Italian Honey Bees


Italian Honey Bees at the Brandywine Zoo

The Brandywine Zoo currently has one observation hive inhabited from early May through mid-September. The display hive, located between the North American Porcupine and Red Panda habitats, is the perfect summer home for bees to teach people about hive life. The individual frames were carefully moved to the box hive, which will stay a toasty 97 degrees (thanks to bee vibrations) and allows the colony to feed off their hard-earned honey from the summer.

Meadows, gardens, and open woodlands

Native to Europe, Africa, and Western Asia. Found all over the world including east Asia, Australia, and the Americas.

Nectar and pollen

Honey bees are red/brown with yellow rings on their abdomen. Their body is divided into the head, thorax, and abdomen. They have three pairs of legs, and two pairs of wings.

Body: 1-2 cm

4,000 bees combined only weigh one pound!

Average queen life is 2-5 years. Workers live a few weeks to a few months.

Pesticides – bees interact with the chemicals that are applied to plants and these chemicals interfere with their nervous systems, causing paralysis and eventually death. Habitat loss – without plants for them to pollinate, there can’t be bees!

Not Evaluated

• There are four life cycle stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult
• The queen lays up to 2,000 eggs a day!

• Bees are constantly active, but foraging only happens during the day.
• They are eusocial insects, meaning they live in colonies with one reproductive female and her offspring.

• Bees live in colonies, and each bee has a role and a job.
• The colonies can have up to 60,000 members.
• Each hive has three classes of bees: The queen lays all the eggs in the hive. The worker bees build the honeycomb, gather food, and make the honey. Male drones mate with the queen.

• Bee communication is done through chemical signals called pheromones.
• Most communication is based upon smell and taste.
• Bees dance to communicate where food can be found. Around dance means food is close by, and a tail wagging dance will disclose the direction and distance of the food.


Honey bees pollinate 71 out of 100 of the most common crops – accounting for 90% of the world’s food supply!

In the United States, bees pollinate nearly $15 billion worth of crops every year, and $200 billion globally.

Honey bees are partly endothermic – they will warm themselves and the hive by working their flight muscles.

Bears, honey badgers, birds, skunks, and toads all eat honey bees.

Rock art dating back to around 7000 BCE shows that humans have been collecting honey from bees for thousands of years!

What are AZA Zoos doing for Italian Honey Bees?

Many zoos have pollinator gardens or way stations on grounds, celebrate pollinator conservation holidays, or have demonstration hives like Brandywine Zoo does. Additionally, AZA and the National Pollinator Garden Network and is promoting the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge, a campaign furthering pollinator conservation by having volunteers create, maintain, and register pollinator gardens at their homes, workplaces, and communities.

Brandywine Zoo Bee Keeper holding hive