Honey Bee Facts

From the American Bee Federation:

About the Honey Bee

  • Approximately one-third of all the food Americans eat is directly or indirectly derived from honey bee pollination. Some crops pollinated are cucumbers, almonds, carrot seed, melons, apricots, cherries, pears, apples, prunes, plums, pluots, seed alfalfa, cantaloupe, seed onions, avocados, kiwi, blueberries, cranberries, etc.

  • There are three members of a honey bee colony:

    • Queen: Mother to all the bees in the colony. She is a fertile female.
    • Worker: An infertile female that performs the labor tasks of the colony including feed preparation; guarding the hive; feeding the queen, drones and brood; and heating and cooling the hive.
    • Drone: The male that starts out as an unfertilized egg. Its only purpose in the colony is to mate with a virgin queen. They live to mate with the queen, but not more than one in a thousand get the opportunity to mate.

  • On average, a worker bee in the summer lives six to eight weeks. Their most common cause of death is wearing their wings out. During that six- to eight-week period, their average honey production is 1/12 of a teaspoon. In that short lifetime, they fly the equivalent of one and a half times the circumference of the earth.

  • The peak population of a colony of honey bees is usually at mid-summer (after spring build-up) and results in 60,000 to 80,000 bees per colony. A good, prolific queen can lay up to 3,000 eggs per day.

  • Drones fly on United Airlines. This is a corny joke amongst beekeepers because of the way queens and drones mate. When a queen is five to six days old, she is ready to mate. She puts out a pheromone scent to attract the males and takes off in the air. The males from miles around smell the scent and instantly volunteer in the mating chase, which is performed in the air.

No Scientific Cause for CCD Has Been Proven

Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is a serious problem threatening the health of honey bees and the economic stability of commercial beekeeping and pollination operations in the United States. CCD is the phenomenon that occurs when worker bees in a colony disappear and leave behind a queen, plenty of honey and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees and the queen. No piles of dead honey bee bodies are found in or around a hive affected by CCD. A hive cannot sustain itself without worker bees and eventually dies.

Despite a number of claims in the general and scientific media, a cause or causes of CCD have not been identified by researchers. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), USDA's internal research agency, is leading several efforts into possible CCD causes and striving to enhance overall honey bee health by improving bee management practices, as well as studying honey bee diseases and parasites and how best to control them. In addition, a number of other federal agencies and state departments of agriculture, universities and private companies are conducting studies to seek the cause or causes of CCD.


Honey Bees Are Pollinators

Honey bees contribute nearly $20 billion to the value of U.S. crop production. This contribution, made by managed honey bees, comes in the form of increased yields and superior quality crops for growers and American consumers. A healthy beekeeping industry is invaluable to a healthy U.S. agricultural economy.

Many of the country's crops would not exist without the honey bee at bloom time. Crop yield and quality would be greatly reduced without honey bee pollination.

As honey bees gather pollen and nectar for their survival, they pollinate crops such as apples, cranberries, melons and broccoli. Some crops, including blueberries and cherries, are 90-percent dependent on honey bee pollination. One crop, almonds, depends entirely on the honey bee for pollination at bloom time.

Each year, American farmers and growers continue to feed more people using less land. They produce an abundance of food that is nutritious and safe. Honey bees are very much a part of this modern agricultural success story. It's estimated that there are about 2.7 million bee colonies in the U.S. today, two-thirds of which travel the country each year pollinating crops and producing honey and beeswax. The California almond industry requires approximately 1.8 million colonies of honey bees in order to adequately pollinate nearly one million acres of bearing almond orchards.