The European honey bee, also known as the common or western honey bee (Apis mellifera) is so named because it produces large amounts of honey. It is believed that the honey bee originated in Africa and spread to northern Europe, India, and China. The honey bee is not native to North America, but was brought here with the first colonists. The honey bee is now distributed world wide.
European honey bees are variable in color, but are some shade of black or brown intermixed with yellow. The bee ranges from 3/8 to 3/4 of an inch long, with workers being the smallest and the queen being the largest. A queen bee is elongate and has a straight stinger with no barbs. A worker bee has hind legs specialized for collecting pollen - each leg is flattened and covered with long fringed hairs that form a pollen basket. A worker bee's stinger has barbs. A drone bee is stout-bodied and has large eyes.
Wild European honey bee nests are found in hollow trees or man-made structures. Managed colonies are often kept in wooden hives. Flowers in meadows, open woods, agricultural areas, and yards and gardens are visited by worker bees.