Riley Pest Management
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FLORIDA BEES 
A source for information on bees 


Honey Bee   Apis mellifera

 

Size:  

1/2-inch in length. 

Color: 

Golden-yellow in color with darker bands of brown. 

Behavior: 

Honeybees are the only type of social bee that establish perennial colonies that may survive a decade or longer. These bees forage on pollen and nectar from flowering plants and use these materials to produce the honey that will feed the colony through the winter months. Waxy honeycombs will fill the nest cavity, a fact that makes removal of honeybees from buildings a messy chore. All honeybee colonies produce queens and drones in the spring. These reproductives mate, and the queens may "abscond" with a number of workers to start new colonies. These swarms may be seen clustered on a tree branch, a fence, or a building as the bees rest before flying off again to find a suitable nesting site. Because hundreds of bees are part of this swarm, people are often concerned about the possibility of the bees attacking. Usually, the bees in these swarms are docile and nonaggressive unless vigorously disturbed. 

In the wild, honeybees most often nest inside cavities within trees, but they will also nest within caves and cracks in rock formations. Occasionally, a colony will decide to nest inside a crawl space, an attic, a wall void, or a chimney in a home. Honey bees exist in colonies containing one breeding female, or queen, and thousands of males, or drones, and sterile female “workers”. They all work together in a highly social order, each carrying out specific duties to maintain and operate the hive. Colonies are perennial, usually surviving for several years. An average beehive can contain around 50,000 bees.

Each egg is laid in a single cell in a wax honeycomb that is produced and shaped by the workers. The cells will also be used to store honey and pollen. The brood comb is where the queen lays her eggs. The queen can lay over 1500 eggs per day and can live from 2-8 years. Larvae undergo several moltings before pupating. The drones’ sole purpose is to mate with a new queen. They have no stinger, and any left at the end of mating season are considered non-essential and will be driven out of the hive to die.

The workers, which make up a vast majority of the hive, have many functions. Young workers, called “house bees”, construct the comb, rear brood, tend to the queen and drones, clean and defend the hive. Older workers, called “field bees”, forage outside the hive to gather nectar, pollen, water used in hive construction.

They possess pollen sacs on their hind legs, an extra stomach for storing and transporting nectar or pollen, and a stinger that is used for defense. The worker can only sting once, as the stinger is left in the victim, causing it to die from a ruptured abdomen.

Colonies reproduce by swarming, which typically occurs in May or June. A swarm consists of the original queen and several thousand workers. A swarm will cluster on a branch near the original nest while scouts seek a new permanent location.

Habitat:
Wild nests are typically found inside hollow trees and other semi-hidden spaces. In some cases a colony will decide to nest inside an attic, a crawl space, or a wall void in a home. Honey Bees are commonly seen in flowering gardens.

Economic/Health Concerns:
As field bees forage for nectar, pollen sticks to the fuzzy hairs on their bodies. Some of this pollen rubs off on the next flower that land on, thereby fertilizing the flower and resulting in the pollination of approximately 130 agricultural crops. These include fruit, fiber, nut, and vegetable crops. Bee pollination adds approximately $14 billion annually to improved crop yield and quality.

Control:
Although honeybees are generally not as aggressive as Africanized killer bees, they should nonetheless be regarded from a safe distance as they will sting if their hive is disturbed or ruptured. If a hive or nesting site is found it should be handled by a pest control professional and/or beekeeper. 

Because the Africanized honeybee cannot be distinguished from its native cousins without detailed scientific measurements, any honeybee nest or swarm found in the southwestern states should be respected at a safe distance. Only experienced beekeepers and/or pest management professionals should be contacted to deal with colonies or swarms of honeybees. Never attempt to treat such nests without the proper training and equipment. Once the colony inside a wall or attic has been eliminated, the building owner will need to open the wall and remove all the honey and honeycomb. If not removed, the honey will rot, produce strong odors and seeping stains, and will attract other insect pests. 


If you are stung, gently scrape the stinger out to remove it. Promptly applying a paste of meat tenderizer with water or vinegar to the stung area will soothe the pain. The meat tenderizer contains the enzyme papain, derived from papaya, breaks down protein, which is why it tenderizes meat. Venom contains proteins, which is probably why this remedy works.

If you are stung and have a known allergy to bee or wasp stings, seek medical attention immediately.
 

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