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The honeybee (Apis mellifera) is a colonial insect that is often maintained, fed, and transported by farmers.

Honeybees store honey and pollen to survive the winter. Through centuries of selective breeding, honeybees can produce far more honey than the hive needs. Beekeepers[?], also known as "apiarists", harvest the excess. Beekeepers often remove much of the honey from the beehive then feed the bees on sugar water to help them get through the winter. Sugar water made from refined sugar has essentially the same nutritional content as the honey but lower ash levels, decreasing the bees' risk of dysentery.

In many cases, beekeepers build artificial hives with frames to make it easy to inspect the hive and to remove the honey. The frames hold the beeswax honeycomb formed by the bees. The bees use the comb both for raising new bees (broodcomb) and for storing honey and pollen. Modern hives enable beekeepers to transport bees, moving from field to field as the crop needs pollinating and allowing the beekeper to charge for the pollination services they provide.

Near specialty farms like orange or almond orchards, the harvested honey will take on the flavor of the dominant flower in the region.

Queen (The yellow dot on the thorax is added by a beekeeper to aid in finding the queen. It is not a natural feature.)

A beehive generally contains one breeding female, or "queen"; a few thousand males, or "drones"; and a large population of sterile female workers. The population of a healthy hive in mid-summer can average between 40,000 and 80,000 bees. The workers cooperate to find food, and use a pattern of "dancing" to communicate with each other.

Honeybees will sting when they perceive the hive to be threatened. A honeybee that is away from the hive foraging for nectar or pollen will not sting. A honeybee can sting only once. The stinger is a modified ovipositor. It has barbs which lodge in the skin. As the bee pulls away, the stinger rips loose from the bee's abdomen. The bee dies soon after. The larger drone bees have no stingers at all. Note: The queen bee has a smooth stinger and could sting multiple times but the queen does not leave the hive under normal conditions.

Honeybees have been domesticated at least since the time of the building of the Egyptian pyramids. Honeybees were imported to the Americas by the settlers. The Native Americans called the honeybee "the white man's fly."

Products of the Honeybee


  • Pollination - The honeybee's primary value is as a pollinator of crops and flowers.
  • Honey - Honeybees are also valued for the honey they produce, which is used as a sweetener in many foods. Honey has a distinct flavor, which leads some people to prefer it over sugar and other sweeteners.
  • Beeswax - Worker bees of a certain age will secrete beeswax from a series of glands on their abdomen. They use the wax to form the walls and caps of the comb. When honey is harvested, the wax can be gathered to be used in various wax products like candles and seals.
  • Pollen - Bees collect pollen as a protein source necessary during brood-rearing. In certain environments, excess pollen can be collected from the hive. It is often eaten as a health supplement.
  • Propolis - Propolis (or bee glue) is created from resins and tree saps. Honeybees use propylis to seal cracks in the hive. Propylis is also sold for its reported health benefits.

Bee problems

See also: bee, beehive, diseases of the honeybee, how to tell bees from wasps

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