There are many species of Bee but here we will just be referring to the Australian Native Bee (of which there are over 1600 species) and the, introduced, European Honey Bee.
The Native Bee’s main job is pollinating our plants, it does not really produce honey.
How does pollination work? Well, bees will actually eat the pollen, or nectar, of a flower/plant and, in that process, become covered in pollen.
Pollen is made by the male organs of a plant (stamens in flowers) and contains all the genetic information needed for a plants reproduction.
Pollination happens when the Bee transfers the pollen to the female organs of a plant (stigma in flowers) as he looks for more pollen, or nectar, to eat. Pollen may be transferred to female organs on the same plant (self-pollination) or another plant of the same species (cross-pollination). As a result of pollination the plants produce seeds.
Pollen can also be dispersed by wind, water and other animal pollinators such as insects, bats and birds.
With some exceptions Native Bees do not live in hives but tend to live alone in wood, gaps between rocks, the stems of some plants, and homes they have dug for themselves underground.
This is very different to the European Honey Bee which live in groups with thousands of workers and ruled by a Queen.
European Honey Bees live in colonies and are made of up 3 types……Queen, Drone and Worker.
As the Queen Bee is the only one that is capable of laying eggs, her job is purely to build the colony. She can live up to around 2 years and lay upto 3,000 eggs per day. She will take only one mating flight early on in her life but will mate with several Drones during that flight. Their sperm will be used throughout her lifetime to fertilise her eggs. The Queen can choose which eggs are fertilised and which are not. Un-fertilised eggs will become male bees (Drones) and fertilised ones will become Worker or Queen Bees.
The Drone bees are male and their only job in life is to mate with the Queen. They do not have stingers and do not collect pollen. Seems to be a bit of a cushy number BUT if the colony was to ever face a lack of food, the Drones would be the first out on their ear!
The Worker Bees are all female but not developed for mating. They can lay unfertilised eggs which, in turn, become male bees (Drones). They are the smallest of the bees but have the most jobs to do. They collect the pollen, protect the entrance to the nest, feed the Queen, feed the larva and help to keep the hive cool by fanning its wings. You will find around 50,000-60,000 Worker Bees in one colony.