Honey bees have three castes in their colonies: workers, queens, and drones. Workers are ½ to 5/8-inch long, have well developed heads with two short antennae, and large eyes. These insects have a fuzzy yellow-brown to black appearance because they are covered with fine hairs. The abdomen has a striped appearance. They have two pairs of wings, the hind pair shorter than the front pair. The workers have a barbed stinger at the end of their abdomen that is used against anything that threatens the colony.
The back pair of legs is modified for the collection and transport of pollen. Honey bees have a tongue-like mouthpart, which allows them to collect nectar in flowers. Queen bees are the largest of the colony, measuring from 5/8 to ¾-inch long and except for their size look like the workers. Drones are about 5/8-inch long and much stouter and darker than workers or the queen.
The queen is the only fertile female; she produces all the eggs for the colony. The queen is capable of producing 1,000-2,000 eggs per day. Drones serve only to fertilize the queens and are driven off by the workers after they have served that purpose. Workers live five to seven weeks during the summer.
Honey bees are social insects that live in the colony or hive with as many as 20,000-80,000 workers. Workers collect nectar and pollen from plants, inadvertently pollinating flowers and allowing plants to produce fruit. They also produce honey and fashion honey comb from was that they secrete. The queen and all the bee larvae are fed and cared for by young workers. Older workers gather the pollen and nectar for the colony. The entire population overwinters.
Honey bees are not naturally aggressive; however, if the colony is threatened they will sting. The stinger has barbs, so that the stinger and the poison sac remain in the skin. Unlike wasps, honey bees can sting only once.
Honey bees swarm when the queen begins to fail or the colony is too large. Swarms often are seen on a tree branch, and when this occurs, the bees are not aggressive. The swarm lasts 24-48 hours and then moves to the sheltered environment, e.g., hollow tree, bee hive, hollow wall, attic, etc.