top of page
Wooden Board


Head: 2 compound and 3 simple eyes, antennae sensitive to pheromones and the bee's surroundings and proboscis (mouth-parts). The proboscis can be extended to reach a flower or folded under the head when not in use and is a hollow tube. The bee can extrude saliva onto the tip of the tongue (flabellum) to dissolve sugar crystals.

Thorax: Supports legs and wings and contains flight muscles, also used to generate heat and to fan the hive.

Abdomen: Contains heart, gut, malpighian tubules (kidney-like function), sting and fat bodies (energy reserves). Thorax and abdomen have apertures (spiracles) connecting to the tracheal system, supplying oxygen. The wax glands are in 4 pairs on the underside of the abdomen.

Anchor 1

3 Castes of Bees

Workers: Female bees with no ability to mate; in special circumstances workers can lay unfertilised eggs which only produce drones. Workers are raised in cells 5mm across and are fed on brood food, emerging after 21 days. Workers perform all the duties of the hive and foraging duties. Flat topped cells when capped.

Queens: Female bees capable of mating and can lay fertilised eggs to produce workers and unfertilised eggs to produce drones. Queens are raised in circular tapered cells hanging vertically from the comb. The egg to make a queen and a worker are the same; if the larvae is given only royal jelly, a queen well develop.

Drones: Male bees that mate with queens from other colonies, then die. Produced in cells 6mm across. Domed cells when capped.




Anchor 2

Bee Development


Day 1: egg is vertical, stuck to the base of the cell

Day 2: egg is at a 45 degree angle

Day 3: egg is horizontal and larvae hatches and begins to eat

Day 4 - 8: Larva grows, moulting every 24 hours. Cell is sealed on day 8 after last meal.

Day 8 - 21: Larva changes position and stretches full-length (head outwards) and spins a cocoon. Metamorphosis into a pupa occurs after 5th moult, on day 11. The pupa gradually darkens from white and after 6th moult, the young worker nibbles through the cell capping on day 21.

Day 24: Drone bee emerges.

Anchor 3

Seasonal Population - Adult Bees

Hive population fluctuates with the seasons and food resources. The queen has 2-3 good years and is only replaced during favourable forage conditions or if she is failing or dies. Number of workers changes considerably over the year.


Drones are reared in spring and eliminated in  autumn when mating season is over - drones do not over-winter. As day length increases, birth rate will exceed death rate and colony numbers will rapidly increase in April, May and June, peaking around 60,000 from a low of around 20,000. Winter workers live 5-6 months.

A New Queen

Swarming - when the hive is congested, workers will start to rear new queens at the base of frames, and the original queen will depart with half of the colony to start a new colony.

Supersedure - when workers want to replace a failing queen they will build a supersedure cell on the face of the comb.

Seasonal Population - Brood

There is very little worker brood in January (no drones or queen brood). As day length increases and with early pollen, brood numbers increase rapidly, with the queen laying 1,500-2,000 per day, her own body weight. At maximum, with a single brrod box, 40,000 brood cells may be in use, declining to near or at zero in December when food sources are scarce.

Anchor 4

Communication - Queen

Most honeybee communications occur by smell and taste - using hormones and pheromones.

Queen pheromone:: a mandibular gland secretion by the queen 'queen substance', dispersed over her body as she is groomed by workers. Workers pick up the substance on their antennae, by touching the queen and pass it along during food transmission. Worker bees become agitated during the queen's absence and will begin queen replacement after 4 hours. Queen Substance:

  • inhibits rearing of replacement queens

  • stabilizes swarms

  • keeps her retinue attentive

  • stimulates foraging and brood rearing

  • attracts drones on mating flight

Alarm Communication

The mandibular glands of workers produce 2-heptanone - other workers respond when this chemical is released at the hive entrance.


One of the glands of the sting produces isopentyl acetate - the sting pheromone and appears by the time a worker is 15 days old. Bees display a faster reaction time and more concentrated defensiveness after perceiving the alarm pheromone.


Nasonov Scent Gland

Workers have a scent gland at the tip of the abdomen. The gland emits 7 terpenoids used primarily for orientation. To release the chemical mixture, the worker stands high on the back legs with the abdomen elevated and tilt the last segment downwards while fanning their wings. The scent is used to help other workers find home, food and water sources, also helping to keep the colony together.

bottom of page