Bees are very wonderful insects and learned men have studied their habits and written many books about them. They are useful to men because they make the sweet honey that men love; and so, though bees are wild insects, we keep them in specially made bee houses (called “hives”), and study their ways.
There are many kinds of bees, some of which, like the humble-bee, live lonely lives; but the real honey-bees always live together in groups, which are called “swarms” -each swarm in a separate hive.
In every hive, we will find three kinds of bees. First, there is one queen-bee, who is the mother of the whole swarm, and who does nothing all her life but lay eggs. Then there are the drones, which are the male bees. They are big, handsome fellows; but they are very idle and do nothing but laze about and eat honey. So, when the queen-bee has been married to one of them, the remaining lazy and good-for-nothing drones are killed at once by the worker-bees. Most of the bees in any hive are worker bees, and they are well called so because the whole of their short lives they do nothing but work. Hence we get the saying, “As busy as a bee.”
The worker-bees have many things to do. First, when a swarm of bees is placed in a new hive, they have to make the honeycombs. The honeycombs are made up of little six-sided cells, or cups, made of wax, in which the honey is to be stored up. The wax they bring out of their own bodies and shape it into their cells with their stings. When the honeycombs are ready, the work of the hive is divided up between the workers. Some fly out to the fields to gather nectar, or the sweet juice found in flowers, for making into honey; some feed the queen bee and take the eggs she lays and places them in the cells for feeding. Some stand on guard at the door of the hive, and others are always sweeping and cleaning the hive. The humming noise that comes from a bee-hive is the sound of busy toil, for all are working hard from morning to evening.