Honey bees are social insects, and their colonies can have upwards of 20,000 to 80,000 individuals. They are raised for honey and beeswax and are essential for pollination of many crops. The stinger has barbs so that the stinger and the poison sac remain in the skin. Unlike wasps, honey bees can sting only once.
Many aspects of a honey bee colony are cyclic in nature, and aggression is no exception. Honey bees have the ability to be aggressive at any time, but certain things set them off. In the late summer and early fall, more of these conditions exist.
The western honey bee, Apis mellifera Linnaeus, naturally occurs in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. This species has been subdivided into at least 20 recognized subspecies (or races), none of which are native to the Americas. However, subspecies of the western honey bee have been spread extensively beyond their natural range due to economic benefits related to pollination and honey production.
Due to their highly social life history, honey bee colonies can be considered superorganisms. This means the entire colony, rather than the bees individually, is viewed as the biological unit. With that in mind, honey bees reproduce not by producing more individual bees, but rather by producing more colonies. The reproductive process of creating a new colony is called swarming.
European honey bees typically swarm in the spring and early summer when pollen and nectar resources are plentiful. To initiate the swarming process, 10 to 20 daughter queens are produced by the colony. When the daughter queens are in the late pupal stage, the mother queen and about 2/3rds of the adult workers leave the colony and travel to a location where they will coalesce while they send scout workers in search of a place to establish a new colony (typically an enclosed cavity, like a tree hollow).
European honey bees are adapted to temperate climates, where there is only a short season with generous amounts of pollen and nectar available. For this reason, they typically swarm only once a year. The remainder of the spring/summer is devoted to collecting and storing enough nectar and pollen to generate the food stores needed to survive the fall and winter.
Honeybee colonies themselves also can be considered a pest when a feral swarm establishes a new colony in an undesirable location, such as the wall of a house, a mailbox, or some other location where they will come into frequent contact with humans. In this case, Contact Us! DO NOT try and handle this situation on your own! We are trained professionals and we should be contacted to remove the nuisance colony.
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