Worker honeybees are all females and are the only bees most people ever see. They forage for food and build and protect the hive, among many other societal functions. Honeybees (Apis mellifera) have long provided humans with honey and beeswax. Such commercial uses have spawned a large beekeeping industry. All honeybees are social and cooperative insects. A hive’s inhabitants are generally divided into three types.
Workers are the only bees that most people ever see. These bees are females and are not sexually developed. Workers forage for food (pollen and nectar from flowers), build and protect the hive, clean, circulate air by beating their wings, and perform many other societal and protective functions. Male bees are called drones—the second class of the honeybee. Several hundred drones live in each hive during the spring and summer, but they are expelled (usually killed) for the winter months when the hive goes into a lean survival mode. The queen is the third class of the honey bee. The queen (only one per nation of bees) lays the eggs. These eggs will develop into larvae and then to the new generation of honey bees. If the queen dies, or gets older and lays less eggs, workers will create a new queen by feeding one of the worker females with “royal jelly.” This elixir enables the worker to develop into a fertile queen. Queens also regulate the hive’s activities by producing chemicals that guide the behavior of the other bees.
Bees live on stored honey and pollen all winter, and cluster into a ball to conserve warmth. Larvae are fed from the stores during this season and, by spring, the hive is swarming with a new generation of bees.
Rudolf Steiner lectures to the workers of the first Goetheanum twice a week and he would usually talk about questions the workers submitted. Here, nice lectures on bees have been put together as a book. Rudolf Steiner explains the great value bees have for nature; and for man specifically. Like “Mad Cow Disease” Rudolf Steiner also predicted that through greed and a-moral attitudes of our times (in name of economic growth, “anything goes”), bees would be pushed to the edge of extension.