So where is it that bees do all their hard, industrious work?  The answer is bee hives or nests for some bee species.  Life in a bee habitat differs depending on what species you have in mind.

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Do you ever think about bugs? 

It’s not likely that you spend hours thinking about the creatures so commonly marked as pests.  Bees are bugs too; however, bees are anything but pests.  Bees serve a highly functional and useful role in the production of many foods you eat. 

Without bees, a third of the delicious foods in your diet would no longer exist.  Bees work very hard, and for that, you should be thankful. 

So where is it that bees do all their hard, industrious work?  The answer is bee hives or nests for some bee species.  Life in a bee habitat differs depending on what species you have in mind.

It is a common mistake to confuse the honey bee and the bumble bee as the same species.  Even respected organizations such as the New York Times occasionally make the mistake. 

Honey bees are smaller than bumble bees and are more wasp-like in appearance.  Bumblebees have large, robust fuzzy bodies with prominent black and yellow coloring. 

You can easily identify a bumble bee when you see one.  There are several other differences between honey bees and bumble bees, and their method of habitation is one of them.

Honey bees live in hives and bumble bees live in nests.  It’s common to interchange the terms hive and nest for both species, but they are two different methods of habitation. 

Both are colonies, but hives and nests have different lifespans.  Hives are built as permanent residences.  Honey bees even have designated maintenance workers to perform repairs on the hive increasing its longevity.  Bumblebee nests are temporary and never last more than a year. 

A less successful nest can have a lifespan as short as a month. 

Try searching for hives and nests and you will find them in very different locations.  Honey bees often build their hives in sturdy hollow spaces such as hollow trees and rock crevices.  These make great candidates for permanent hive residences. 

Bumblebees often make their nests from abandoned mouse nests in the ground or abandoned bird nests in trees.  Beehives are also more organized than nests. 

If you lived in a honey bee hive you would see that the upper hive contains honeycomb cells for honey storage, pollen and worker/drone brood storage in the mid-hive, and queen cells in the bottom hive. 

Bumblebees don’t make honeycomb and they have simple, disorganized habitats made from fluffy material.

In both beehives and nests, there are a few different types of bees.  Overall though, all bees in a hive or nest have these two things in common: the bees all share their food and have a distinct pheromone smell different from bees of other colonies. 

The queen bee is probably one type of bee that stands out in your mind.  Queen bees lay thousands of eggs every day and are very important to the survival of a bee colony. 

The eggs the queen bee lays are called brood or larvae.  In a hive or nest, there is worker brood, queen brood, and drone brood. 

Drones are male bees that serve as little more than mating partners for the queen bee.  Worker bees are all female.  Honey worker bees maintain the beehive, nurse the brood, mix the honey, collect nectar and pollen, guard the hive and scout for new hive locations. 

Bumblebees have similar roles, except the queen founds the colony herself.  She is the only bumblebee to survive through winter. 

All the worker and drone bees die when cold weather sets in.  So if you were a bumble bee the chances are you would have a short lifespan.

Honey bees and bumble bees make useful products in their habitats such as honey.  Have you ever wondered how bees make honey?  The process of honey production is simple to understand, but actually making honey is very hard. 

First, bees must travel outside of the nest or hive and collect nectar from flowers.  Bees use a tongue-like proboscis to suck up the nectar and store it in their abdomens.  Upon return to the hive or nest, the bees deposit the nectar into honeycombs or honeypots where it will be mixed and fanned by wings until it thickens into honey. 

This is just a short explanation of how honey is made. 

The overall process of honey production is more complicated.  For example, in one step of the process, bees secrete an enzyme that makes the honey acidic to kill bacteria. 

Honey bees make honey in excess, meaning they make enough for themselves and for human consumption. 

Bumble bees only make enough honey for themselves, and the honey they do produce is thinner than that of honey bees.  Both species also make beebread, a substance created when honey is mixed with pollen.  The bees use this as nourishment for the larvae. 

Also, honey bees make beeswax that is used in many products, like candles.  The wax of the bumblebee isn’t as commercially used.

Both honey bees and bumble bees are important for the pollination of various plants.  Pollination occurs when the bees travel from flower to flower mixing the pollen of different plants. 

Honey bees may be better at producing honey, but bumblebees are best for pollination.  Bumblebee nests are only 30 to 150 bees in population. 

Farmers use this advantage to concentrate pollination on certain plants.  This would be harder to do with honey bees because their hives can have as many as 50,000 bees. 

This is just one advantage that bumblebees have over honey bees in regards to pollination.  The process of pollination is detrimental to the food you eat. 

This is why Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, is such a concern.  CCD occurs when bee colonies die for no apparent reason.  The workers and drones just fly off and die in a field somewhere leaving the queen and larvae to die uncared for.  Specialists think CCD is like HIV for bees. 

Not much is known about CCD.  Bees may not be very common in the future, so when you come across a hive or nest try not to disturb it.

These are a few facts about bees that may be useful to you.  The next time you hear someone confuse honey bees for bumblebees you can correct the mistake.  Honey bees and bumbles look very different and lead different lives habitat-wise. 

Honey bees build permanent residences in the form of hives and bumble bees build temporary nests from loose material. 

Honey bees are better at making honey and bumble bees are better pollinators.  With these facts, you can impress anyone with your knowledge of what life is like for a bee.

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