Houston and its surrounding communities have an abundance of honeybees which prompts many calls for honeybee and bee removal services. We see them in our gardens and hovering above our lawns throughout the growing season. Most of us never take the time to consider where they live, where they come or how they live until we are confronted with a large hive near our homes or businesses.
In general, the Honey Bee is a beneficial insect that lives in harmony with mankind. They are docile until threatened or provoked. When they invade our structures or build a hive in close proximity to where we work, live or play they can become a threat due to their sheer numbers and the possibility of an allergic reaction some people have to a single sting. A typical hive in the Houston area will consist of more than 50,000 bees in late spring and summer. The hive will be smaller in the winter depending on how cold our temperatures get.
Honeybees are credited with approximately 80% of all insect pollination. Modern society sees a tremendous economic benefit from this pollination. Some crops that directly benefit from this pollination include wheat, strawberries, oranges, apples, almonds, tomatoes, potatoes, cotton, soybeans, corn and countless others. These crops can’t be grown in the vast quantities we consume without the pollination that bees provide.
On average a worker bee (fertilized eggs become sterile females) only lives for about 50-55 days during the warmer months (up to 5 months in cooler months) and performs its assigned duties 24 hours a day from birth to death. The workers make up the majority of a colony and possess a barbed stinger. If they become agitated or threatened they will sting, but only once as the stinger will remain in its intended victim.
Worker bees will progress through many jobs before their demise. For about half of their life as they develop they serve in several roles such as: housekeeping, nursery, construction, food distribution, undertakers and guards. Upon graduation they move on to field duty where they serve as pollen and nectar gatherers. They also collect surface wax from the plants they encounter and later refine it back in the hive.
The queen bee (there is only one in a hive) on the other hand will live for 3 to 5 years and lay in excess of 2000 eggs per day. Once she starts to decline in health a new egg is selected by workers and the larva is fed a steady diet of “Royal Jelly” producing a new queen in about 16 days. This will be the queen’s diet until she dies. This somehow triggers her ovaries to become fertile and allows her to mate. She will mate only once although with several drones (unfertilized eggs become males) and remain fertile for the remainder of her life.
The drones typically only make up 1% to 5% of a colony. These reproductive males have no stinger but do have a barbed sex organ. Reproduction is their only purpose and thus the act itself once consummated is fatal for the drone. Drones are kicked out of the hive in the late fall as the colony has no need for reproduction in the cooler months.
We have both the European honeybees and the Africanized honeybees in the Houston area. They can both pose a problem when their hives are located too close to human activity. Africanized bees cannot be readily identified from visual inspection. They are usually best identified by their aggressive behavior.
*There is some indication to suggest they may have somehow been tamed down a bit after mixing with European honeybees. If you encounter a hive or a swarm of bees it is best to immediately clear the area and contact a licensed professional for honeybee and bee removal services.
For more information about honeybees click here.