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Honey bee

Insect

Apis mellifera

Honey bees make honey from pollen and nectar collected from flowers. They live in large colonies with one queen, many sterile females workers and some male drones. In the wild honey bees nest in hollow trees. 

When a new queen emerges, she embarks on a mating flight. On returning to her hive, with help from the workers, she kills the failing, old queen. Alternatively, before the new queen emerges, the old queen may leave with a swarm of workers to form a new colony. 

Queens live for several years, but summer-born workers live for only a few weeks. Those maturing later usually survive the winter by huddling together, with the queen, and eating stored food. Drones are turned out of the hive in autumn and left to die.

Honey bees are important flower pollinators. They sting once and only attack when threatened. But, as with wasps, the 'smell' of a bee’s venom causes other bees to attack.

What does it eat?

Nectar and pollen.

When will I see it?

From spring until late autumn.

Where will I see it?

Throughout the garden collecting pollen and nectar from a variety of flowers and blossom. Also in parks, woods, orchards and meadows - anywhere with plenty of flowers.

Vital statistics

Length: Up to 15 mm long (queens about 20 mm long)

Calendar

Not seen in JanuaryNot seen in FebruaryNot seen in MarchSeen in AprilSeen in MaySeen in JuneSeen in JulySeen in AugustSeen in SeptemberSeen in OctoberNot seen in NovemberNot seen in December

Key to calendar