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Honey Bees

Kingdom: Animalia  
Phylum:  Arthroopoda  
Class:  Insecta
Order:  Hymenoptera
Family:  Apiidae
Genus:  Apis
Species:  Apis Mellifera “the honey-carrying bee”  

Honey Bees    Bumble Bees    Carpenter Bees    Bites and Stings 

The Honey Bee probably originated in Africa and spread to North Europe and east into India and China then brought over to the United States from the first colonist.  Today the honey bee is found worldwide. This article gives information about the Queen Bee, Drone Bees, Worker Bees, the Bee Hive in general and also gives helpful information for getting rid of honey bees that have become a pest.  This usually occurs when a bee hive is in close proximity to humans or when the hive is in the walls of a home or business.
Most honey bee colonies are not pests.  Without these insects, many crops would fail as would countless ornamental plants.  Different types of honey are produced when bees gather pollen from particular plants.

Queen Bee

The queen is the largest bee and the only reproductive female in the colony. A queen is born by the workers placing an egg in a larger cell and feeding the larva special food rich with protein and carbohydrates.  Eleven days later the queen emerges and quickly starts to mate.  The queen will leave the hive and send out a pheromone to attract the drone bees or male bees in the area.  She will mate with a few males and return to the hives.  This is the only time the queen will mate.  She stores the millions of sperm in a special pouch in her body and will use them the rest of her life.  The queen immediately starts laying eggs that will become worker bees.  Once the worker bees hatch the queen is tended to for the rest of her life (1-2 years). Her sole job is to lay eggs, laying about 2,000-3,000 eggs each day.

Drone Bees

The drone bee is the male bee in the colony.  There sole purpose is to mate with the queen, and die shortly after mating.  They have no organs to collect pollen and they have no stinger to protect the colony.  The drone egg is produced by the queen laying an unfertilized egg.  The drone bees are only tolerated if a virgin queen needs to mate otherwise the worker bees will kick the drones out to starve.  More drones are tolerated in the spring and summer months but none in the fall and winter since they serve no purpose to the hive. 

Worker Bees

The worker bee is the largest population of the colony 20k-60k and does all the work in the hive.  Workers are undeveloped females and usually live 28-35 days, except if born in the fall will live though the winter.  There jobs include feeding the queen and young, guarding the hive, temperature control in the hive, making comb wax, collecting nectar and making honey.  Since all the queen does is lay eggs the workers must take care of feeding the queen and taking care of her and the new eggs that are laid.  They must also take care of the larva and pupa.  It takes about 21-24 days for an egg to hatch into an adult this process is called complete metamorphosis.  Instead of extensive reproductive organs the workers are born with barbed stinger and muscular venom pouch.  Once a honey bee stings it soon dies because the stinger and venom pouch are left into the victim, but they usually only sting unless they are provoked.  The worker is specially developed to collect pollen; they have muscular wings for flying, strong legs for walking and gathering pollen, and crops for transporting nectar.  Once a bee finds a plant with rewarding nectar that plant will be revisited again by other bees.  The worker bees will do a dance on the comb to communicate to the other bees.  The movement and frequency of vibrations gives direction and distance to the flowers.

Bee Hive

Honey Bees are cold blooded and lack auto control of their body temperature.  The worker bees work hard to keep the hive at a constant temperature of about 93 degrees Fahrenheit. To heat the hive the workers contract flight muscles without moving their wings.  To cool the hive they pump their abdominal system to move air through their spiracles and trabecules to evaporate the water.  The hive is made of hexagonal cell about 2/1000 inch thick, but strong enough to hold 25x’s its weight.

A honey bee colony can have 50k-60k bees; if the colony gets too big a few queen bees will be laid and sent off to start a new colony else where.  This is called swarming.  The new queen and workers will set off to find a new site.  The bees will often hang out around a tree limb while the scout bees find them a new home, this process usually takes one or two days.  

The honey bee has many enemies.  Insects such as mites and spiders can invade the colony; the wax moth can destroy a weak colony.  Birds such as woodpeckers and mammals including bears, skunks, badgers and baboons can destroy a colony.  

Skunks will feed at night on the colony.  They sit at the hive and wait for the bees to come out then they snatch them up and eat them.  Signs that a skunk has been messing with a hive would include paint scratches.  A bee hive can become very agitated if a skunk has been hanging around and are more likely to sting.  

Elimination of Pest Bees

The honey bee has many benefits to humans, but a lot of people are allergic to a honey bee sting.  So if a colony nests in your house or near the entrance it can become a problem.  Swarming bees, usually group up around a tree limb, will often leave in a couple of days but if they must be eliminated it is best to call a beekeeper in your area.  Call the county extension office in your area.  If the bees must be eliminated they can be sprayed on the area they are swarming.  It is best if you use protective clothing while spraying the bees, the bees get angry.  So it is best just to wait out the swarming or call a beekeeper they will find them a home away from your home.

If a colony settles into you walls the problem becomes more urgent.  It is best to eliminate the problem while the colony is still swarming, they are weaker then.  If the problem is not caught quickly it is best to wait until winter or spring.  Once a colony is located a whole needs to be drilled into the wall preferably an outside wall.  Then Drione dust will be pumped into the whole.  This process is best to be done in the evening when most of the bees are at home.

Once a colony is eliminated do not plug the whole you must be sure the colony is completely gone and is best to remove the nest.  If the nest is left the wax may melt and stain walls with honey.  It will also attracted swarming honey bees in the future as well as other insects such as wax moths, flies, ants and other scavenging insects.

Once the bees are gone and the nest removed the area should be cleaned with soap and water, sprayed with Permethrin or Cypermethrin, and all the cracks sealed and the entry hole repaired.
A wettable powder version of Cypermethrin
(Cynoff WP, Demon WP) will work best for long-term prevention of invading insect pests including honey bees.