Worker bees are sterile females and the most numerous and hard
working members of the colony. A healthy colony may contain 80,000 worker bees
or more at its peak growth in early summer but decline to around 10,000 during
Workers build and maintain the nest and care for the brood. They
build the nest from wax secreted from glands in their abdomen. The hexagonal
cells, or compartments, constructed by the workers are arranged in a
latticework known as the comb. The cells of the comb provide the internal
structure of the nest and are used for storage of the developing young bees and
all the provisions used by the colony. Comb used for storage of honey is known as honeycomb.
Workers leave the hive to gather nectar, pollen, water, and
propolis, a gummy substance used to seal and caulk the exterior of the nest.
They convert the nectar to honey, clean the comb, and feed the larvae, drones,
and the queen. They also ventilate the nest and when necessary, defend the
colony with their stings. Workers do not mate and therefore cannot produce
fertile eggs. They occasionally lay infertile eggs, which give rise to drones.
Collecting pollen is vital for the bee to produce honey
As with all bees, pollen is the principal
source of protein, fat, minerals, and vitamins - the food elements essential for
the growth and development of larvae of all three castes. Adult bees can
subsist on honey or sugar, a pure carbohydrate diet.
Besides gathering and storing
food for all the members of the colony, the workers are responsible for
maintaining the brood at 33.9°C (93°F), the optimum temperature required for
hatching the eggs and rearing the young. When the nest or hive becomes too hot
the workers collectively ventilate it by fanning their wings. During cool
weather, they cluster tightly about the nursery to generate heat.
which are laid one per cell, hatch in three days. The larvae are fed royal
jelly for at least two days and then pollen and nectar or honey. Each of the
hundreds of larvae in a nest or hive must be fed many times a day.
Worker bees crawling across honeycomb
For the first three weeks of their adult
lives, the workers confine their labours to building the honeycomb, cleaning
and polishing the cells, feeding the young and the queen, controlling the
temperature, evaporating the water from the nectar until it thickens as honey,
and many other miscellaneous tasks. At the end of this period, they function as
field bees and defenders of the colony.
The workers that develop early in the
season live extremely busy lives, which, from egg to death, last about six
weeks. Worker bees reared late in the fall usually live until spring, since
they have little to do in the winter except eat and keep warm. Unlike other
species of bees, honeybees do not hibernate; the colony survives the winter as
a group of active adult bees. Workers can sting but only as a defence mechanism
to protect the colony. Although once doing so, the bee unfortunately dies.