European Honey bee








Apis mellifera

Western honey bee


The common honey bee is one we are all familiar with as we see it in our gardens gathering pollen. The species name translates as Apis meaning 'bee' and mellifera means ' honey-bearing'. They are covered in thick hair and have yellow and brown stripes on their abdomens. The worker bees that collect pollen have special sacs on their hind legs to hold the pollen. This bee lives in hives where a queen produces the young and the rest of the bees are either drones (male bees) or worker bees. The worker bees look after the hive and the young and are the ones that collect the pollen and nectar. These hives are perennial, lasting for years. They are known for the way they communicate through their “dance”. The female worker bees have a nasty sting which can be very painful and in extreme cases, especially if a person has an allergy, can be very serious. The stinger is a modified ovipositor which, unique to this genus, is barbed. Usually when a bee ‘stings’ the barb causes the venom sac to detach from the body resulting in the death of the bee. The queen bee has a stinger but the barbs are greatly reduced and she does not die if she uses it.

Adult size: 13-16mm

Out and about

They will be out and about when plants are flowering. Introduced to Australia by the early settlers, they now exist throughout Australia. Thought to have originated in Africa or Asia they are now found all over the world except for Antarctica.

Reproduction and Life cycle

Bees go through complete metamorphosis from egg to larvae to pupae to adult. They have a complex social structure. The hive is made up of a honeycomb structure, produced by the worker bees, that creates cells into which the queen lays a single egg. Some cells are used to store honey and pollen. Once the egg has hatched the larvae are cared for by worker bees until they are ready to pupate. The cell is then sealed and after about a week the adult bee will emerge. In spring and early summer bees will swarm in order to produce new colonies. This swarm is made up of the existing queen and most of her worker bees from the old hive. Prior to leaving, the old queen lays eggs which will hatch into females, one of which will become the new queen. Prospective queen bee larvae are fed a special diet comprising pollen, nectar and what is called royal jelly, whereas worker larvae are only fed a standard diet. In order to become queen the females fight to the death or, if one has emerged before the others, she will kill the others while they are still pupating. This new queen is able to produce male offspring but in order to produce females which will become the infertile worker bees she needs to mate. She will mate with a number of drones soon after hatching and then spend her entire life producing eggs. Worker bees have a lifespan of usually only a few weeks to several months. The queen can live up to eight years, but the average is from three to five years.

To deter

To control

Plants to repel

Plants to attract

Plant flowering plants for their nectar and pollen Lavender / Fennel / Lemon balm / Basil / Coriander / Thyme / Borage / Ajuga / Astralagus / Calendula / Clover Dianthus / Dill / Heather / Mugwort / Parsley / Queen Anne’s lace / Red clover / Rosemary / Sage


Why they are Beneficial
They are extremely important pollinators and are responsible for our fruits and vegetables such as pumpkin, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchinis, and of course they produce wonderful honey. This species is the one we get our honey from and beekeeping has become a big industry.