Bee Colors

by Sean
(bolsover)

Hi, I was watching about 20+ bees on a plant on the back garden and discovered that several were one color and some were other colors. Are they all from different hives/nests?

Also, why don't they land on a plant at the same time? They seem to know when the plant is empty before they get to it.

It is absolutely fascinating!

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Hi Sean,

You're very observant. And I agree - bees are absolutely fascinating!

There are many different species of bees other than honey bees. So it's possible that some of the bees you saw in your garden were not honey bees.

But it's certainly possible that all of the bees you saw were honey bees, because indeed there are different strains of honey bees with different colorations.

Whether all of the bees were from the same hive is difficult to say. But the fact that they were different colors does not eliminate the possibility that they are sisters from the same hive. It's not at all unusual for a single colony to contain bees of different coloration.

That's because when a young queen bee goes on her mating flight, she mates with multiple drone (male) bees.

The drones are almost always from multiple colonies, possibly representing more than one strain of honey bee. And therefore, the drones that the queen mates with may be of differing colorations.

So all of the bees in the colony have the same mother - the queen, of course - but they don't all have the same father. And that's why not all of the bees in a colony necessarily look the same.

You're correct, also, about the bees not crowding each other as they forage blossoms for nectar and pollen. On large flowers, such as sunflowers, you'll sometimes see more than one bee.

But on smaller flowers, just one bee at a time works the blossom. There's no jostling, or crowding, or episodes of one bee trying to chase another off a blossom. It's almost as if they have a mutual agreement to each let the other work in peace.

Why that is, I can't say. I suppose they just instinctively 'know' that selecting an open blossom is the most efficient way to work. Trying to jostle or chase another bee away would be counterproductive.

Thanks for the great questions!

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