The busy bee

There are three types (castes) of bees in a normal hive.

The Worker

This is the smallest bee, 13-17 millimetres long. The worker bee gathers food for the hive, cleans the hive and helps rear the young. The worker bee collects nectar and water through its long mouthpiece called a proboscis. Its tongue is used to suck the nectar from the flowers. On its hind legs there are pollen ‘baskets’ to carry the pollen back to the hive.

The Drone

These are the future fathers. Their only task is to mate with the Queen bee. Once the drone mates with the Queen bee he dies. Drones have no other real purpose. They cannot forage because their mouthpieces are too short for collecting nectar. They cannot make pollen. They cannot defend the hive because they have no sting. They cannot make beeswax. Their role is to help the Queen bee breed.

The Queen Bee

The queen is the largest bee and each normal colony has only one. Her sole purpose is to lay eggs. She is the mother of the hive. She leaves the hive only to mate or when the hive reproduces by swarming. Her body is especially formed for egg-laying. Fertilized eggs hatch into larvae. These grub-like larvae become either workers or queens. Larvae who are fed Royal jelly only during rearing become the queens.

Eggs hatch into larvae in three days. Workers take 21 days to reach maturity from when the egg is laid (drones 24 days, queens 16 days).