Within a honey bee colony there are three separate castes (Worker, Drone, Queen). The worker bee, the most commonly encountered, is approximately 1/2” to 5/8” in size and possess hairs which give them a “fuzzy” appearance. Their thorax is yellow and the abdomen is black and yellow striped. Also, the worker bees have a short, barbed stinger that they use to defend the hive. Drone bees are males that are larger and stouter than worker bees. They do not possess a stinger and are present only in early summer. The queen is 5/8” to 3/4” long and has a pointed abdomen that extends well beyond her wing tips.
Swarms of bees may first be noticed gathering on a tree branch, shrub, fence post or similar surface as they search for a permanent location for their hive. Since there is not any brood or honey to protect, bees in a swarm are usually gentle in temperament and not likely to sting. They typically will rest at the site for 24 to 48 hours until a suitable permanent location is found. The hive will be constructed in high and protected places such as a hollow tree, hollow wall, or attic that shelters the colony from environmental conditions. The queen then produces 1,500 to 2,000 eggs per day to ultimately build a colony of 20,000 to 80,000 bees. Guard bees, a form of worker bee, are tasked with protecting the hive. These guard bees will become aggressive when the hive is approached or threatened. After stinging an intruder, their barbed stinger releases a pheromone which signals other bees to continue attacking the intruders.
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