Beekeeping basics: Introduction to honey bees

Hive jobs

Honey bees are one of the most hard-working and industrious creatures around. They will literally work themselves to death.

Throughout their lives, bees perform a variety of tasks both inside and outside the hive. Here is an overview of the different types of work honey bees perform from the time they are born to the time they die.


Worker bee

As worker bees age, they perform progressively more complex tasks.

Days 1-2: Worker bees begin to work as soon as they emerge. On day 1 and 2, a new worker bee will begin cleaning cells to help out in the brood nest.

Days 3-11: From days 3 to 11, she will begin to nurse brood. Around day 7, she will begin to attend to the queen.

Days 12-17: From day 12 to 17, the worker bee starts to make wax to build or repair cells in the hive.

Days 18-21: From day 18 to 21, the worker bee performs a variety of tasks, such as: sealing honey, feeding drones, moving eggs, building honeycomb, packing pollen, propolizing, removing dead bees, carrying water, and fanning. She can also become a guard bee and protect the entrance of the hive as well as the area surrounding the hive.

Days 22-42:  On days 22 to 42, the worker bee becomes a forager. Foraging is a dangerous job, which is why only older bee perform this work.


Queen and drones

In contrast to worker bees, queens and drones perform more limited (yet critical) activities in the hive.

The queen’s main role is to mate and lay eggs. She regulates hive life by emitting pheromones. Without her, colony life would be chaotic and the colony would eventually cease to exist. Her job remains the same throughout her life.

Drones exist solely to reproduce with a queen. If a drone fails to mate, worker bees will eject him from the hive at the end of the foraging season. His job remains the same throughout his life.