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About honeybees

The European honeybee (Apis mellifera) is a fascinating insect and a very important part of our ecology.  It is also crucial to the successful pollination of our crops.

There are records of beekeeping - the domestication and management of honey bees to produce products such as honey and wax - dating back to Egyptian times. 

Did you know?

  • A honeybee colony in summer typically contains about 50,000 worker bees (female) a few hundred drones (male) and just one Queen

  • A bee can fly up to 15 miles an hour, possibly faster if not laden with pollen and nectar

  • The honey bee beats her wings about 200 times per second

  • A colony of bees needs to fly around 90,000 miles in total to make one kilo of honey

  • Swarming is the natural process by which bees make increase: one colony becomes two

  • A bee will fly up to 6km in search of sources of pollen and nectar

  • The physiology of bees born in late summer is different - these bees will live 5 or more months to ensure the colony survives the winter, whereas the lifespan of a bee born in the summer is typically only 15-38 days.


Useful links


The National Bee Unit, the UK Government's resource for beekeepers.

British Beekeepers Association

The UK's national organisation representing beekeepers.

Gardening for bees

Useful information from Friends of the Earth about gardening to encourage honey bees and other pollinators.

Dave Cushman's website

A massive resource for beekeepers, originally developed by the late Dave Cushman and commonly regarded as a sort of  'Wikibeedia'.

Colour Guide to Pollen Sources

If you're interested to know where your bees have been, this useful page from Sheffield BKA helps you identify which pollen comes from which plant.

Wasps, bees and bumblebees

Not sure of the differences? Click here for our guide.  The Bumblebee Conservation Trust can help you to ID the different UK species of bumblebee.


Colony a single community of co-operative bees, comprised of Queen, workers and drone

Hive an artificial home housing a colony of bees

​Queen a fully developed female honey bee, usually the only fertile female bee in the colony

Workers the undeveloped female bees who are the majority of the colony's population and carry out all tasks except laying eggs

Drone the male honey bee

Brood young bees in a colony, in various stages of growth

Pollen produced by flower anthers, collected by bees as a source of protein, especially for feeding brood

Nectar sweet liquid from plants, the main constituent of honey and the source of carbohydrate for bees

Honey the primary product of the hive, made by bees as food

Beeswax a substance produced by bees and used to build comb

Propolis 'bee glue' made by bees from plant resins, used in the structure of the colony eg. to seal gaps

Swarming the process by which a single colony divides into two, creating increase

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