Are all the bees in the indoor beehive worker bees?

The answer right now is 99.99999 percent of them are.

All of the bees in our indoor beehive are female worker bees, except for the queen bee. There is one queen bee in each beehive, but the other 50,000-60,000 bees in the hive are all workers.

That is not always the case. Hives usually have drones as well, which are male honeybees. Drones don’t do any work throughout their lives. Their sole purpose is to mate with the queen. In fact, they are such a drain on resources and provide so little that the worker bees actually kick out any drones in a hive each fall so that they don’t eat through all their honey stores throughout the winter.

A queen bee only mates once in her life. Within weeks of emerging as an adult honeybee, she will leave the hive and find male drones from another hive and mate with 10-15, usually about 20 feet above the ground. She stores all of the sperm cells in her oviducts to immediately fertilize eggs when she returns back to the hive. The rest of the 5-6 million sperm she stores in what is called a spermathecal, which keeps the sperm in good condition for up to four years. The average queen lifespan is three-five years, so the sperm will last the rest of her egg-laying life.

The queen is completely in charge of all of the egg-laying for a hive, and she can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day if that many bees are needed. She also can choose if what she lays will be a worker bee or a drone. If an egg is fertilized, it will become a worker bee. If an egg is not fertilized, it will become a drone. A fertilized egg can also become a queen, but that rarely happens. A fertilized egg only turns into a queen if workers feed an egg cell royal jelly to help it develop into a new queen. They will feed an egg royal jelly if the queen has died and needs replaced or if a hive is growing too rapidly and needs to split and swarm — when a new queen takes half of the worker bees to establish a new hive elsewhere.

Read more about what’s happening in the hive with other articles in the series:
“Drying Down Honey”
“Festooning Bees”
“Varroa Mites”

Simple origami bee

We’re bzzzzy bees at the Dickinson County Nature Center, and we’re continuously celebrating bees, butterflies, bats, hummingbirds and all of our pollinators at Pollinator Paradise. Once you see the live bees in the indoor beehive, crawl through the human-sized honeycomb, pollinate life-size apple trees and see all the delicious foods that pollinators help us with…

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What’s happening in the hive? Varroa mites

Bees have so many issues to deal with. There’s a lack of nectar and pollen sources as wildflower populations diminish. Pesticides like neonictinoids are harming their nervous systems (read about that here). There’s unexplained colony collapse disorder. And then there are varroa mites. So many invasive species have caused catastrophic effects on different parts of…

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What’s happening in the hive? How a queen develops

Where is the queen is probably the No. 1 question that we are asked about the indoor bee hive. You can read a little bit about that here, but the next question often comes up as “What makes a queen bee?” The short answer is, queens are fed royal jelly which makes them different from…

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What’s happening in the hive? Drying down honey

A few years ago, we saw a mass of bees collected around the hole that led outside from the indoor bee hive. We thought the bees might be swarming — leaving the hive, which usually occurs when there are two queens raised and one leaves with half the hive — and were nervous that there…

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What’s happening in the hive? Festooning bees

A few years ago, we saw a clump of bees in the indoor beehive inside Pollinator Paradise at the Dickinson County Nature Center. They were linked together like a chain, hanging on to each other by their feet. Since then, we have seen this happen quite often, and visitors ask us what the crazy honeybees…

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Make your own bee hotel

You can help native bees by providing them a secure place to nest. What many call bee hotels or bee homes range from simple to deluxe designs. (Mason bees are amazing pollinators.) One way is to drill various-sized holes into a wooden block or tree cookie and hang it in a sheltered area. Another simple…

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Be a bee! Learn how to make your own antenna

After Halloween, has your child been begging you to let him or her wear his or her costume again? Do they want to dress up every day? Here’s a fun craft to make that might curb their dressing up craving — bee antenna. You’ll need: A headband Four pipe cleaners Two beads Start by taking…

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Why can’t I see the queen bee in the indoor bee hive?

“Where is the queen bee?” That’s usually the first question we get when people see the indoor bee hive at the Dickinson County Nature Center. The queen bee is pretty identifiable. Her abdomen — the longest part of her body — is almost twice the length of a worker bee. However, we almost never see…

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See the larva inside the indoor bee hive

  When looking at the indoor honeybee hive at the Dickinson County Nature Center, take a step back and look from different angles. The honeycomb is shiny with lots of nectar that the forager bees have begun to bring in this spring, most likely from the plethora of dandelions that are in bloom throughout northwest…

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2 Comments

  1. Steve Lende on August 17, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    Last paragraph should be reworded. A mated queen will lay drones.

    All Queen bees will lay unfertilized eggs to create drones that go out and mate with other new queens. This passes on her genetics in other colonies. Some queens will lay more drones than others. It could be your queen has stopped laying drones because mating season is over.

    After mating season is over in late fall the worker bees will kick out drones so they do not eat the honey and pollen stored for winter survival.

    • kiley on August 20, 2018 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks!

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