How Does a Hive Work?
The term "busy as a bee" may have stemmed from the formal functions that every member of a
given colony performs. A hive is supported by the queen, drones and worker bees, each having their own unique
roles. Hives continue to thrive and lead to more colonies and hives because of the particular tasks that every bee
does. The hive will continue to grow, develop and survive as long as every member functions properly. Here are some
Describing the Hive
A beehive is characterized by an enclosed structure wherein the honey bee species thrive and raise their young.
Natural beehives or nests are naturally-occurring structure where honey bee colonies live. Domesticated honey bees
can live in artificial or man-made beehives, usually in an apiary. The man-made structures are usually referred to
as beehives too. Only the eastern and western honey bee are domesticated by people. The species of the subgenus
Apis thrive in hives.
The internal structure of the beehive is a densely packed matrix of cells having the hexagon
shape and made of beeswax, called a honeycomb. The bees use the cells to save food like pollen and honey, as well
as keeping the brood consisting of eggs, pupae and larvae.
Nests of Natural Bees
Honey bees belonging to the subgenus Apis usually go for rock cavities, hollow trees and caves to create natural
nest sites. Other members have open aerial combs, which are nests made of several honeycombs that are parallel to
each other. The nests usually have one entrance. Nests are occupied for several years at a time.
The bees start to smoothen the bark around the entrance of the hive, while the cavity walls are covered with a
thin layer of propolis or plant resin. Honey is usually kept in the upper portion of the comb, below are cells
filled with pollen, worker brood cells and then drone brood cells. The lower edge of the comb is occupied by queen
Functions in the Hive
The queen's main function in the hive is to reproduce and create more workers and drones. The queen will produce
more queen bees in the future. She will leave the hive once the new virgin queen emerges or will be left alive by
the new queen when aging. The workers generally have the most functions to support the needs of other members in
Worker bees gather pollen and nectar to be carried back to the nest. Other members will feed on their harvest.
Workers work to store the supplies, clean and build cells and take care of growing larva. Other worker bees
function to provide water, control the hive temperature and keep it protected from mammals. Drones are raised to
mate with the queen. After sexual intercourse, drones usually die.
In some instances, there can be several hives created at once because of population boom. Swarming season
usually begins from March up to early July. Swarming sites are created once the bee population grows bigger than
the maximum capacity of the hive. Worker bees will then begin to scout for new hive locations for new colonies to
establish. In the meantime, the new bees will remain in the swarming site.
More on Beehives
Traditional kinds of beehive usually give an enclosure to the bee colony. The honeycomb is usually
cross-attached and cannot easily be moved without destroying the structure. The traditional hive is fixed, while
the modern one has a movable frame. Harvesting usually destroys the hives. Honey is generally extracted from the
hives by means of pressing. The wax honeycomb is crushed to squeeze out honey.
Mud hives are still available in some countries like Egypt. These are characterized by long cylinders made from
dung, mud and straw. These are used singly, but can be stacked in rows to give more shade. Bee gums involved parts
of hollow trees used. These are called such because these came from red gum trees.
There are now several commercial and man-made hives. The modern beehive is generally composed of the bottom
board, the brood box, the honey super, the frames and foundation and the inner and outer cover. Smoking is done to
drive the bees out for humans to collect beeswax and honey. Modern hives generally function to provide for the
needs of humans. The roles of the bees are radically the same.