SIZE: Worker honey bees are slightly smaller than drones, but both measure between one-half and three-quarters of an inch. The queen honey bee is slightly larger, typically ranging from three-quarters of an inch to 1 inch.
COLOR: Worker and drone honey bees are golden-yellow, with alternating darker bands of brown. Well suited to her royal status, the queen has golden-colored hairs on her body and a tapered abdomen that makes her appear more wasp-like.
BEHAVIOR: Honey bees are not typically aggressive. Only female bees have the ability to sting and most will sting only when provoked, although some bees, when agitated by wet or windy weather, are more likely to sting without provocation. Some stings are fatal. People who possess a bee sting allergy or high sensitivity to bees usually die within the first hour of being stung. Fatalities are typically caused by respiratory dysfunction or anaphylaxis, but death only occurs about 1 percent of the time, and mostly in people over the age of 40 who have either been stung in the head or face.
Honey bees live in large, typically man-made colonies ranging from 10,000 to 50,000 individual bees. To keep order, they follow a caste system that dictates a bee’s position at birth. The honey bee caste system consists of three different castes: workers, drones and queens. Each caste plays its own role.
All worker bees are sterile females. They make up to 98 percent of a colony’s population. Their responsibilities include building and repairing the hive, foraging for nectar and pollen, producing wax and honey, feeding the young and protecting the hive against enemies.
Drones are strictly male bees that do not have stingers. They are bigger than worker bees, eat large quantities of honey, and failing to have any extra equipment to take care of the hive, are known for being lazy. This laziness is not tolerated well by the workers. When nectar becomes scarce, worker bees slowly begin starving drones and pushing them out of the hive. The sole purpose of a drone is to mate with the queen.
Only one queen bee will live in a hive at one time. Queens live three to five years. During their reign, they produce a pheromone, or strong scent, which regulates the activities of the colony. When this pheromone is absent, worker bees will begin transforming the cells of some young larvae into queen cells. In the absence of young larvae, a worker bee can develop ovaries and lay eggs, but only unfertilized eggs that produce drones.
Sometimes, a honey bee swarm will collect in search of a new home. These swarms are typically not dangerous and will most likely relocate within 30 minutes to 48 hours according to the Mallis Handbook of Pest Control by Arnold Mallis. If they do not, or if you are concerned about your safety, it is best to call a pest management professional. Eradicating bees from your home that have settled or formed a hive can be dangerous.