Honeybee colonies are essentially societies of females. In a hive of perhaps 20,000 bees, only a few hundred will be male bees, called drones. They are around only in the spring or summer – long enough to rise to treetop level in a comet-like swarm, chasing after one of the queen bees that have assembled from various hives at a mating site. Of the many drones assembled, only 10 to 15 will actually mate with a queen during one of her mating flights. Each drone that is successful dies in the process, however, and a similar fate awaits drones that aren't successful; once mating is done, they will be expelled from their hives or killed. The week of mating flights prepares the queen for a lifetime of prodigious egg laying; she will produce up to 2,000 fertile eggs a day for years. Nearly all of the offspring that hatch from these eggs are female; they are the hive's worker bees; and they are well named, for it is they who will maintain the hive, forage for food, store the food away, care for newly laid eggs, and more. It is they who will do everything for the colony, in other words, except lay eggs and mate with the queen. Over their brief adult lives of perhaps six weeks, every worker bee takes on, in a predictable order, nearly all the worker tasks that the hive has to offer. For the first three days of her life, a worker is primarily a cleaner of the cells that the bee larvae (immature, wormlike bees) are stored in. As the days pass, she becomes primarily a larvae feeder, then a hive construction worker, then an entrance guard and food storer, and finally a forager, going out to secure nectar, pollen, and water for the colony. Within this structure, however, a worker's life is one of surprising flexibility. After becoming a construction worker, for example, she still engages in some cell cleaning; and throughout her life, she spends a good deal of time resting and patrolling the hive. Importantly, there is no chain of command in a colony – no group of workers communicating the message more food needed now or cell cleaning needed over here. How, then, does all this work get organized among tens of thousands of bees Bees are prompted to act either because of environmental conditions (the temperature of the hive, for example) or because of signals or cues they receive from other bees. The signals are explicit acts of communication, as with the famous waggle dance that bees perform to inform their fellow workers of the location of food sites. Quite often, however, bees are reacting to cues they get from other bees that simply imply a given condition. Take, as an example, a cue that researcher Thomas Seeley confirmed that has to do with unloading time at the hive. In a well-fed hive, forager bees gather food only from flower patches that have lots of nectar. When a hive is near starvation, however, the foragers aren't so choosy; then low-yield flower patches will do. So, how does a forager know whether to be choosy or not How is she informed of the nutritional status of the colony, in other words Her informational source is the length of time it takes her to unload her food. Providing the cues are the food-storer bees, which receive the food the foragers bring back and then process it into honey and pack it away in the hive. It takes a returning forager a relatively long time to make contact with a food-storer bee in a well-fed hive, but a relatively short time in a starving hive. Why Because in a well-fed hive, the food-storers have plenty to keep them busy – there is plenty of food to store away. If, however, a forager can make contact with a food storer within 15 seconds of entering the hive, the forager knows the colony is low on food and will start paying visits to low-yield sites. This is but one example of how life in the colony is self-organizing; each bee's behavior is shaped by the behavior of other bees.