The Drone is the male bee and he has a very large and thick body. He has a heavier sound when he flies by. I compare the sound to a big old World War II Bomber Aircraft. He performs no functions inside the hive. He simply flies in to rest and feed. His sole duty is to fly around up about a thousand feet looking for a Virgin Queen Bee on her maiden flight. His odds of finding one are pretty slim. If he is fortunate to meet and mate in flight, the Virgin Queen rips out his sexual apparatus (stores it inside her body for future use ) and he falls to the ground and dies.

Video of a Drone mating with a Queen Bee on a front porch in Vermont

Should the Drone not find a Virgin Queen during the mating season he will meet a cruel fate when the weather turns cold in the early fall of the year. Since he performs no useful function inside the hive the Drone will be forced/dragged out of the hive by the Worker Bees to freeze or starve to death.

The Queen is often referred to as the mother of the hive and people often think of her as the boss. Neither perception is really correct ! As you can see from the above drawing, she has a long body and is very distinctive in appearance when you see her inside the beehive. her sole job is to lay eggs inside the cells. That is all she does. She does not 'mother' anybody. In fact, she doesn't even feed herself. Certain young Worker Bees surround her in a circle wherever she goes inside the beehive and attend to her every need, i.e., feed her and get rid of her waste.

Photo of a cell with the side cut away showing how the egg looks inside a cell when first deposited in there by the Queen.

Before she will lay an egg, the Queen looks down inside the cell to make sure it has been 'properly cleaned' out by the Workers. Once satisfied the cell is clean enough she lowers her rear into the top of the cell and lays a solitary egg.

                                        inside a cell

The Queen can lay about 1000 eggs per day during the height of her egg laying season. She begins laying eggs usually sometime in January, dependent on the climate where the hive is located. She needs to build up the work force to be ready for when plants begin to blossom. She will stop laying eggs about late fall.

While Worker Bees are capable of laying an egg to become a Drone in an emergency they are incapable of laying eggs to become a Queen or Worker.

In the event the Queen is lost or dies this event causes a real emergency situation inside the hive as it cannot survive without a Queen. Should there already be one or more Queen cells with an egg inside then that hive can survive. A Queen cell is easily identifiable as it protrudes out from the frame and looks like a big peanut shell was cemented in place.

Watch the video of the Queen Bee being balled in the hand of a beekeeper ... amazing video with sound.

Photo of a Virgin Queen Bee having cut away at the top of her cell and in the process of emerging.

When she first emerges from this cell she will hurry about looking for other rival Queens that are still inside their cells. When she finds one she will plunge her barb less stinger into the side of the cell to kill its occupant. More will be mentioned about her possible role in the section about swarming.

Queen emerging from a cell

The Worker is actually a sterile female, capable only of laying a cell to become a Drone as mentioned above. Aside form laying eggs and mating duties. Sll other work inside and outside of the hive is pergformed by these Worker Bees. When the new Worker first emerges from her cell she will be engaged in the myriad of duties to be performed inside the hive before she matures to the stage where she flies out of the hive to gather nectar and pollen..

Some of these inside duties performed involve, cleaning out old material from inside the cells, attendants to the Queen Bee, carrying dead bees or larvae outside the hive, guard duty at the entrance to the hive, fanning at the entrance to the hive during the hot weather to keep the inside temperature down and to circulate fresh air throughout the hive, receiving nectar and pollen from the outside Worker Bees and storing it away in cells, nurse bees for feeding the newly laid egg and when it turns into a larvae, sealing the cell at the appropriate moment, to allow the pupae to develop inside into a mature bee, etc., etc. You can see that her work is never done.

After performing these inside chores for about three weeks she will then fly out of the hive to gather and bring nectar and pollen back until she dies.

In fact, during the season when flowers are blooming, she literally works herself to death within about six weeks. Those Workers fortunate to be born in late summer, early fall, may well live through the oncoming winter into the beginning of the following spring.

The Bees Know What Is Best For Them

A Chart And A Video On The Life Cycle Of The Honey Bee


Download a pdf on how to How To Protect Honey Bees From Pesticides

Updated January 4, 2017

© 2010-2017 Albert W. Needham