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How Do Honeybees Make Hives?

A colony of honeybees can have as many as 80,000 workers. During the summer, the workers live a little longer than a month. At any given time, there are also a great number of immature bees, called larvae, developing into adult workers. This many bees and larvae require large nest. With that many bees, the nest becomes a very busy place.

The honeybee workers build wax cells where immature bees develop. They also build cells where honey is produced and cells where pollen is stored. The nest workers make every cell. They connect the cells together to make a comb. Beekeepers often make frames for the honeybees to use when they make their combs. Most of the colony’s activities are done in or on these combs.

The nest workers make the cells with wax that they produce from special glands on their bodies. The workers chew the wax to make it soft, and then they press the pieces of wax together to make the cells. If the honeybees are nesting in a hive, they make combs that fill the frames. If the bees are nesting in a hollow tree, the comb may not be square-shaped.

Scientists discovered that the workers can make the combs straight up and down by using their bodies to align the combs. The bees can align the combs horizontally by using the earth’s magnetic field. This enables honeybees that are migrating to build combs that are exactly the same as the combs in their old nest.

The bees use some of the combs for food production. The workers make honey from nectar. They store it in cells in the honeycomb. During the year, the colony can produce more than 50 pounds of honey. Beekeepers have been taking the honey from the bees for hundreds of years.

Honeybees also use combs as nurseries. The queen deposits an egg into each cell in the brood comb, or nursery. When the eggs hatch, the larvae eat a mixture of pollen and honey. When they are ready to become adults, the workers place a cap on their cell. They come out when they have finished developing into adult bees.

When the colony gets too large, a new queen is produced. She takes over the role of egg-producer in the nest. The old queen leaves the colony. Some of the workers go with her. They find a nesting site to start a new colony.

Sometimes these new nests are inside the walls or attics of homes. Experts recommend calling a beekeeper to come remove honeybees that have made a nest inside the house. If a beekeeper cannot come, the bees may have to be eliminated.

Because the bees usually make their nest in an inaccessible part of the house, and because there is a risk of being stung, many people prefer to call a pest control professional rather than trying to exterminate bees themselves.

After the bees have been removed, the homeowner should arrange to have the combs removed from inside the walls or the attic. In hot weather, the combs could melt. This would cause an unpleasant odor and an unsightly stain.