Honey bees are colonial insects.  The honey bee colony, made up of thousands of individual bees, is much like a single organism since no single honey bee can survive on its own.  The colony consists of perhaps 60,000 or more female workers, a single queen and a few hundred male bees. 


 
 Worker

Worker

Honey bee workers perform all the tasks necessary for colony survival:  housekeeping, raising young, making beeswax and building comb, gathering nectar and pollen and making honey, guarding the hive, etc.


 
 Queen

Queen

The queen is the colony’s only fully developed female. Her role is to lay eggs (as many as 1,500 or more per day!) and emit scents (pheromones) that regulate colony unity.  The honey bee colony has only one queen.  She is the largest bee in the colony and the only fully developed female (the worker bees are females too, but not reproductively mature).  The queen’s job is to lay eggs to produce more bees to sustain colony numbers as well as emit scents (pheromones) that regulate colony unity.  She is cared for by her attendant workers who are often seen in a circular array around her, tending to her every need.  She may lay 1,500 or more eggs each day to maintain colony numbers (there may be 60,000 or more bees in the colony).  During peak foraging season, workers may live only six weeks, so replacements are always needed.


 
 Drone

Drone

The male honey bee (called a drone) has a husky barrel shape and really big eyes.  His only role is as a mating partner for a new queen.  He is the only one without a stinger, so feel free to grab one when you see him.  Drones don't forage for nectar, pollen & don't make honey or wax.


 

Caped brood.

All kinds of cool stuff happening here.

Honey bees raise their young in the cells of beeswax comb.  Like butterflies, honey bees undergo “complete metamorphosis”, developing from an egg to a larvae to a pupa to an adult.  The above image is an example of a healthy laying pattern.  If you look closely you can the beginings of a queen cup on the left.


 

Humans and honey bees have interacted for thousands of years.  In fact, honey is the only food consumed by humans that is produced by an insect. Honey bees also have a huge role in agriculture as pollinators of crops. They are not native to the new world, having been brought here by the first European settlers to be nurtured as a source of food (honey) as well as valuable beeswax with its many uses.  Honey bees cannot be tended like livestock so colonies escaped and soon settled across the continent.  

In the wild, these natives of western Europe nest in cavities like hollow trees, caves and crevices.  The beekeeper’s managed hive provides them with a suitable alternative.  The most common hive design looks like a stack of boxes, often painted white because bees seem to prefer light colors and it reflects the heat of the sun.  The “boxes” don’t have a top or a bottom so more can be stacked beneath the cover as the bees need more room to raise their young and store nectar, honey and pollen.

Inside the managed hive, the beekeeper installs wooden (or perhaps plastic) frames or bars for the bees to build their comb.  The beeswax comb is a nursery for baby bees and a storage for nectar, honey and pollen.

A colony of bees that is in transit searching for a new home can be captured and introduced into a managed hive, but once they have moved in somewhere, there is nothing that a beekeeper (or anyone else) can do that will entice thousands of bees to voluntarily leave their new home.