With about 20,000 species of bees in the world, it's not surprising that they have different types of hives. While some bees set up their homes in trees, others burrow below ground to make their hives. Where bees set up their hives also affects their behavior and how they live.

Larvae of bees in the combs.
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About Beehives

Wild Honeybee Hives

Unlike honeybees that are kept in hives by beekeepers so the honey can be harvested, wild honeybees generally build hives in tree hollows up off the ground. The honeybee worker bees make the hives, which are used to store honey that the bees eat during the winter months. The hives also house bee larvae as well as nectar and pollen.

Wild Honeybee Behavior

Wild honeybee hives are well organized and live by a strict division of labor. This helps ensure that all members of the hive are well cared for, including the young bees. Hives are set up in cavities that are south facing and have a downward-pointing entrance.

To make the hive, honeybees strip off the bark and smooth the walls. Then, they chew wax until it becomes soft and use it to create the honeycombs. The worker bees only live for about six weeks, but they get a lot done while alive. In addition to building the hive, they go out and gather nectar from flowering plants. This nectar is used to create wax for hive building as well as honey.

Bumblebee Hives

Bumblebees prefer to set up their hives underground. They usually do this in abandoned animal tunnels and burrows. Bumblebees only use a nest for one year. The hive location is selected in spring when the queen bumblebee emerges from hibernation. She lines her chosen hole with dry grass and moss. The worker bumblebees then come in and often build a wax canopy over the hive entrance. This deters predators, such as skunks.

Bumblebee Behavior

Social insects like honeybees, bumblebees all have a specific task. There's the queen bumblebee and then drone and worker bumblebees. The queen lays eggs, while the drones fertilize the queens. Worker bees do all of the other work, including building the hive.

Bumblebees survive by eating flower nectar and pollen. They also make honey by chewing pollen, which mixes with their saliva to create honey. This honey is fed to the queen and young bees. After going out foraging, a bumblebee will carry back as much as 25 to 75 percent of its body weight in pollen and nectar.

Carpenter Bee Hives

Unlike bumblebees, which they resemble, carpenter bees aren't social creatures. These bees construct their own single nests in bare, unpainted and weathered wood. In the nest, a carpenter bee lays eggs, which pupate into adult carpenter bees.

Carpenter Bee Behavior

Though they'll set up hives in trees, carpenter bees are also known to make their nests in buildings and other wooden objects. These include eaves, siding, doors, window frames, decks, telephone poles and outdoor wooden furniture.

Carpenter bee adults overwinter in abandoned nest tunnels. They then emerge in April or May to mate and re-enter the tunnels to lay eggs. They leave behind a pollen ball on which the larvae feed when the eggs hatch. The resulting carpenter bees exit the hive in summer as adults, and the cycle continues.

Bee Removal

If you're bothered by a beehive in your home or yard, avoid disturbing it. Removing and moving a beehive is a job for a professional beekeeper. When you discover a hive, contact your local beekeeping association or pest specialist about having the hive moved to a location free of regular human activity.