Lesson One: The Bees

The Basics

The Varieties of US Honey Bee

There are two main types of honey bees in the United States; Carniolans (Apis mellifera carnica) and Italians (Apis mellifera ligustica). These two types are known for being more so in the calm side, as well as producing good amounts of honey. Russian bees are also bred in the United States and are known for their hygiene and anger issues. The bees I started the season with are called Saskatraz and hail from Saskatchewan, Canada. Saskatraz bees are known for their honey production, wintering ability, temperament, tracheal mite resistance, varroa tolerance / resistance and brood diseases. I believe my new and current queen is an Italian, so my hive will slowly transform to an Italian hive.

The Genders

Most hive colonies are between 96-99% female. Why is that? Let’s dive in.

Worker be as a nurse.

Workers- If you’re a female bee and not the queen, you are a worker. Worker bees come from fertilized eggs produced by the queen. Worker bees do almost everything in the colony, from guarding the entrance, to being a nurse to eggs and larva, to foragers who collect nectar and pollen. All of this is based on the age of the bee. Think of it this way; as the workers age, they head to do outside jobs. They can, however, change jobs if they are needed elsewhere in the colony. They can even lay eggs, but I’ll get to that in a later post.

Comparison of worker to drone

Drones- Drones are the male bees that make up the 1-3% of the hive. Drones are made from unfertilized eggs laid by the queen or workers. Bee kingdom would not survive without drones, but other than mating, they are worthless. They truly do not do anything other than mate with virgin queens (which leads to their male parts falling off and death).

Queen bee surrounded by her helpers (retinue)

Queens- A queen bee is the most important bee in the hive. Although it is possible to have more than one queen in a hive, most hives only have one. That’s because a queen will eliminate their competition. As I’ve said in another post, a queens main job is to lay eggs, and she does that very well. She can lay as many as 2,000 eggs in a single day. After she has mated, she will have enough eggs and sperm to last her the rest of her life. She only leaves the hive if things are too crowded and she plans to leave permanently. Most queen bees last between one and five years.

Did you know? All bees in a hive are related because they share the same mother, but they don’t all share the same dad. Drones don’t even have a dad, as they are made with unfertilized eggs.

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