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Honey Bees – Interesting Facts About These Social Insects

There is one main species of Honey Bee, with two subspecies that can be seen in the United Kingdom. The main species is the European Honey Bee, whilst the Italian Bee and the European Dark Bee are the two subspecies.

Honey Bees produce and store honey, within a construction of perennial, colonial nest, which is made from wax. A colony of Honey Bees will only have one queen, whose main job is to produce more bees. She will have fertile male drone bees around her and worker bees – which are sterile female bees. The male drone bees are driven out of the colony at the end of each season.

The female worker bees can live for up to four weeks in summer. In winter they can survive for up to 24 weeks. It is the young worker bees that will clean the hive and feed larvae. They will then progress to other colony tasks. These include guarding the hive from predators. As they get older, they will then spend the rest of their life foraging outside the hive for nectar, water and pollen. They have a specially adapted pollen basket on each of their rear legs to collect the pollen. They also have an extra stomach to enable them to transport nectar.

Honey Bees work to an incredibly structured social order, making them very sociable insects. The main aim of this social order is to help the queen to produce more eggs.

In winter the male drone bees are driven out of the colony, whilst the female workers will huddle around the queen Honey Bee. They all stop flying in the winter months, conserving their energy to keep warm. The colder the weather, the tighter they will huddle together. The worker bees will also take it in turns being on the edge of the huddle. This ensures no bee gets too cold. During winter, they will eat the honey they have stored, to preserve body heat.

The queen bee is the only Honey Bee that can sting several times. This is because her sting is smooth. She will only usually use her sting against rival queen bees. The male drone bees do not have a sting. The female worker bee has a barbed sting. This has a venom sac attached, so if a worker bee stings you, the sac and sting is detached from its abdomen and the worker bee will then die. They will only therefore sting if the hive is threatened, or if the worker Honey Bee is threatened by a predator or feels threatened or accidentally trodden on by a human.

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