Types Of Bees & Their role In The Colony

In this article, you will learn about the different types of honey bees, how to find the queen bee and what each type of bee needs to thrive and do to achieve their very important jobs. With most other livestock, you’ll have the males and the females, which are easy to tell apart. 

Bees are more complex, and to the untrained eye they pretty much all look the same. Recognizing the difference between a male and a female bee will take some serious observation.

I mean, it’s not like you can watch how bees do their business to know if they are male or female. But I will share some tips, so you can quickly identify what sex a bee is by the job that it’s performing. A honeybee colony will be the most well-oiled machine you’ll ever have the pleasure of witnessing. 

Every single bee in a colony has a purpose, knows its purpose, and fulfills it until the very end. You’ll never see one bee doing all the work while the other bees hang out by the sunflowers just chilling. Nor will you see a male bee performing a female bee’s job, or vice versa. That’s just the way it is.

There are three main types of bees that you will have in your colony. They are the queen, the workers, and the drones. Although it may take a little time to train your eyes to properly identify the different bees in your colony, it is extremely important to the success of your hive(s) that you are able to tell them apart. 

The Queen Bee


The queen is the essential, most important bee in your entire colony. Without a queen on the throne, the colony will collapse. Having a queenless hive is one of the many ways a beekeeper can lose their hive.

The queen bee is a fully developed female that is responsible for laying all of the eggs in the colony.
The queen is the only bee capable of laying fertilized eggs, so the entire colony’s future is dependent on her survival. No queen?  future bee babies, aka larvae.

How to find the queen bee ?

How can you tell who is the queen? Well, there are a couple of things to consider:

The queen bee is the largest bee in your colony. This is due in part to her abdomen, which is elongated from carrying the fertilized eggs.

She will have a distinguishable pointed abdomen. The other bees of the hive will have a more rounded abdomen.

Her stinger has less of a bite. The queen bee’s stinger is straight and the other bees’ stingers are barbed. The sole purpose for the queen’s stinger is to fight other queens, not sting humans.

Chances are you won’t see the queen outside unless she’s getting her groove on. Even a queen likes a little bit of privacy during mating season, and she will not mate inside the hive.

If you’re ordering your bees, many times the company or beekeeper will offer to mark the queen bee on the back with a colored dot so you can easily recognize her.

The Worker Bees

The worker bees are the backbone of the beehive. All worker bees are infertile female bees. They are solely responsible for everything that makes the hive tick. Need food? Worker bee. Need water? Worker bee. Need queen cells? Worker bee. The worker bees perform every job in a beehive except reproduction.

It’s quite fascinating to observe the flawlessness and precision that is a bee colony. If bees could rule the world, we wouldn’t have as  will literally work herself to death performing her duty in the hive.

If you’re walking outside one day and a bee just falls from the sky dead in front of you, chances are she was doing her job until death do her part. Talk about dedication. For the bee, that is life: the survival and continuation of the colony, pure and simple.

Jobs Of The Worker Bees

Under the heading of “worker bee,” there are many job descriptions, and each worker bee has her own specific job. To understand the complexity of a bee colony it’s helpful to understand the worker bees’ job duties. Keep in mind, the worker bees are all female. Some, but not all, of the job duties of the worker bees are:

The nurse bees feed and care for the growing larvae.

The housekeeper bees perform every duty that you would expect a housekeeper to do: They take out the trash, remove dead bugs, clean the comb, and generally keep the hive nice and tidy. 

The foragers gather nectar and pollen. »Water girl: The water girls collect water for the hive.

Nectar collector:
These worker bees collect nectar for the hive. 

These are the security guards of the hive and protect it from unwanted guests. 

Honeycomb builder: 
The construction crew builds the honeycomb, the hexagonal cells of wax inside the hive that hold honey and bee larvae, and repair damaged combs.

Attendant to the queen: 
The attendants take care of the queen; they groom her and feed her. 

The job of the beautician is to clean off debris and groom the other bees.

House bee: 
These worker bees work inside the hive to gather the nectar and pollen from the foragers. 

They remove the dead bees from the hive.

In addition to their job duties, the workers are also responsible for the hive’s population management. They are the ones whispering in the queen’s ear what type of egg to lay. 

Do they need more workers? “Psst, queen, we need some more sisters. Psst, queen, we need some baby daddies.” (They do this by releasing pheromones that communicate this knowledge to the queen.)

How To Identify The Worker Bees

Aside from the queen bee, the worker bees are the only other bees in the colony that have stingers. So, if you get stung, it was by a female.

Smaller size: 
The worker bees are the smallest bees in the hive.The queen is the largest bee, then the drones, and last, the worker bees.

Can you see me now? Drones have larger eyes that are closer together and are situated on the top of their head.

Worker bees have more of a bridge between their eyes, which are positioned on the sides of their head. If you see a bee flying around working their little stingers off, chances are it’s a female worker bee.

The Drones: Flavor Of The Month

All drones are males. One might think that a drone’s job in the hive would be to protect the queen, guard the hive, act as security, or even sting predators.

However, as we already know, the worker bees do all those things. Want to know what the drones’ only job is in the colony? To mate with the queen. Yes, the drones’ only purpose in life is to help create little baby bees.

What a life! That is, until they find out what happens after a night of romance. Here’s a fun fact, maybe not for the drone. A drone’s male genitalia are attached to their stomach.

After fertilization has occurred, the drone’s insides are ripped out by the force of ejaculation and it dies shortly after insemination.

How To Identify The Drone Bees

In my opinion, the drone bees are the easiest to identify because of their physical attributes.

No stinger:
Drones are the only bees in the colony without a stinger. I guess when your only job is to mate with the queen, who has time for fighting? 

Larger size: 
Drones are very similar to the queen bee in size. However, their abdomen is neither elongated nor pointed.

As mentioned above, in the worker bees section, the drones’ eyes are closer together and larger than the other bees’ eyes. This is so they can easily spot the queen during their night on the town.

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