Education: Meet the Colony

Honey bees live together as a colony. Every colony is made of two female castes and one male. In the spring, a 3 lbs. package of honey bees (about 10,000) will be installed. A colony’s peak population will be reached in early summer with as many as 60,000 or more worker bees.

Some bee packages may include a marked queen, making her easier to identify during hive inspections.

The Queen– At the peak of the social ladder in a colony is a solitary ruler, the queen bee. She is the longest in length of any bee in the colony and the lone egg producer. Hive genetic traits are her responsibility, and queen bees need to be of superior stock to optimize desirable colony characteristics. An ideal queen will be docile in temperament, hardy, and disease and mite resistant, will promote productiveness and support cleanliness.  A strong queen can expect to live two to five years.

Drones appear chunkier than the queen or worker bees.
Worker bees make up the majority of a colony’s population and complete most of the tasks.

The Drones– Male honey bees are known as drones. Drones may be mistaken for a queen bee due to similarity in their size. However, a drone’s abdomen is rounded and chunky where a queen’s is tapered. Also, drones do not have stingers. A drone’s only known function is to mate with the queen, although they have been known to move their wings to assist in cooling or heating the hive. If a drone is considered “lucky” enough to mate, he dies soon after. A typical summer colony may have around 200 drones. Drones that do not mate will have outlived their stay during times of dearth, usually in the fall. They are evicted from the hive by the workers and die of exposure or starvation. A typical drone’s lifespan ranges from 2 to 8 weeks.

The Workers– Worker bees are all females and, as daughters to the queen, are all sisters.  They are the backbone of the hive and fulfill all the duties not done by the queen or drones. These duties include cleaning cells, tending to pupae and larva, producing wax, transporting food, guarding the hive entrance, and foraging for nectar, pollen and water. In spring and summer, worker bees will typically live 15 to 40 days, while a fall or winter bee might live as long as six months.

14 thoughts on “Education: Meet the Colony

  1. James Gauthier

    I love it

    1. Krista

      Thank you!

  2. Patti Katerle

    I love it!!!

    1. Krista

      Thank you!

  3. Charles Brown


    1. Krista

      Thank you!

  4. Robert Vollmer

    Mann lakes facebook and advertisement pictures overlay your blog on the left side, can’t read that part of your post. What part of Minnesota do you live in, I lived in Duluth in 70-72 when I was in the Air Force. I am from South Louisiana so it was quite an experience. Good luck with your bees.

    1. Krista

      I’m sorry to hear that our media feed overlapped the blog and you missed part of the post. We believe we’ve fixed the issue now.
      I’m located near Mann Lake Ltd’s headquarters in Hackensack, MN which is about 135 miles west of Duluth. I can imagine that moving to Duluth from Southern Louisiana was quite the change up! I appreciate the well-wishes! Thank you!

  5. don McKinlay

    because of your add, I can not read the article. Your add is superimposed on the text. There needs to be a way to get rid of the add. If I can’t read the article, there’s not a chance I’ll look at your add!

    1. Krista

      Sorry! We believe we’ve fixed the problem. Thank you!

  6. Scott Breitkreutz

    Can I start a new colony with some frames full honey to give them a jump start? Or do they need empty frames ?

    1. Krista

      Hi Scott,

      I had a discussion with some of our beekeeping experts here and they say it’s okay to do this as long as the frames did not come from a diseased hive. Thank you!

  7. charles l fant

    I enjoyed it and look forward to more.

  8. Larry

    The queen is not the ruler she can be replaced at anytime. She has a very important job but the sisterhood the the hive has makes the so fascinating.