Honey bees and their habits

Bees at Golden History Park

Observing honey bee activity at Golden History Park can be a rewarding and enriching experience when done from a respectful distance. Consider using binoculars to get an intimate and detailed perspective on bee life.

Quick history

Honey bees are an interesting and sophisticated insect, one species of about 20,000 bee species. Early Egyptians kept honey bees in their homes in an upturned basket called a skep. Fortunately a gentleman named Lorenzo Langstroth discovered what he called Spazio di Ape, or bee space in English. This, in turn, led to the development of our present day hive. Interestingly enough the skep is still in use today as temporary housing for a colony that has just swarmed.

The western or European honey bee was brought to our country by settlers from Europe, and the westward expansion of the United States saw the honey bee move west at the same time.


The structure of a colony or hive is defined by the queen, who leads the colony. There is only one queen bee and she lays about 2,000 eggs per day. The worker bees are female and their responsibility is to take care of the Queen, her young, the drones, clean the hive, build the comb, which is the internal structure of the hive, guard the hive, dispose of dead bees, and at 14 days old become foragers for nectar. The queen secretes pheromones by which she controls the worker bees. There are about 10,000 to 50,000 worker bees in a hive. The drones are the male bees and there are about 1,000 in a hive. Their responsibility is to mate with the queen, after which they die. If there are any drones left at the end of the summer, they are swept out of the hive.

Pollination and collection

Honey bees are excellent pollinators and can find the very best nectar for making honey. During the summer months honey bees identify the best flowers for the best nectar that has a low water content and a high sugar content. Honey bees can only carry a very small amount of nectar, so it takes about 27,000 trips to the hive for enough nectar to make a small jar of honey. This sounds like an impossible chore, but remember there are thousands of honey bees in a hive, and they work cooperatively. Over the course of a year the queen bee will produce between 100,000 to 200,000 bees, and each will spend during the summer 10 to 12 days as foragers for nectar.

–Martha Gould, GHM&P volunteer