The honeybee family consists of:
The queen bee is the largest bee and each hive has only one Queen. The queen is chosen as a larvae and fed the special royal jelly to enable her to become sexually mature when fully grown. Once in her life, the queen will leave the hive and mate with up to 10 drones before returning to the hive and begin to lay eggs, which she will do continuously through her life (2 – 6 years). A healthy queen bee may lay up to 3000 eggs per day, over her life. The queen bee has one sole function in the hive; to behave as an egg-laying machine. Due to her constant egg-laying, the worker bees clean and feed the queen for her entire life.
The drones are the only male bees in the hive and have no stinger. Their only job is to mate with the queen during her once in a lifetime mating flight. To do this, drones have large eyes and slightly bigger bodies than the worker bee. This enables them to be able to see better and fly fast enough to try and mate with the queen. The drones require these attributes as the mating takes place in mid-flight. The drone dies once his task is complete. On average, there are only a few hundred drones in a hive that may contain many thousands of bees.
All worker bees in a hive will be female. During their short life (4 – 6 weeks) they advance through various duties in the hive. Initially, worker bees look after the brood chamber and feed the drones and queen. They then work at receiving and storing the nectar; building honeycomb and cleaning the hive. Later they become honey ripeners and hive guards. Towards the end of their life, worker bees become foragers – collecting the nectar and pollen and bringing it back to the hive. Mature worker bees are important to the hive as they are the ones who bring the nectar that allows the hive to continue.