The honey bee is the most important contributor to our multi-billion pound food economy. Without its pollination contribution, our food would be more expensive to grow and less prolific.
Honey bees come in a variety of shades, varying from the dark bees native to parts of Wales, to the lighter striped bodied bee in the background image.
In common with all insects, the honey bee has six legs, but the rear pair is specially adapted to store pollen when the bee flies from flower to flower. A fully laden honey bee will look as if she is carring pollen baskets on her legs.
Most of the honey bees you encounter will be female worker bees going about their business of gathering resources for the colony, and it is the requirements of the colony that determine the overall behaviour of the bees.
The Queen bee is the egg laying part of the operation and she can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day at the height of the season. As a princess, she will leave the hive and fly to a drone congregation area more than a mile high where she will mate with up to 13 drones. She will then return to the hive to begin the business of egg laying.
The colony will tell her, by the size of the individual comb cell, whether to lay a fertilised egg which will become a female worker bee, or an unfertilised egg which will become a drone.
Young bees start as 'housekeepers', keeping the comb clean, the brood nest at a constant temperature and processing the royal jelly upon which the queen is fed. As they get a few weeks older, they are entrusted with flying out to forage for pollen and nectar. In high season, a worker bee will only live for 6 weeks. Over winter, they live longer as there is no brood to care for.