Due to their close relationship with humans, honey bee behaviour has been well-researched. Honey bees are best known for their production of honey as well as for pollinating crops. They are generally most active during spring, searching for plants to collect pollen and nectar, the latter from which they create honey, a product that humans have harvested for hundreds of years.
Honey bees are social creatures, living in organized colonies with a queen, thousands of workers, and a few male drones. The workers make nests of cells made from wax secreted from their abdominal glands. Within each cell, young workers place pollen and nectar as food for developing larvae, which develop from eggs that the queen has deposited into the cells. The queen’s only job is to lay eggs; the drones’ only job is to fertilize the queen, and at the end of the summer they are ejected from the hive once their job is done. The age of the workers determines which individuals perform the various daily activities.
During the peak growing seasons, worker bees forage for food in groups. Once winter settles in, a colony can survive without foraging by living on food reserves and huddling in large, compacted masses. Honey bees behave similarly in Africa, Asia, Europe, and other parts of the world, although some species of bees can be very aggressive.
Honey bees are naturally gentle; they just want to go out and collect nectar and pollen. However, all honey bees will behave defensively when their hive is threatened. They pay the ultimate price when they sting, and die soon after transferring their venom. Pheromones secreted during the attack will alarm and stimulate other worker bees to attack.
Ask gardeners about honey bees and they will sing their praises. If you leave bees alone and let them do their thing, you’ll have better crops and you will have happy little companions in your garden.