Painted wooden beehives with active honey bees

A beehive is an enclosed structure in which some honey bee species of the subgenus Apis live and raise their young. Though the word beehive is commonly used to describe the nest of any bee colony, scientific and professional literature distinguishes nest from hive. Nest is used to discuss colonies which house themselves in natural or artificial cavities or are hanging and exposed. Hive is used to describe structures used by humans to house a honey bee nest. Several species of Apis live in colonies, but only the western honey bee (Apis mellifera) and the eastern honey bee (Apis cerana) are kept in hives by humans.[ citation needed] A bees nest is comparable to a bird's nest built with a purpose to protect the dweller.

The beehive's internal structure is a densely packed group of hexagonal prismatic cells made of beeswax, called a honeycomb. The bees use the cells to store food ( honey and pollen) and to house the brood (eggs, larvae, and pupae).

Beehives serve several purposes: production of honey, pollination of nearby crops, housing supply bees for apitherapy treatment, and to try to mitigate the effects of colony collapse disorder. In America, hives are commonly transported so that bees can pollinate crops in other areas. [1] A number of patents have been issued for beehive designs.

Honey bee nests

Natural bee colony in the hollow of a tree

Honey bees use caves, rock cavities and hollow trees as natural nesting sites. In warmer climates they may occasionally build exposed hanging nests as pictured. Members of other subgenera have exposed aerial combs. The nest is composed of multiple honeycombs, parallel to each other, with a relatively uniform bee space. It usually has a single entrance. Western honey bees prefer nest cavities approximately 45 litres in volume and avoid those smaller than 10 or larger than 100 litres. [2] Western honey bees show several nest-site preferences: the height above ground is usually between 1 metre (3.3 ft) and 5 metres (16 ft), entrance positions tend to face downward, Equatorial-facing entrances are favored, and nest sites over 300 metres (980 ft) from the parent colony are preferred. [3] Bees usually occupy nests for several years.

The bees often smooth the bark surrounding the nest entrance, and the cavity walls are coated with a thin layer of hardened plant resin ( propolis). Honeycombs are attached to the walls along the cavity tops and sides, but small passageways are left along the comb edges. [4] The basic nest architecture for all honeybees is similar: honey is stored in the upper part of the comb; beneath it are rows of pollen-storage cells, worker-brood cells, and drone-brood cells, in that order. The peanut-shaped queen cells are normally built at the lower edge of the comb. [2]

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