European Honeybee, Apis mellifera.
Apidae or Bee Family

Workers in Swarm

Small bee, with a black head, furry yellow-brown thorax, and a yellow-brown abdomen, elegantly marked with a dark brown tip and dark brown stripes. Wings are narrow and transparent. Most bees seen are female workers; males (drones) are a little larger with significantly larger eyes. Honebees live in large coloniescalled hives with one queen and many workers, generally inside hollow trees, human made beehives, or other cavities. Workers gather pollen in little baskets on their legs, and also gather nectar in a special stomach. Other workers fill the hive with little hexagonal cells formed of wax secreted from their own bodies. These waxy cells form a honeycomb, and the cells are used to store collected pollen and honey, which is partially digested and concentrated nectar. Other cells form little rooms for the larvea to grow and develop in. The pieces of honeycomb shown below were from a hive inside a hollow tree that was destroyed by a windstorm. Honeybees are generally inoffensive if left alone, but will sting if provoked or if the colony is threatened.

A colony usually lasts several years. Each year the colony produces new queens and drones (males) which fly out and have sex. The queens start new colonies while the drones die from the effort. Occasionally a colony may abandon its hive, or a a new queen may leave with some of the workers. This hiveless colony is called a swarm (see right) and will temporarily occupy a tree branch or other waystation until a good location is found for a new hive. Swarms are usually peaceful since they have no young or stored food to defend.

Despite their familiarity, honeybees are not native to the Americas. They are domesticated animals brought over from Europe. All wild honeybees in North America are feral or descendants of feral bees. Honeybees are occasional in Wildwood, foraging for nectar and pollen. The Park may also host colonies, as demonstrated by the pictures below. Both domestic and feral bees have undergone declines in recent years because of the spread of parasites and disease, and from the excessive use of insectides. The species appears to be slowly recovering through the evolution of wild parasite and disease resistant strains and the development of resistant domesticated strains.

Fairly easy to identify by their size and elegant stripes.

Swarm
Piece of fallen honeycomb

 

Workers on comb

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