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If you have ever watched bees coming and going from their hive then you’ll notice what a hum of activity there is. These are busy little creatures and, during the summer, there’s always something going on in the hive. This begs the question of how many bees are in a hive.
Amazingly, at the height of the season, there could be up to 40,000 bees in a single hive, on average. However, during the winter, this number drops and could be as low as 5000.
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Many species of bees live in a hive, or a nest and these groups of bees are known as colonies. Unlike solitary bees, colonies work as a team in order to produce food, raise the young, and ensure the survival of the group.
In the average healthy beehive, you could expect to find around 40,000 bees. However, this number can vary greatly with smaller colonies consisting of around just 10,000 individuals. On the flip side, there are some colonies with between 60,000 and 80,000 members and there have even been reports of hives containing more than 100,000 bees!
Your beehive may be made up of tens of thousands of individual bees but each one has a very important job. The amazing thing about bees is how well they work together and that each bee knows exactly what it needs to do to hold everything together.
It’s astonishing to think that, while there are so many bees in the hive, only one gets the honored job of being queen. It has been seen that there are hives with two active queens but this is incredibly rare and, when it does happen, it doesn’t last for very long.
The queen has one of the most important roles within the hive as it’s her responsibility to lay all of the eggs. The healthier the queen, the more easily she will be able to produce lots of viable eggs and this means the very survival of the colony. But there will come a time when she is no longer able to fulfill her duty and she’ll either be replaced or killed off.
Another part of the queen’s job is to send signals to the worker bees. She does this using pheromones, which is one of the main methods of communication between bees. She’ll use them for many things and once she stops being able to effectively communicate, the worker bees know it’s time to start raising a new queen which they do by feeding certain larvae with royal jelly. It’s then down to these larvae to develop because it’s a race against time to see who is first to emerge and take over as the new queen.
Most of the bees in any hive are known as worker bees and these bees are all female. While they may be female, they aren’t able to reproduce because their reproductive systems are not developed enough to do this. That’s down to the queen!
Moreover, these female bees have an unspoken affinity to their queen who they realize has the role of producing eggs. Again, this is where pheromone communication comes in and is the queen’s way of letting all the other females know that she doesn’t need any assistance when it comes to laying eggs.
But of course, the worker bees certainly have their work cut out for them because, egg-laying aside, there’s still plenty more to do. This includes taking care of the eggs and larvae as well as collecting pollen and nectar, making wax, building combs, and keeping the hive clean. They’ll also go into protection mode when there is a threat to the hive and will defend it with their lives if they have to.
When worker bees are young, most of their jobs will be within the hive. As they get older and gain more experience, they’ll start taking on jobs outside of the hive, like gathering pollen.
Drones are the male members of the colony and they’re certainly not as hardworking as the worker bees. In fact, day to day, drones don’t do very much at all. That’s not because they’re lazy, it’s simply because their main job is to fertilize eggs laid by the queen.
There are not as significant numbers of drones as there are workers in any given hive. However, they are some of the most important members because, without them, the queen wouldn’t be able to reproduce on her own.
When the queen takes her mating flight, the drones will meet her in the air to mate with her. During any mating flight, the queen may mate with several drones but once they’ve done their duty, the drones will die. That’s because they leave their penis within the queen and the next drone to come along has to remove it in order to mate with her. Talk about sacrifice for the survival of your kind!
Even if the drone doesn’t manage to mate with the queen, his life isn’t going to last much longer. It’s far better to die during mating because unsuccessful drones are often ostracized from the colony and left to die alone.
From the outside, a beehive might not look all that impressive. But inside these wooden structures is a buzz of activity with tens of thousands of bees working hard to ensure the colony survives.
If you’ve ever wondered how many bees are in a hive, the answer is around 40,000, on average. However, there could be far fewer or up to 80,000 for a very healthy and large hive.