The Three Kinds of Bees in a Hive -- From How to Keep Bees & Sell Honey by Walter T. Kelley

It’s the time of year when there are lots of new beekeepers. For the next several months, we’ll be publishing some bee basics, many of them excerpted from writings by the late Walter T. Kelley, our founder.

Worker Bees

Nearly all of the bees in a normal hive are worker bees. They are the bees at the entrance who fan their wings to ventilate the hive and are smaller than the drones or the queen. All worker bees have stingers while the drones do not. The workers are undeveloped females and in emergencies lay only unfertilized eggs. The workers bees, as the name indicated, are the nectar and pollen gatherers, the wax builders, the honey processors, the house keepers and the guards.


The drones are the male bees. They are shorter and heavier-set than the queens, also larger than the workers, and are easy to locate in the hive. The drone does not have organs for gathering honey or secreting wax and their only value is in fertilizing the queen. They are big eaters; therefore, all combs with excess drone comb should be replaced every year with full sheets of comb foundation. The drones are driven from the hive to starve during a shortage of stores or at the end of the honey flow.

The Queen

The queen normally is the mother of all, slimmer than the drone and larger than the workers but is not nearly as easy to locate as the drones. Beginners often mistake a worker bee gorged with honey for the queen but after seeing a laying queen in the hive there should be little difficulty in recognizing the queen. KEEP IN MIND THAT THE THORAX OF THE QUEEN (THE MIDDLE PART ONTO WHICH THE WINGS AND LEGS ARE ATTACHED) IS BALD AND SHINY while the thorax on the workers and drones are covered with tiny hairs.

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