Honey bees belong to the family of bees representing a very small fraction of the bee diversity. Although other types of bees also produce and store honey, it is only the members that belong to the genus Apis that are considered to be true honey bees.
It is believed that honey bees originated in the southern parts of Asia. The close relatives of the honey bees are the bumble bees and the sting-less bees.
Honey bees consist of a number of varieties, some which can be domesticated, while others are so fierce, their sting can even kill a human.
Types of Honey Bees
Dwarf Honey Bee
These are very small honey bees that are found in the southern parts of Asia. The stings of these bees cannot penetrate the human skin. Their nests are very small and exposed that can be found in trees and shrubs.
Giant Honey Bee
These bees are the largest variety of honey bees and are very fierce in nature who can sting a human being to death when provoked. They build exposed nests on high limbs of trees, cliffs and sometimes in buildings too.
Cave Nesting Honey Bee
These are very small bees, and some varieties are domesticated for honey, while others are very aggressive, and also termed as the 'killer bee'.
Like all eusocial bees, the colony of honey bees consists of one breeding female, also known as the 'queen', a few thousand male bees, known as the 'drones', and a large population of sterile female workers.
A single egg is laid by the queen in a cell made of wax which is known as the honeycomb made by the workers. The workers also produce a 'royal jelly', which is initially fed to the larvae. After the larvae grow a little, they are fed honey and pollen.
However, the larvae that is to grow into the queen bee is fed only the royal jelly. The larvae undergo several stages of molting, before spinning a cocoon within their cell and pupating.
The main task of the young workers is to clean the hive and feed the larvae. As they grow a little older, they start building the comb cells. Then they progress to other colony tasks like receiving and storing the nectar and pollen from foragers.
Once the workers have mastered this task as well and have grown a little older, they set out in search of nectar and pollen, and typically spend the rest of their lives as foragers.
The workers cooperate among themselves to find food and use a dance pattern known as the bee dance or waggle dance to communicate. The honey bees also perform a tremble dance to engage receiver bees to collect the nectar from the returning foragers.
The queens who are virgins go on 'mating flights' away from their home colony, and mate with a multiple number of drones before returning. The male drones die during the mating process.
Unlike most bees, where the colonies are established by solitary queens, honey bee colonies consist of a number of 'swarms', each swarm consisting of a mated queen and a large contingent of workers. The entire group moves to a nest site that has been found by the workers beforehand.
Once they arrive at the new site, they do not waste any time, and immediately start constructing a new wax comb, and begin the process of raising a new worker brood.
The honey bees sting as a form of defense.
When a bee is alarmed, it releases a 'pheromone' which stimulates an attack response in the other bees. The sting and the associated sac of venom is so modified that it can pull free from the body of the bees once it has been lodged into the body of the attacker.
The sting apparatus has its own set of musculature and ganglion which ensures that the sac is delivering venom into the attacker's body after it has been detached from the bee's body.
Unless you can recognize the different types of bees, it is always advisable to stay away from all bees and their hives.