By: Zia Mahmood Minhas


Classification of Bees

-How Qur’an Describes Honey Bee and the Honey

-The Colony

-How Do Bees Communicate?

-Defense and Hygiene

-Honey Bee in Service of Mankind in Subjugation to Edict of Allah

Classification of Bees

Scientifically the honey bee belongs to Genus Apis with following surviving species:

  • Apis florea
  • Apis andreniformis
  • Apis dorsata
  • Apis cerana
  • Apis koschevnikovi
  • Apis mellifera
  • Apis nigrocincta
  • Apis indica

Apis mellifera is domesticated bee in Europe and called European or Western bee. Apis florea is small bee and occurs in Central Asia. Apis dorsata is giant bee and found in India, China and Indonesia. Apis indica is domesticated bee in India and parts of Asia.

The honey bees are distinguished from other 20,000 bee types by production and storage of honey and building permanent hives out of wax.

How Qur’an Describes Honey Bee and The Honey

Honey bee is one of the few creatures mentioned in the Qur’an. Chapter An-Nahl has been named on this insect. In this Soorah Allah says:

(وَأَوْحَىٰ رَ‌بُّكَ إِلَى النَّحْلِ أَنِ اتَّخِذِي مِنَ الْجِبَالِ بُيُوتًا وَمِنَ الشَّجَرِ‌ وَمِمَّا يَعْرِ‌شُونَ ﴿٦٨

ثُمَّ كُلِي مِن كُلِّ الثَّمَرَ‌اتِ فَاسْلُكِي سُبُلَ رَ‌بِّكِ ذُلُلًا ۚ يَخْرُ‌جُ مِن بُطُونِهَا شَرَ‌ابٌ مُّخْتَلِفٌ

(أَلْوَانُهُ فِيهِ شِفَاءٌ لِّلنَّاسِ ۗ إِنَّ فِي ذَٰلِكَ لَآيَةً لِّقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُ‌ونَ ﴿٦٩

Your Lord inspired the bees: ‘take the mountains for your habitation, as also the trees and what they erect on a trellis. Then eat of all fruits and follow the path of your Lord, made easy for you’. From their bellies comes a drink of diverse colors in which there is healing for mankind. In this there is a sign for people who reflect.

(Soorah An-Nahl 16:68-69)

Allah has revealed that all acts of honey bee are guided by His inspiration and control. Let’s see how it works.

Division of Labor

Allah has organized the marvelous life cycle of honey bee and assigned it the duty of service to mankind which is being carried out diligently. The honey bee is a social insect living in well managed colonies housed in hives. They have well defined division of labor and responsibilities.

The Queen Bee

A colony generally contains one queen bee, a fertile female. The queen is larger in size and has distinct mark on its body for identification. It mates with drones (male bees) and stores the sperms in its body for future fertilization of eggs. It is polyandrous in behavior and goes outside the hive on mating flights to mate with multiple males. The males die in the act of mating. The queen can choose to produce fertilized or unfertilized eggs, depending upon the requirements of colony.

 The queen lays up to 2000 eggs daily. The larva selected to be a queen is solely fed on royal jelly while others are fed on a mixture of royal jelly and pollen or purely on pollen/ nectar. On reaching maturity age the new queens fight each other and the last survivor challenges the old queen. The old queen then leaves the hive with the swarm to establish the new colony. Infertile or unwanted queen might be killed by worker bees.

Drone Bees

They are male bees and hatch from unfertilized eggs. They are sting-less, larger in size than worker bees and present in early season only.

Worker Bees

These are sterile females and hatch from fertilized eggs .They have stingers and their population varies with season. Their duties change with growing age from simpler to complex ones.

 The life cycle of bees has stages of egg, larva (grubs), pupa and adults like any typical insect.

The Colony

The Hives

The colony is established by a mated queen along with swarms of worker bees to an already selected site by scouting. The building of hive is completed by the worker bees prior to migration of the queen along with the swarm.  A colony can have up to 80,000 worker bees at a time.

 The hive is a master piece of building design. It consists of large number of hexagonal shaped cells made of wax. These cells are amazingly compatible. This geometrical shape is to provide maximum working/storage space with minimum of building material. The upper walls are closed at an angle which checks spillage of honey.

Nectar Collection                     

The bees collect nectar and pollen from the flowers they visit. These are fed to larvae and also converted to honey and royal jelly by a complex process. Upon arrival in the hive the bees disgorge the nectar after preliminary conversion to honey. The other bees then start work upon it by intake it into their body to convert it into honey.

A number of honey bees swallow the fluid and regurgitate it after addition of proteins and reduction of water contents. This material is put in the cells and further processing goes on till the water contents come down below 20%.The final produce i.e. honey and royal jelly is stored in hive cells for future needs. The quantity of the produce both for honey and royal jelly is much higher than overall requirements of the colony.

While collecting pollen and nectar bees perform another vital function of pollination of flowers. The pollens stick to the body of bees and fertilize the flowers visited later on. The pollination leads to formation of fruits and seeds of plants. The bees leaving the flowers after nectar collection place a sort of scent on the flowers. The subsequent visitor bees sense that the particular flower has been depleted and avoid it.

How Do Bees Communicate?

The worker bees travel long distances for food collection and scouting sites from view point of establishment of new colony. On their arrival back in the hive they convey the exact location, distance, size and quality of a particular food source or site of new colony to the fellow bees. They do this by a peculiar dance called’ neuron’ dance. The behavior of bees while communicating with each other was studied by scientists Von Frisch, Lorenz and Tinbergen. They received the Nobel Prize for their work in this field. The further research work has been carried out by a team of scientists led by Thomas Seeley at Cornell University, New York. Now this is well established that bees are able to convey the exact desired location to other bees by their repeated waggle body movements in 8 shape.


There is another baffling aspect that the site is conveyed in relation to the Sun. The Sun, however, changes location by the time the bees return to hive. The bees have two large compound eyes along with several normal ones. Their hexagonal eyes help them offset the impact of changing environments and the worker bees, reach exactly at the designated location. This offsetting the impact of Sun movement is made possible by the instinct ordained by Allah.

Defense and Hygiene

The colony has meticulous system of defense and hygiene.

  • The bees guard the entrance of the hive and kill the intruders by stinging or scaring off by threatening postures. In case of failure, the enemy is stymied in a unique way. It is pasted with a gum like substance ʻpropolis’ prepared by resins, balsam and tree sap. Similar material is used to repair damage to the hive walls. In certain cases, the intruder is surrounded by cluster of bees and they raise the temperature by rapid movement of their muscles. The enemy is killed due to rise in temperature and high concentration of carbon dioxide. This is referred to as ‘balling’ by bee keepers.
  • The colony has an effective system of hygiene. The temperature of hive is maintained at around 35 degree C for most of the year. Variation will deteriorate the quality of the produce. With rising temperature the bees assemble at the entrance of the hive and start aeration with rapid movement of their wings. In this way they maintain the optimum level of temperature and ward off pollution.

Honey Bee in Service of Mankind in Subjugation to Edict of Allah

By now it must be clear that the life of honey bee is disciplined with meticulous social systems and intricate designs of abode. All functions of the colony are carried out methodically with amazing accuracy. How come, they commit a blunder in calculation of honey and royal jelly requirement which is produced in excess of their overall needs?

Their communication regarding path finding to desired destinations is marvelous. They cannot carry out all these functions without divine guidance which is inbuilt in their instinct. Allah has pointed out these facts in the quoted verses that all these processes have been facilitated and made easy by Him. The bees are busy in service of mankind since times immemorial by producing honey and royal jelly which is relished by all and has a healing touch for many ailments. It is in fact a sign of Allah Almighty for the people who understand.