Honey Bee Control, Management & Treatment: Honey Bee Info
Honey bees are active pollinators and produce honey which feeds their young in colder months. They are the only social insect whose colony can survive for many years.
Honey bees swarm primarily when the colony size gets too large for the available hive space or the queen begins to wane or fail. New queens are produced and the old queen leaves with a large number of workers. The Common European honey bee colony usually swarms only once each 12 months. Africanized honey bees swarm as often as once every six weeks and can produce two swarms each time.
Honey bees are not aggressive and do not search for something to attack. Instead, they are defensive and will attack when they feel that the colony is threatened.
Swarms first move to a temporary site such as a tree branch. The swarm will usually remain here for about 24-48 hours until permanent quarters are located and then moves on. Permanent quarters may consist of a beehive, hollow tree, hollow wall, attic, etc., typically someplace which is sheltered from the weather.
Bees in a swarm are very docile and not likely to sting because they harbor no food stores or young and therefore, have nothing to defend. Likewise, honey bees encountered away from the hive are unlikely to sting unless severely provoked, such as by stepping on them. However, if the hive entrance is approached, the guard bees can become very aggressive, so do not approach hives without proper protection.
The European honey bee is found throughout most of the United States. The Africanized honey bee invaded the United States from Mexico in 1990, and by the beginning of 2007 was established in southern California, southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, western Louisiana, southern Arkansas, and central and southern Florida.
Honey bees are social insects and live as colonies in hives, with mature colonies of 20,000 to 80,000 individuals. A typical colony consists of infertile females known as workers, males known as drones, and a queen.
During the winter, the entire population lays dormant. There is only one egg-laying queen in the hive and she mates only once. She can lay as many as 1,500 to 2,000 eggs per day and may live as long as 5 years. The queen produces many pheromones, which regulate among other things the production of new queens and inhibit the development of worker ovaries. The young workers care for the young or brood, build the comb, provide hive ventilation, and guard the hive entrance. Older workers serve as foragers to gather pollen, nectar, and propolis or bee glue. During the summer, workers live for only about 5 to 7 weeks, but those emerging in the autumn will overwinter. Drones (males) appear periodically and have short lifespans, usually living for only a few weeks.
Worker bees have barbed stingers and when used, the stinger, poison sac, and associated tissue are torn from the bee body. If the stinger is not removed immediately, muscle contractions will drive the stinger deeper and deeper into the skin, creating greater time for toxin injection. In addition, the stinger gives off a pheromone which attracts other bees and induces an alarm and attack behavior. Therefore, immediate removal of the stinger is honey recommended. The Africanized honey bee will pursue the intruder or victim for up to a quarter of a mile, whereas the European honey bee will pursue only about 30 feet.
The normal reaction to bee stings is local pain for a few minutes followed by swelling at the sting site, which subsides in a few hours. Itching and heat may last for a few hours. People allergic to insect stings will have a more severe reaction.