Native bees come in a wide array of sizes, shapes and colors and there are 4,000 native bee species in the United States. All bees are vegetarians and require nectar and pollen from flowering plants as food for themselves and their offspring. Bees have a straw-like tongue called a probiscus that allows them to drink the nectar from floral nectaries. They are also equipped with branched (plumose) body hairs that can catch and hold pollen, and combs (scopae) or baskets (corbiculae) for collecting and carrying pollen.
The Western (or European) honey bee (Apis mellifera) is well established in many parts of the world and they produce honey and other hive products, but are mostly relied on to perform commercial pollination. At the heart of the honey bee colony is the queen. She lays up to 2,000 eggs a day and can live for two to four years. Colony duties are carried out by up to 60,000 female worker bees whose life span is about 4-6 weeks during the summer. They perform all housekeeping chores within the hive, search for nectar and pollen, produce wax and honey, feed the young and protect the hive against enemies. Several hundred male drones live during the summer months and serve reproduction purposes. During cold winters, the bees cluster together, feeding on stored food reserves and sharing their body heat.
Honey bees, along with stingless bees and bumble bees, are among the few types of social bees. Honey bees live in colonies and construct vertical wax combs with individual hexagonal cells for storing honey and rearing brood.
Honey bees collect nectar and then convert it into honey. The honey is regurgitated for storage or mixed with pollen and fed to developing larvae. Honey bees have abdominal glands that secrete wax. This wax is used for construction of the honeycomb in the hive. The queen bee lays her eggs in the honeycomb cells or the cells are used for storage of pollen or honey.