Honey Bee

Actual Size: 1/2″

Characteristics: Golden brown and black with pale orange or yellow bands on their abdomen.

Legs: 6

Antennae: Yes

Habitat: Live in hives with 20,000 to 80,000 individuals


  • One honey bee colony is capable of producing up to 100 pounds of honey a year
  • Honey bees are not typically aggressive and will only sting when provoked
  • During the winter, honey bee populations lay dormant

Honey Bees in Iowa

Honey bees are active pollinators that, true to name, produce honey. They are known to live in giant colonies (up to 60,000 members), and are are very important pollinators. Their colonies can survive for years. Queen honey bees are slightly larger than male honey bees, also known as drones. They are found all over the nation, and pollinate more than 100 types of crops.

Operating according to a caste system, honey bees each perform a specific role in the colony. The two main types are Africanized honey bees and European honey bees. The latter is much more aggressive than the former. Honey bees will swarm when the colony becomes too large for its hive, which is when most people see these bees out and about in the Des Moines area.

Honey Bee Habitat & Nests

Honey bees can thrive in many areas, but they prefer to live in gardens, woodlands, orchards, meadows and other areas where flowering plants are abundant. Within their natural habitat, honey bees build nests inside tree cavities, rock crevices and under edges of objects to hide from predators. They can also be found in chimneys, wall cavities and more. They make their nests out of wax secreted from the abdominal glands of the worker honey bees. Workers sweep up a few flakes of wax from their abdomens chewing them until the wax becomes soft enough to mold into cells to form the hive.

Honey Bee Behavior & Threats

Honey bees aren’t excessively aggressive, but their sting is known to be very painful. When a honey bee stings, the stinger, venom sac and other parts of the bee become detached from the body, which causes them to die. Since the glands associated with the venom sac continue to pump venom into the victim even after the bee dies, the stinger should be removed immediately. Though painful, honey bee stings are only very dangerous to people with bee allergies.

In addition to posing the threat of stinging, honey bees can damage homes and other structures when they build nests in wall cavities. As the nests expand over time, the size and presence of both honey and beeswax may cause the surrounding plaster and drywall to sag or become stained. If you notice a honey bee hive forming on or inside your property, it’s safest to contact a licensed bee control specialist who can remove the nest with minimal damage to the colony.