Western honey bee (Apis mellifera)
Honey bee approaching a Milk Thistle flowerhead
Scientific classification :
North-west of Europe
A. m. iberica
A. m. intermissa
A. m. lihzeni
A. m. mellifera
A. m. sahariensis
South-west of Europe
A. m. carnica
A. m. cecropia
A. m. ligustica
A. m. macedonica
A. m. sicula
A. m. adamii
A. m. anatoliaca
A. m. armeniaca
A. m. caucasica
A. m. cypria
A. m. meda
A. m. adansonii
A. m. capensis
A. m. intermissa
A. m. lamarckii
A. m. litorea
A. m. major
A. m. monticola
A. m. sahariensis
A. m. scutellata
A. m. unicolor
A. m. jemenitica
Subspecies originating in Europe
Apis mellifera ligustica , classified by Spinola, 1806 - the Italian bee. The most commonly kept race in North America, South America and southern
They are kept commercially all over the world. They are very gentle, not very
likely to swarm, and produce a large surplus of honey. They have few
undesirable characteristics. Colonies tend to maintain larger populations
through winter, so they require more winter stores (or feeding) than other
temperate zone subspecies. The Italian bee is light colored and mostly leather
colored, but some strains are golden.
Apis mellifera carnica, classified by Pollmann, 1879 - Carniola region of
Slovenia, the southern part of the Austrian Alps, and northern Balkans -
better known as the Carniolan honey bee - popular with beekeepers due to its
extreme gentleness. The Carniolan tends to be quite dark in color, and the
colonies are known to shrink to small populations over winter, and build very
quickly in spring. It is a mountain bee in its native range, and is a good bee
for colder climates.
Apis mellifera caucasica, classified by Pollmann, 1889 - Caucasus Mountains -
This sub-species is regarded as being very gentle and fairly industrious. Some
strains are excessive propolizers. It is a large honeybee of medium, sometimes
Apis mellifera remipes, classified by Gerstäcker, 1862 - Caucasus, Iran,
Apis mellifera mellifera, classified by Linnaeus, 1758 - the dark bee of
northern Europe also called the German honey bee - domesticated in modern
times, and taken to North America in colonial times. These small, dark-colored
bees, are sometimes called the German black bee.
The hybrid populations of A. m. mellifera x A. m. ligustica , found in North
America and Western Europe, have the reputation of stinging people (and other
creatures) for no good reason. The near-extinct "pure" A. m. mellifera is not
considered randomly aggressive.
Apis mellifera iberiensis, classified by Engel, 1999 - the bee from the
Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal)
Apis mellifera cecropia, classified by Kiesenwetter, 1860 - Southern Greece
Apis mellifera cypria, classified by Pollmann, 1879 - The island of Cyprus -
This sub-species has the reputation of being very fierce compared to the
neighboring Italian sub-species, from which it is isolated by the
Apis mellifera ruttneri, classified by Sheppard, Arias, Grech & Meixner in
1997- is a sub-species originating in the Maltese islands.
Apis mellifera sicula, classified by Montagano, 1911 - from the Trapani
province and the island of Ustica of western Sicily (Italia)
Subspecies originating in Africa
Several researchers and beekeepers describe a general trait of the African
subspecies which is absconding, where the Africanized honeybee colonies abscond
the hive in times when food-stores are low, unlike the European colonies which
tend to die in the hive.
Apis mellifera scutellata, classified by Lepeletier, 1836 - (African honey
bee) Central and West Africa, now hybrids also in South America, Central
America and the southern USA. In an effort to address concerns by Brazilian
beekeepers and to increase honey production in Brazil, Warwick Kerr, a
Brazilian geneticist, was asked by Brazilian Federal and State authorities in
1956 to import several pure African queens from Tanzania to Piracicaba-São
Paulo State in the south of Brazil. In a mishap some queens escaped. The
African queens eventually mated with local drones and produced what are now
known as Africanized honey bees on the American continent. The intense
struggle for survival of honey bees in sub-Saharan Africa is given as the
reason that this sub-species is proactive in defending the hive, and also more
likely to abandon an existing hive and swarm to a more secure location. They
direct more of their energies to defensive behaviors and less of their
energies to honey storage. African honey bees are leather colored, difficult
to distinguish by eye from darker strains of Italian bees.
Apis mellifera capensis, classified by Eschscholtz, 1822 - the Cape bee from
Apis mellifera monticola, classified by Smith, 1961 - High altitude mountains
at elevation between 1,500 and 3,100 metres of East Africa Mt. Elgon, Mt.
Kilimanjaro, Mt.Kenya, Mt.Meru
Apis mellifera sahariensis, classified by Baldensperger, 1932 - from the
Moroccan desert oases of Northwest Africa. This sub-species faces few
predators other than humans and is therefore very gentle. Moreover, because of
the low density of nectar-producing vegetation around the oases it colonizes,
it forages up to five miles, much farther than sub-species from less arid
regions. Other authorities say that while colonies of this species are not
much inclined to sting when their hives are opened for inspection, they are,
nevertheless, highly nervous.
Apis mellifera intermissa, classified by von Buttel-Reepen, 1906; Maa, 1953 -
Northern part of Africa in the general area of Morocco, Libya and Tunisia.
These bees are totally black. They are extremely fierce but do not attack
without provocation. They are industrious and hardy, but have many negative
qualities that argue against their being favored in the honey or pollination
Apis mellifera major, classified by Ruttner, 1978 - from the Rif mountains of
Northwest Morocco - This bee may be a brown variety of the Apis mellifera
intermissa but there are also anatomic differences.
Apis mellifera adansonii, classified by Latreille, 1804 - originates Nigeria,
Apis mellifera unicolor, classified by Latreille, 1804 - Madagascar
Apis mellifera lamarckii, classified by Cockerell, 1906 - (Lamarck's honey
bee) of the Nile valley of Egypt and Sudan. This mitotype can also be
identified in honey bees from California. 
Apis mellifera litorea, classified by Smith, 1961 - Low elevations of east
Apis mellifera nubica, (Nubian honey bee) of Sudan
Apis mellifera jemenitica, classified by Ruttner, 1976 - Somalia, Uganda,
Subspecies originating in the Middle East and Asia
Apis mellifera macedonica, classified by Ruttner, 1988 - Republic of Macedonia
and Northern Greece
Apis mellifera meda, classified by Skorikov, 1829 - Iraq
Apis mellifera adamii, classified by Ruttner, 1977 - Crete
Apis mellifera armeniaca, Mid-East, Caucasus, Armenia
Apis mellifera anatolica, classified by Maa, 1953 - This race is typified by
colonies in the central region of Anatolia in Turkey and Iraq (Range extends
as far east as Armenia). It has many good characteristics but is rather
unpleasant to deal with in and around the hive.
Apis mellifera syriaca, classified by Skorikov, 1829 - (Syrian honeybee) Near
East and Israel
Apis mellifera pomonella, classified by Sheppard & Meixner, 2003 - Endemic
honey bees of the Tien Shan Mountains in Central Asia. This sub-species of
Apis mellifera has a range that is the farthest East.
Honey bee life cycle
Larvae to the left and eggs to the rightIn the temperate zone, honey bees
survive winter as a colony, and the queen begins egg laying in mid to late
winter, to prepare for spring. This is most likely triggered by longer day
length. She is the only fertile female, and deposits all the eggs from which the
other bees are produced. Except a brief mating period when she may make several
flights to mate with drones, or if she leaves in later life with a swarm to
establish a new colony, the queen rarely leaves the hive after the larvae have
become full grown bees. The queen deposits each egg in a cell prepared by the
worker bees. The egg hatches into a small larva which is fed by nurse bees
(worker bees who maintain the interior of the colony). After about a week, the
larva is sealed up in its cell by the nurse bees and begins the pupal stage.
After another week, it will emerge an adult bee.
For the first ten days of their lives, the female worker bees clean the hive and
feed the larvae. After this, they begin building comb cells. On days 16 through
20, a worker receives nectar and pollen from older workers and stores it. After
the 20th day, a worker leaves the hive and spends the remainder of its life as a
forager. The population of a healthy hive in mid-summer can average between
40,000 and 80,000 bees.
Pupae of dronesThe larvae and pupae in a frame of honeycomb are referred to as
frames of brood and are often sold (with adhering bees) by beekeepers to other
beekeepers to start new beehives.
Stages of development of the drone pupaeBoth workers and queens are fed "royal
jelly" during the first three days of the larval stage. Then workers are
switched to a diet of pollen and nectar or diluted honey, while those intended
for queens will continue to receive royal jelly. This causes the larva to
develop to the pupa stage more quickly, while being also larger and fully
developed sexually. Queen breeders consider good nutrition during the larval
stage to be of critical importance to the quality of the queens raised, good
genetics and sufficient number of matings also being factors. During the larval
and pupal stages, various parasites can attack the pupa/larva and destroy or
Queens are not raised in the typical horizontal brood cells of the honeycomb.
The typical queen cell is specially constructed to be much larger, and has a
vertical orientation. However, should the workers sense that the old queen is
weakening, they will produce emergency cells known as supersedure cells. These
cells are made from a cell with an egg or very young larva. These cells protrude
from the comb. As the queen finishes her larval feeding, and pupates, she moves
into a head downward position, from which she will later chew her way out of the
cell. At pupation the workers cap or seal the cell. Just prior to emerging from
their cells, young queens can often be heard "piping." The purpose of this sound
is not yet fully understood.
Bee Swarm- bees are remarkably non aggressive in this state as they have no hive
to protect, and can be captured with easeWorker bees are infertile females; but
in some circumstances, generally only in times of severe stress or with the loss
or injury or declining health of the queen, they may lay infertile eggs, and in
some subspecies these eggs may actually be fertile. However, since the worker
bees are 'imperfect' (not fully sexually developed) females, they do not mate
with drones. Any fertile eggs that they lay would be haploid, having only the
genetic contribution of their mother, and in honey bees these haploid eggs will
always develop into drones. Worker bees also secrete the wax used to build the
hive, clean and maintain the hive, raise the young, guard the hive and forage
for nectar and pollen.
In honey bees, the worker bees have a modified ovipositor called a stinger with
which they can sting to defend the hive, but unlike other bees of any other
genus (and even unlike the queens of their own species), the stinger is barbed.
Contrary to popular belief, the bee will not always die soon after stinging:
this is a misconception based on the fact that a bee will usually die after
stinging a human or other mammal. The sting and associated venom sac are
modified so as to pull free of the body once lodged (autotomy), and the sting
apparatus has its own musculature and ganglion which allow it to keep delivering
venom once detached. It is presumed that this complex apparatus, including the
barbs on the sting, evolved specifically in response to predation by
vertebrates, as the barbs do not function (and the sting apparatus does not
detach) unless the sting is embedded in elastic material. Even then, the barbs
do not always "catch", so a bee may occasionally pull the sting free and either
fly off unharmed, or sting again.
Drone bees are the male bees of the colony. Since they do not have ovipositors,
they also do not have stingers. Drone honeybees do not forage for nectar or
pollen. In some species, drones are suspected of playing a contributing role in
the temperature regulation of the hive. The primary purpose of a drone bee is to
fertilize a new queen. Multiple drones will mate with any given queen in flight,
and each drone will die immediately after mating; the process of insemination
requires a lethally convulsive effort. Drone honey bees are haploid (having
single, unpaired chromosomes) in their genetic structure and are descended only
from their mother, the queen. They truly do not have a father. In essence,
drones are the equivalent of flying gametes. In regions of temperate climate,
the drones are generally expelled from the hive before winter and die of cold
and starvation, since they are unable to forage or produce honey or take care of
The average lifespan of the queen in most subspecies is three to four years.
However, there are reports that in the German/European Black Bee subspecies that
was previously used for beekeeping, the queen was said to live 7 to 8 years or
more. Because queens successively run out of sperm, towards the
end of their life they start laying more and more unfertilized eggs. Beekeepers
therefore frequently change queens every or every other year.
The lifespan of the workers varies drastically over the year in places with an
extended winter. Workers born in the spring will work hard and live only a few
weeks, whereas those born in the autumn will stay inside for several months as
the colony hibernates.
Honey bee queens release pheromones to regulate hive activities, and worker bees
also produce pheromones for various communications (below).
Honey bee with tongue partly extendedBees produce honey by collecting nectar,
which is a clear liquid consisting of nearly 80% water with complex sugars. The
collecting bees store the nectar in a second stomach and return to the hive
where worker bees remove the nectar. The worker bees digest the raw nectar for
about 30 minutes using enzymes to break up the complex sugars into simpler ones.
Raw honey is then spread out in empty honeycomb cells to dry, which reduces the
water content to less than 20%. When nectar is being processed, honeybees create
a draft through the hive by fanning with their wings. Once dried, the cells of
the honeycomb are sealed (capped) with wax to preserve the honey.
When a hive detects smoke, many bees become remarkably non aggressive. It is
speculated that this is a defense mechanism; wild colonies generally live in
hollow trees, and when bees detect smoke it is presumed that they prepare to
evacuate from a forest fire, carrying as much food reserve as they can. In order
to do this, they will go to the nearest honey storage cells and gorge on honey.
In this state they are quite docile since defense from predation is relatively
unimportant; saving as much as possible is the most important activity.
 Thermal regulation of the Honey bee
The honey bee needs an internal body temperature of 35 °C to fly, which is also
the temperature within the cluster. The brood nest needs the same temperature
over a long period to develop the brood, and it is the optimal temperature for
the creation of wax.
The temperature on the periphery of the cluster varies with the outside air
temperature. In the winter cluster, the inside temperature is as low as 20 - 22
Honey bees are able to forage over a 30 °C range of air temperature largely
because they have behavioural and physiological mechanisms for regulating the
temperature of their flight muscles. From very low to very high air
temperatures, the successive mechanisms are shivering before flight and stopping
flight for additional shivering, passive body temperature in a comfort range
that is a function of work effort, and finally active heat dissipation by
evaporative cooling from regurgitated honey sac contents. The body temperatures
maintained differ depending on expected foraging rewards and on caste.  The
optimal air temperature for foraging is 22 - 25 °C. During flight, the rather
large flight muscles create heat, which must dissipate. The honeybee uses a form
of evaporative cooling to release heat through its mouth. Under hot conditions,
heat from the thorax is dissipated through the head. The bee regurgitates a
droplet of hot internal fluid--a "honeycrop droplet"--which immediately cools
the head temperature by 10 °C. 
Below 7-10 °C, bees become immobile due to the cold and above 38 °C bee activity
slows due to heat. Honey bees can tolerate temperatures up to 50 °C for short
Peanut-like queen brood cells are extended outward from the brood
combPeriodically, the colony determines that a new queen is needed. There are
three general triggers.
The colony becomes space-constrained because the hive is filled with honey,
leaving little room for new eggs. This will trigger a swarm where the old
queen will take about half the worker bees to found a new colony, leaving the
new queen with the other half of worker bees to continue the old colony.
The old queen begins to fail. This is thought to be recognized by a decrease
in queen pheromones throughout the hive. This situation is called supersedure.
At the end of the supersedure, the old queen is generally killed.
The old queen dies suddenly. This is an emergency supersedure. The worker bees
will find several eggs or larvae in the right age-range and attempt to develop
them into queens. Emergency supersedure can generally be recognized because
the queen cell is built out from a regular cell of the comb rather than
hanging from the bottom of a frame.
Regardless of the trigger, the workers develop the larvae into queens by
continuing to feed them royal jelly. This triggers an extended development as a
When the virgin queen emerges, she is commonly thought to seek out other queen
cells and sting the infant queens within and that should two queens emerge
simultaneously, they will fight to the death. Recent studies, however, have
indicated that colonies of Apis mellifera may maintain two queens in as many as
10% of hives. The mechanism by which this occurs is not yet known, but it has
been reported to occur more frequently in some South African subspecies of Apis
mellifera. Regardless, the queen asserts her control over the
worker bees through the release of a complex suite of pheromones called queen
After several days of orientation within and around the hive, the young queen
flies to a drone congregation point - a site near a clearing and generally about
30 feet (9.1 m) above the ground where the drones from different hives tend to
congregate in a swirling aerial mass. Drones detect the presence of a queen in
their congregation area by her smell, and then find her by sight and mate with
her in midair (drones can be induced to mate with "dummy" queens if they have
the queen pheromone applied). A queen will mate multiple times and may leave to
mate several days in a row, weather permitting, until her spermatheca is full.
The queen lays all the eggs in a healthy colony. The number and pace of
egg-laying is controlled by weather and availability of resources and by the
characteristics of the specific race of honeybee. Honey bee queens generally
begin to slow egg-laying in the early-fall and may even stop during the winter.
Egg-laying will generally resume in late winter as soon as the days begin to get
longer. Egg-laying generally peaks in the spring. At the height of the season,
she may lay over 2500 eggs per day - more than her own body mass.
The queen fertilizes each egg as it is being laid using stored sperm from the
spermatheca. The queen will occasionally not fertilize an egg. These eggs,
having only half as many genes as the queen or the workers, develop into drones.
The European honey bee is the third insect, after the fruit fly and the
mosquito, to have its genome mapped. According to the scientists who analysed
its genetic code, the honey bee originated in Africa and spread to Europe in two
ancient migrations. They have also discovered that the number of genes in the
honey bees related to smell outnumber those for taste, and they have fewer genes
for immunity than the fruit fly and the mosquito.  The genome sequence
revealed several groups of genes, particularly the genes related to circadian
rhythms, were closer to vertebrates than other insects. Genes related to enzymes
that control other genes were also vertabratelike.
See also: Honey Bee Genome Sequencing Consortium
Honey bee pheromones
Honey bees use special pheromones, or chemical communication, for almost all
behaviors of life. Such uses include (but are not limited to): mating, alarm,
defense, orientation, kin and colony recognition, food production, and
integration of colony activities. Pheromones are thus essential to honey bees
for their survival.
Bee learning and communication
A large honey bee swarm on a fallen tree trunkHoney bees are an excellent animal
to study with regards to behavior because they are abundant and familiar to most
people. An animal that is disregarded every day has very specific behaviors that
go unnoticed by the normal person. Karl von Frisch studied the behavior of honey
bees with regards to communication and was awarded the Nobel Prize for
physiology and medicine in 1973. Von Frisch noticed that honey bees communicate
with the language of dance. Honey bees are able to direct other bees to food
sources through the round dance and the waggle dance. The round dance tells the
other foragers that food is within 50 meters of the hive, but it does not
provide much information regarding direction. The waggle dance, which may be
vertical or horizontal, provides more detail about both the distance and the
direction of the located food source. It is also hypothesized that the bees rely
on their olfactory sense to help locate the food source once the foragers are
given directions from the dances.
Another signal for communication is the shaking signal, also known as the
jerking dance, vibration dance, or vibration signal. It is a modulatory
communication signal because it appears to manipulate the overall arousal or
activity of behaviors. The shaking signal is most common in worker
communication, but it is also evident in reproductive swarming. A worker bee
vibrates its body dorsoventrally while holding another honey bee with its front
legs. Jacobus Biesmeijer examined the incidence of shaking signals in a
forager’s life and the conditions that led to its performance to investigate why
the shaking signal is used in communication for food sources. Biesmeijer found
that the experienced foragers executed 92.1% of the observed shaking signals. He
also observed that 64% of the shaking signals were executed by experienced
foragers after they had discovered a food source. About 71% of the shaking
signal sessions occurred after the first five foraging success within one day.
Then other communication signals, such as the waggle dance, were performed more
often after the first five successes. Biesmeijer proved that most shakers are
foragers and that the shaking signal is most often executed by foraging bees
over pre-foraging bees. Beismeijer concluded that the shaking signal presents
the overall message of transfer work for various activities or activity levels.
Sometimes the signal serves to increase activity, when bees shake inactive bees.
At other times, the signal serves as an inhibitory mechanism such as the shaking
signal at the end of the day. However, the shaking signal is preferentially
directed towards inactive bees. All three types of communication between honey
bees are effective in their jobs with regards to foraging and task managing.
"The general story of the communication of the distance, the situation, and
the direction of a food source by the dances of the returning (honey bee)
worker bee on the vertical comb of the hive, has been known in general outline
from the work of Karl von Frisch in the middle 1950s."
Social choice lessons from honey bees
Honey bees have been shown to employ what in human terms would be called range
voting to make hive-relocation decisions, see Myerscough (2003), Lindauer (1971)
and this essay at the Center for Range Voting. The decision making result is
neither a consensus nor a compromise. The decision making process is geared to
make a good relocation decision in the least amount of time.
Queen (The yellow dot on the thorax was added by a beekeeper to aid in finding
the queen. She was probably born in 1997 or 2002; see the Queen article for an
explanation of the dot color conventions.)The honey bee is a colonial insect
that is often maintained, fed, and transported by beekeepers. Honey bees do not
survive individually, but rather as part of the colony. Reproduction is also
accomplished at the colony level. Colonies are often referred to as
Honey bees collect flower nectar and convert it to honey which is stored in
their hives. The nectar is transported in the stomach of the bees, and is
converted to honey through the addition of various digestive enzymes, and by
being stored in a 'honey cell' and then partially dehydrated. Nectar and honey
provide the energy for the bees' flight muscles and for heating the hive during
the winter period. Honey bees also collect pollen which supplies protein and fat
for bee brood to grow. Centuries of selective breeding by humans have created
honey bees that produce far more honey than the colony needs. Beekeepers, also
known as "apiarists," harvest the honey.
Beekeepers often provide a place for the colony to live and to store honey.
There are seven basic types of beehive: skeps, Langstroth hives, top-bar hives,
box hives, log gums, D.E. hives and miller hives. All U.S. states require
beekeepers to use movable frames to allow bee inspectors to check the brood for
disease. This allows beekeepers to keep the Langstroth, top-bar, and D.E. hives
freely, but other types of hives require special permitting, such as for museum
use. The type of beehive used significantly impacts colony health and wax and
Modern hives also enable beekeepers to transport bees, moving from field to
field as the crop needs pollinating and allowing the beekeeper to charge for the
pollination services they provide.
In cold climates some beekeepers have kept colonies alive (with varying success)
by moving them indoors for winter. While this can protect the colonies from
extremes of temperature and make winter care and feeding more convenient for the
beekeeper, it can increase the risk of dysentery (see the Nosema section of
diseases of the honey bee) and can create an excessive buildup of carbon dioxide
from the respiration of the bees. Recently, inside wintering has been refined by
Canadian beekeepers, who build large barns just for wintering bees. Automated
ventilation systems assist in the control of carbon dioxide build-up.
Beehives set up for pollinationThe honey bee's primary commercial value is as a
pollinator of crops. Orchards and fields have grown larger; at the same time
wild pollinators have dwindled. In several areas of the world the pollination
shortage is compensated by migratory beekeeping, with beekeepers supplying the
hives during the crop bloom and moving them after bloom is complete. In many
higher latitude locations it is difficult or impossible to winter over enough
bees, or at least to have them ready for early blooming plants, so much of the
migration is seasonal, with many hives wintering in warmer climates and moving
to follow the bloom to higher latitudes.
As an example, in California, the pollination of almonds occurs in February,
early in the growing season, before local hives have built up their populations.
Almond orchards require two hives per acre (2,000 m² per hive) for maximum yield
and so the pollination is highly dependent upon the importation of hives from
warmer climates. Almond pollination, which occurs in February and March, is the
largest managed pollination event in the world, requiring more than one third of
all the managed honey bees in the United States. Massive movement of honey bee
are also made for apples in New York, Michigan, and Washington. And despite the
inefficiency of honey bees in pollinating blueberries, huge numbers are also
moved to Maine for blueberries, because they are the only pollinators that can
be relatively easily moved and concentrated for this and other monoculture
Commercial beekeepers plan their movements and their wintering locations with
prime reference to the pollination services they plan to perform.
Honey is the complex substance made when the nectar and sweet deposits from
plants and trees are gathered, modified and stored in the honeycomb by honey
bees. Honey is a complex biological mixture that consists mostly of inverted
sugars, primarily glucose and fructose. It has antibacterial and antifungal
properties and will not rot or ferment when stored under normal conditions.
However, honey will crystallize with time. Crystallized honey is not damaged or
defective in any way, for human use, but bees will automatically remove
crystallized honey from their hive and discard it, since they can only use
Main article: Beeswax
Worker bees of a certain age will secrete beeswax from a series of glands on
their abdomen. They use the wax to form the walls and caps of the comb. When
honey is harvested, the wax can be gathered to be used in various wax products
like candles and seals.
Bees collect pollen in the pollen basket and carry it back to the hive. In the
hive, pollen is used as a protein source necessary during brood-rearing. In
certain environments, excess pollen can be collected from the hives. It is often
eaten as a health supplement.
Propolis (or bee glue) is created from resins, balsams and tree saps. Honey bees
use propolis to seal cracks in the hive. Propolis is also sold for its reported
Royal Jelly is a nutritional food product provided to larval bees, particularly
those intended to become queens. It is also harvested and consumed by humans as
a dietary supplement, as it contains various vitamins and amino acids.
 Hazards to honey bee survival
European honey bee populations have recently faced threats to their survival.
North American and European populations were severely depleted by varroa mite
infestations in the early 1990s, and US beekeepers were further affected by
Colony Collapse Disorder in 2006 and 2007. Chemical treatments against Varroa
mites saved most commercial operations and improved cultural practices. New bee
breeds are starting to reduce the dependency on miticides (acaracides) by
beekeepers. Feral bee populations were greatly reduced during this period but
now are slowly recovering, mostly in areas of mild climate, owing to natural
selection for Varroa resistance and repopulation by resistant breeds. Further,
Insecticides, particularly when used in violation of label directions, have also
depleted bee populations, while various bee pests and diseases
are becoming resistant to medications (e.g. American Foul Brood, Tracheal Mites
and Varroa Mites).
 Environmental hazards
In North America, Africanized bees have spread across the southern United States
where they pose a small danger to humans, although they may make beekeeping
(particularly hobby beekeeping) difficult and potentially dangerous.
As an invasive species, feral honey bees have become a significant environmental
problem in places where they are not native. Imported bees may compete with and
displace native bees and birds, and may also promote the reproduction of
invasive plants that native pollinators do not visit. Also, unlike native bees,
they do not properly extract or transfer pollen from plants with poricidal
anthers (anthers that only release pollen through tiny apical pores), as this
requires buzz pollination, a behavior which honey bees rarely exhibit. For
example, Gross and Mackay (1998) found that honey bees reduce fruiting in
Melastoma affine (a plant with poricidal anthers) by robbing stigmas of
Contrary to popular perception, bears and honey badgers are brood predators;
honey is only of secondary interest.
Human encroachment into or adjacent to natural areas where African bush
elephants occur has led to recent research into methods of safely driving
groups of elephants away from humans, including the discovery that playback of
the recorded sounds of angry Apis mellifera colonies are remarkably effective
at prompting elephants to flee an area.
They have a well developed sense of time (circadian rhythm). Honey bees are
one of the very few invertebrates in which sleep-like behavior, similar in
many respects to mammalian sleep, is known to exist.
Honey, as well as propolis, has antibiotic properties. Honey is so sweet that
bacteria cannot grow on it, and dry enough that it does not support yeasts.
Anaerobic bacteria may be present and survive in spore form in honey, however,
as well as anywhere else in common environments. Honey (or any other
sweetener) which is diluted by the non-acidic digestive fluids of infants, can
support the transition of botulism bacteria from the spore form to the
actively growing form which produces a toxin. When infants are weaned to solid
foods, their digestive system becomes acidic enough to prevent such growth and
poisoning. No sweeteners should be given to infants prior to weaning.
Honey bees are one of the very few invertebrates that produce a sort of "milk"
for their young, royal jelly, which is the only food the larvae will eat early
Like other social insects, they have an advanced immune system.
They have specially modified hairs on their body that develop a static
electricity charge to attract pollen grains to their bodies.
Honey bee foragers die usually when their wings are worn out after
approximately 500 miles (800 km) of flight.
Honey bee wings beat at a constant rate of 230 beats per second or 13,800
beats/minute. The frequency of the wing beats was much higher than expected
for an insect of this size. Honey bees make up for carrying heavier loads or
for changes in air density by altering the amplitude of their wings and
catching more air. This makes the wing muscles work harder, but it does not
change the frequency of the wing beats. The science of bee flight remained an
unsolved mystery until December 2005. A study published in Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences details the work supervised by Michael Dickinson
Bees are capable of perceiving the polarization of light. They use this
information to orient their communicative dances.
They navigate by using a combination of memory, visual landmarks, colors, the
position of the sun, smell, polarized light and magnetic anomalies.
Their aging is controlled by a hormone which regulates the production of a
protein called vitellogenin.
The honey bee was a prominent political symbol in the empire of Napoleon
Bonaparte, representing the Bonapartist bureaucratic and political system. The
main purpose of this symbolism was a reference to the Merovingian Dynasty
given that about a century earlier, a series of golden honeybees had been
discovered in the tomb of Childeric I (which had by then come into Napoleon's
Worker honey bees can reproduce by parthenogenesis, but will necessarily
produce only drones (though this is not true of all other subspecies). Worker
bees are sexually underdeveloped females, and their ovulation is ordinarily
inhibited by hormonal signals provided to all hive members by a functioning
queen. Should the queen bee die and a replacement not be available, inhibition
of egg laying behavior among the worker bees will end, but the eggs they lay
will be unfertilized and therefore can produce only drones. Absent a virgin
queen, the colony will die out as the worker population dies out due to old
Bee stings have also been reputed to help alleviate the associated symptoms of
Multiple sclerosis, arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases. This is an area
of ongoing research.