Honey bees are social insects, with a marked division of labor between the various types of bees in the colony. A colony of honey bees includes a queen, drones and workers.
The queen is the only sexually developed female in the hive. She is the largest bee in the colony. A two-day-old larva is selected by the workers to be reared as the queen. She will emerge from her cell 11 days later to mate in flight with approximately 18 drone (male) bees. During this mating, she receives several million sperm cells, which last her entire life span of nearly two years. The queen starts to lay eggs about ten days after mating. A productive queen can lay 3,000 eggs in a single day.
Drones are stout male bees which have no stingers. Drones do not collect food or pollen from flowers. Their sole purpose is to mate with the queen. If the colony is short on food, drones are often kicked out of the hive.
Workers, the smallest bees in the colony, are sexually undeveloped females. A colony can have 50,000 to 60,000 workers. The life span of a worker bee varies according to the time of year. Her life expectancy is approximately 28 to 35 days. Workers that are reared in September and October, however, can live through the winter. Workers feed the queen and larvae, collect nectar, guard the hive entrance and help to keep the hive cool by fanning their wings. In addition, honey bees produce wax comb. The comb is composed of hexagonal cells which have walls that are only 2/1000 inch thick, but support 25 times their own weight.
Honey bees' wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.