Encyclopedia of Social Insects

Living Edition
| Editors: Christopher K. Starr

Nest Structure: Honey Bees

  • Michael L. SmithEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-90306-4_85-1



The structure of honey bee nests inspires wonder at multiple levels, from the perfection of the stacked hexagons to the organization of the nest contents by the unsupervised collective. The greater part of research into honey bee nest structure has focused on the cavity-nesting western honey bee, Apis mellifera, but nests of other honey bee species are equally impressive. Only by comparing across species can one reach broader conclusions about how nest structure and nest organization contribute to the function of the superorganism.

The genus Apis comprises three distinct groups: dwarf honey bees, giant honey bees, and cavity-nesting honey bees. This classification neatly divides the genus according to where they build their nests and the nest’s appearance (Table 1 and Fig. 1). The dwarf bees build a single comb that encompasses the twig upon which it is supported; the giant bees build a single comb underneath a strong structure; and the cavity-nesting bees build...
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. 1.
    Oldroyd, B. P., & Pratt, S. C. (2015). Comb architecture of the eusocial bees arises from simple rules used during cell building. Advances in Insect Physiology, 49, 101–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Thompson, D. W. (1942). On growth and form. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species by means of natural selection. London: John Murray.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    von Frisch, K. (1974). Animal architecture. London: Hutchinson.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hepburn, H. R., Pirk, C. W. W., & Duangphakdee, O. (2014). Honeybee nests: Composition, structure, function. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Seeley, T. D., & Morse, R. A. (1976). The nest of the honey bee (Apis mellifera L.). Insectes Sociaux, 23, 495–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Oldroyd, B. P., & Wongsiri, S. (2006). Asian honey bees: Biology, conservation, and human interactions. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Martin, H., & Lindauer, M. (1966). Sinnesphysiologische Leistungen beim Wabenbau der Honigbiene. Zeitschrift für Vergleichende Physiologie, 53, 372–404.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Smith, M. L., Ostwald, M. M., & Seeley, T. D. (2016). Honey bee sociometry: Tracking honey bee colonies and their nest contents from colony founding until death. Insectes Sociaux, 63, 553–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Smith, M. L., Ostwald, M. M., Loftus, J. C., & Seeley, T. D. (2014). A critical number of workers in a honeybee colony triggers investment in reproduction. Naturwissenschaften, 101, 783–790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Smith, M. L., Ostwald, M. M., & Seeley, T. D. (2015). Adaptive tuning of an extended phenotype: Honeybees seasonally shift their honey storage to optimize male production. Animal Behavior, 103, 29–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Dawkins, R. (1982). The extended phenotype. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Camazine, S. (1991). Self-organizing pattern formation on the combs of honey bee colonies. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 28, 61–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Montovan, K. J., Karst, N., Jones, L. E., & Seeley, T. D. (2013). Local behavioral rules sustain the cell allocation pattern in the combs of honey bee colonies (Apis mellifera). Journal of Theoretical Biology, 336, 75–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    von Frisch, K. (1953). Aus dem Leben der Bienen. Berlin: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Collective BehaviorMax Planck Institute of Animal BehaviorKonstanzGermany