Do you know the most common species of honey bee in the world? Out of the 12 species in existence, the European honey bee boasts of the largest total number. It is also referred to as the western honey bee, with the key word being honey because a single colony can produce a large amount of the commodity. The scientific name Apis mellifera supports this fact, as its translation literally means “honey-bearing.” If you’re interested to learn more about European honey bees, then this article contains all the information you need.
First, it’s interesting to talk about the appearance of this species. European bees can look very different. Their appearance is based on their caste. Adults can be worker bees, drone adults, or queen bees.
The worker bees only measure half an inch long with distinctive yellow and black stripes on their body. They are distinguished by numerous hairs on their body as well. They sport two pairs of wings in addition to three pairs of hind legs.
Drones are characterized by bigger head, eyes, and thorax than worker bees. They also have a thick abdomen which is blunt at the end. Drone adults do not have a stinger.
If you see a bigger version of a worker bee, you’re probably looking at the colony’s queen. The key difference is that queen bees have a larger and more rounded abdomen. While the queen has a stinger, she very rarely puts it into use.
The development process of European honeybees consists of the four stages of complete metamorphosis: egg, larvae, pupae, and adult. This species is particularly known for their social organization skills. They seem to have an established system of sharing work and resources. Workers do a boatload of work for the colony including maintenance, defense, honey production, and nectar collection. Drones are limited to mating with an unmated queen. And the queen is the only one that lays eggs in the colony. The queen can produce up to 1,500 eggs in a single day.
Swarming is the primary process through which European honeybees grow in number. This usually happens during spring and early summer because this is the time when food sources are at their peak. Large numbers of nectar and pollen sources are thought to trigger swarming. It begins with the colony’s mother queen producing about a dozen daughter queens. When the daughter queens reach the late pupal stage, the mother queen and about 60% of the worker bees swarm and travel to other locations to establish a new colony.
In areas with temperate climates, the bees may only be able to swarm once each year. In the tropics, however, they can swarm multiple times because of higher pollen and nectar production. This also shows that despite its name, European honey bees aren’t native to Europe. They originated from Asia and the Middle East and were brought to Europe by the first colonists. European colonists then imported the bees to North America, which was also the reason why the species was named as such.