Honeybee Hives

How Do Honeybees Make Hives?
Honeybees make large hives for their large colonies. This is accomplished by multiple production methods and coordination. Workers produce wax to build cell walls which make a comb. These house honey and developing young.

A colony of European honeybees can make about 70 pounds of honey in a year. This is usually more than the colony needs for the winter. Beekeepers collect the excess and sell it. The honey crop in 2008 was valued at more than $225 million. In 2009, beekeepers in the U.S. collected 155 million pounds of honey.

The honeybee hives are the center of the colony’s life. The hive is the place where the bees make their food and raise their offspring. The various types of honeybees make slightly different types of nests and use the nests differently

The Japanese honeybees, Apis cerana japonica, often make nests in holes in trees. They also use boxes that beekeepers provide for them. When it is time to migrate, the bees often abandon the hive.

The giant honeybees, Apis dorsata, make combs out in the open. These bees place their combs high in trees, on cliffs, or on the sides of buildings, so they are hard for people to reach. These bees sting aggressively, so taking their honey is usually very risky.

Western honeybees, Apis mellifera, usually make nests in hives that beekeepers provide. The workers build combs of beeswax. The queen deposits eggs in the nursery, or brood comb. The workers feed the larvae until they are ready to change into adult bees. Then the workers place a cap on the larva’s cell. The adult bees emerge when they have finished developing.

Honeybee workers make cells to store pollen. They make other cells to store honey. Since a colony of honeybees can produce more than 50 pounds of honey, the workers must make several combs to store it.

The bees are most active in the spring and summer. This may be because the plants are blooming, so there is plenty of pollen and nectar. The workers control the temperature in the hive by fanning their wings. If the temperature gets very high, the workers drip water on the honeycomb. The circulating air evaporates the water and cools the honeycomb.

During the summer, the workers live six or seven weeks. The workers that develop in late summer will live through the winter. They eat the honey that was stored in the summer. The workers of some honeybee species can use their wing muscles to generate heat and keep the hive warm during the winter.

When spring comes, the workers start to gather pollen. This is the signal to the queen that she should begin producing eggs again.

The queen can live for five years. Once or twice each year, the colony gets so large that the nest becomes crowded. New queens develop in the hive. The new queens compete for authority. When one new queen is victorious, she takes over the nest. The old queen leaves the nest with many of the workers.

Many people use the word swarm to describe these honeybee migrations. The bees look for a place to make a new nest. They often use hollow trees as nest sites. Sometimes they find an opening into a home. When they invade homes, honeybees often nest inside an exterior wall or in the attic.

Honeybees are very valuable, both for their honey and for their ability to pollinate crops. If people see swarming honeybees, scientists recommend calling a beekeeper to collect them. Many times, beekeepers will also remove honeybees from inside the walls or attics of homes.