REOPENING JUNE 29: Reservations and face coverings required. Read More


European Honey Bee

Exhibit(s): Farm-in-the-Zoo
European Honey Bee

European Honey Bee Fact Sheet

  • Latin Name

    Apis mellifera
  • Class

  • Order

  • Range

    The species is native to Europe, western Asia, and Africa. One of the first domesticated insects—both for its honey production and pollination activities—they are now found on every continent except Antarctica.
  • Status

    Common. However, beekeeping commercialization may be endangering locally adapted populations and subspecies. Colony Collapse Disorder in North American commercial hives—an unexplained phenomenon causing sudden, massive mortality among workers such that the few remaining cannot tend the queen and brood—also threatens the health of the population.
  • Habitat

    The species prefers meadows, open wooded areas, and gardens with an abundant supply of suitable flowering plants. They nest in cavities such as hollow trees.
  • Niche

    European honey bees feed on pollen and nectar collected from blooming flowers. They also eat honey (stored, concentrated nectar) and secretions produced by other members of their colony.
  • Life History

    Honey bees build a hive out of wax secretions from their bodies, and queens lay their eggs in cells in the wax. There is only one queen per hive. The queen chooses if an egg is going to be a drone or worker. Unfertilized eggs become males (drones), while fertilized eggs become females (workers). When the queen dies, a new queen will be made by the worker bees. Queens typically live 2–3 years but can live as long as 5. Drones live 4 to 6 weeks. During the active season, workers live about 5 to 6 weeks.
  • Special Adaptations

    Honey bees communicate through chemical signals transmitted by scent and taste. Hives have unique chemical signatures that bees use to recognize hivemates. Honey bees use scent to locate flowers at long distances and pass the scent to hivemates when they return from foraging. Their eyes can detect ultraviolet light wavelengths and polarized light, which helps them navigate and see flower markings beyond the visible spectrum. Workers and queens hear vibrations of specialized “dances” made by returning foragers to communicate the location of a food-supply patch.


Sign Up for ZooMail Weekly

Get the latest on upcoming events, new arrivals and more!

All Content © Lincoln Park Zoo.

2001 North Clark Street • Chicago, IL 60614 • 312-742-2000

Get Map/Directions Call 312-742-2000

your zoo is...