During the summer months a beehive can house up to 35,000 bees, according to the British Beekeepers Association. The number drops to 5,000 in the winter months. All bees have antennae, two or three pairs of wings, segmented bodies and a very long tongue, known as the proboscis, which they use to extract nectar and pollen from flowers. Some bees have stings, though there are sting-less species. The nature of the bee, its food supply and its activities can affect how long it will live indoors.
Worker bees born in the summer live for 40 days. The hive does not welcome any newborn bees during the winter, so worker bees born during the autumn months generally live for six or seven months; until the following spring. Queen bees live for up to five years but do not normally leave the hive. Bees seen outside or indoors are usually worker bees.
Honey bees normally consume nectar from flowers. Nectar is naturally rich in sugars. In the absence of obvious nectar sources, bees will look for foods rich in sugar. They are especially drawn to sugar-rich liquids, like soft drinks. If sugar-rich foods, like sugar water or soft drinks, are readily and consistently available when a bee gets trapped indoors, survival for the remainder of her natural life span is likely.
Bees have two stomachs, a real one and a honey stomach. The real stomach digests food while the honey stomach is a temporary storage facility for honey while the bee flies back to the hive. A valve links the real stomach to the honey stomach, allowing nectar to be digested if necessary. When trapped indoors a bee can digest honey from the honey stomach to increase flying time and locate possible food sources in the home.
With a full honey stomach and in the complete absence of sugar-rich foods, a bee can fly for less than an hour, after which she will be grounded. Cold weather decreases flying time. Grounded bees will quickly starve to death. A bee trapped indoors, without food, cannot survive more than a few hours.
- The British Beekeepers Association; Learn About Bees; Life in the Hive
- The University of Arizona; College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; Information Sheet 4; What Bees Eat
- Purdue University; Purdue Extension; 4-H Beekeeping Division I; "Understanding the Honey Bee"
- Bumblebee.org; Temperature Regulation and Honey
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images