a colony consisting of several thousand worker bees, a queen bee, and, in the summer, hundreds or thousands of drones. Larvae, prepupae, and pupae of worker bees and drones develop from the eggs laid in the honeycomb by the queen bee in the spring.
If a colony is preparing to swarm, the bees form queen cells to raise a new queen. Colonies are largest (up to 80,000 bees) in summer, when the main honey gathering takes place. By autumn the colony is smaller—some of the workers die, and the drones are driven from the hives. The bee colony spends the winter feeding on the supplies of honey that have been stored over the summer. Vigorous colonies on abundant nectariferous plants will gather up to 130–150 kg of honey in a season, of which 100-120 kg is retained to feed the bees.