When you see a honeybee flying around, it's most likely which kind of bee?

And the answer: Worker.

Most bee hives have three types of bees: worker bees, drones, and a queen. Worker bees are female and make up 99% of the hive. They spend their lives foraging, creating the honeycomb, and filling the honeycomb with honey and pollen. In contrast, drones are male bees whose primary role is to help the queen produce new bees.  

Photo credit: Unsplash. 

The honeybee is one of the most collaborative insects in the world. Each hive is comprised of thousands of bees that work together to sustain a colony, each with a specific role to play. In other works, in the hive, everybody's gotta work to survive. But, with brains about the size of a sesame seed, it begs the question: how does each bee know which job they need to perform?

The answer can be found in the genetic makeup of each bee. The queen of the hive has the unique ability to designate the sex of her offspring, which plays a pivotal role in the bee's individual job. Female bees are created by fertilization from the queen, while male eggs go unfertilized. If she lays male eggs, their sole role as drones is to mate with queens of other hives to help propagate the species. In their off time, the drones eat honey from the hive and wait for a queen. Sounds like a very comfortable life!

Meanwhile, female bees do most everything else. They keep the cells clean, care for the larvae, build cells, tend to the queen, store honey, forage, pollinate, guard the nest, and even feed male bees honey (if they're lucky). Each bee is able to understand their job in the hive due to hormones which activate their genetic makeup, telling them what job to do and when to do it.

Worker bees experience four phases of jobs in their lifetime. The first begins only about three weeks after birth, and consists of cleaning out the cell from which they emerged. After about three days, their hormones shift them into nurse-bee mode, where they begin to care for and feed the young. A week later, phase three kicks in, and the workers become handymen (handy-bees?) around the hive, helping store honey and build. Finally, phase four is the foraging phase, which consists of leaving the hive to gather pollen to feed the hive. This is the most dangerous phase for the bees.

Learn more about the life of bees and the queen bee below.

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