Beekeeper Guide

The Biology of Bees ?

Bee Keeping Equipments A colony of honey bees comprises a cluster of several to 60,000 workers (sexually immature females), a queen (a sexually developed female), and, depending on the colony population and season of year, a few to several hundred drones (sexually developed males). A colony normally has only one queen, whose sole function is egg laying. The bees cluster loosely over several wax combs, the cells of which are used to store honey (carbohydrate food) and pollen (protein food) and to rear young bees to replace old adults.

The activities of a colony vary with the seasons. The period from September to December might be considered the beginning of a new year for a colony of honey bees. The condition of the colony at this time of year greatly affects its prosperity for the next year.

In the fall a reduction in the amounts of nectar and pollen coming into the hive causes reduced brood rearing and diminishing population. Depending on the age and egg-laying condition of the queen, the proportion of old bees in the colony decreases. The young bees survive the winter, while the old ones gradually die. Propolis collected from the buds of trees is used to seal all cracks in the hive and reduce the size of the entrance to keep out cold air.

When nectar in the field becomes scarce, the workers drag the drones out of the hive and do not let them return, causing them to starve to death. Eliminating drones reduces the consumption of winter honey stores. When the temperature drops to 57° F, the bees begin to form a tight cluster. Within this cluster the brood (consisting of eggs, larvae, and pupae) is kept warm-about 93° F – with heat generated by the bees. The egg laying of the queen bee tapers off and may stop completely during October or November, even if pollen is stored in the combs. During cold winters, the colony is put to its severest test of endurance. Under subtropical, tropical, and mild winter conditions, egg laying and brood rearing usually never stop.