Honey bees have three castes: drones, workers, and queens. Drones are male, while workers and queens are female.


A drone is a male bee. Unlike the female worker bee, drones do not have stingers and do not gather nectar and pollen. A drone’s primary role is to mate with a fertile queen; they take no part in hive building or maintenance; they don’t defend the colony (drones do not possess a sting); they don’t gather food or nurture the larvae.

Drone bees are larger than workers, but normally smaller than the queen. They are characterised by their large compound eyes, which appear to come together at the top, and rounded stocky bodies. They are a result of unfertilised eggs which may be laid by a queen or worker. Drones are classified as being “haploid” in that they only posses one half of the pairs of genes found in the “diploid” workers and queen.

Worker bees are all female. They carry out almost all the duties that go into building and maintaining a colony. Workers gather pollen into the pollen baskets on their back legs, to carry back to the hive where it is used as food for the developing brood.  Nectar is sucked up through the proboscis, mixed with enzymes in the stomach, and carried back to the hive, where it is stored in wax cells and evaporated into honey.

They are the smallest bee within the colony, being smaller than either the drone or queen.

Worker bees, like the queen, possess a sting. The sting is a modified ovipositor or egg laying tube. Despite the presence of reproductive organs, the workers are infertile and lack the reproductive capacity of the queen. Nevertheless, workers can lay eggs under certain circumstances – usually in the total absence of a queen (pheromones produced by the queen inhibit egg laying by the workers).

Queen BeeSee this page.

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