In this guide we’re going to describe the different castes of honey bee. Honey bees are divided into 3 different types; the queen, the worker and the drone.
The Queen Bee
The queen bee is the heart of the colony, without her the rest of the colony cannot survive. She has two main purposes;
- To produce chemical scents, or pheromones, which help regulate the unity and stability of the colony.
- And to lay eggs.
You can identify the queen by the size of her abdomen, which is noticeably larger than a worker or drone bee.
Within the hive, she will usually walk straight through the brood, whilst the workers and drones will have a tendency to crawl over each other.
Despite this, the queen can still be tricky to spot. To help locate the her, a bee keeper will often mark her thorax with a dab of paint. The colour of which will indicate which year she was born in, and so therefore how old she is.
The Queen can lay as many as 2000 eggs a day, and live for up to 5 years. However, after a couple of years she will start to slow her production so it is advisable to replace the queen of each hive every couple of years.
The Worker Bee
The worker bees make up a majority of the hive’s population. Physically they are the smallest bee in the hive, but as their name suggests, they perform a majority of the work.
On average, they will live from 35-45 days, and the specific job they perform will vary with age. The first half of a workers life will be spent taking care of the hive by tending to the queen, looking after the brood and building the wax comb. When fully matured, they will begin to defend the hive and forage for pollen, nectar, propolis and honey-dew.
The Drone Bee
Finally there is the drone bee. Drones make up a relatively small percentage of a colonies total population, varying from about 2-6000 depend-ing on the time of year.
Procreation with a virgin queen is the drones pri-mary purpose in life and do very little else within the hive. They have no sting, so are unable to defend the colony, yet they still need to be fed and cared for by the workers.