Honey bees live in highly social family groups called colonies. A honey bee hive (a natural or man made home for bees) contains three types of bees and an average of 50,000 members. Each hive has one queen (except during brief periods when juvenile queens are present), thousands of female workers, and hundreds of male drones (during spring/summer). When juvenile queens are created, they will fight until only one remains. The old queen will take most of her workers and create a swarm. A swarm will leave the hive to find a new nesting spot.
The queen is the mother of all bees in the hive and directs behavior of colony members. Male drones have the specific job of mating with queens. Drones soon die after mating. The female worker bees are sterile and have various jobs at different stages of life. Young workers clean the hive, groom one another, and make royal jelly and feed it (as well as honey and pollen) to the larvae. A larva that is to become a queen bee is fed solely on royal jelly. As worker bees change jobs as they age. Young workers are cell creators in the honeycomb. They then become receivers of gathered pollen and hive defenders. Finally, older worker bees become foragers that gather pollen and bring it back to the hive. Honey bees communicate with pheromones and through dance. Foraging worker bees relate locations of nectar and other resources by doing round or waggle dances.
Female honey bees sting as a defense mechanism. The barbed stinger gets stuck in the thick skin of mammals, which disembowels the bee as it flies away. Male drones do not have stingers.
Honey bees gain all needed nutrients from pollen and nectar. Honey is produced from nectar to provide food for the winter. Foragers will make an average of about one half tsp of honey over their lifetime.
Honey bees undergo a metamorphosis with four stages: egg, larval (grubs), pupal, and adult. Queens mature in 16 days, workers in 21 days, and drones in 24 days. The lifespan of a honey bee varies based on their job. Worker bees can live from 2 weeks to 11 months, while drones only live 4 to 8 weeks. Queen bees have lifespans of up to 5 years.