Honey bees are probably the most well known insects, second only to ants. Like the ants they are social insects, living together to form a hive. A queen directs what actions the hive to take and workers providing services to the queen are also present as well as the drones for mating purposes.
Honey bees showed up an estimated 56 million years ago and have been producing honey and pollinating flowers ever since.
Like most insects, they live in castes or classes. You have the queen, a fertile female that is capable of producing eggs; the worker, a female that cannot reproduce and the drones and male bees or drones whose primary purpose is for reproduction. Workers and drones do most of the foraging and taking care of the young when not in swarming season. When they do swarm, the hive splits off into distinct colonies and new queens take a portion of the workers to new colonies with the old queen taking the majority.
Unlike wasps or bumble bees, they have to work all year round in order to survive. They work hard when there is nectar and pollen and feed off this surplus in the winter when there are no flowers. This is where beekeeping comes into its own.
The earliest record of beekeeping dates back to 10,000 years ago as evidenced by a cave painting in Spain. The painting shows honey hunters gathering wild honey from hives. The earliest archeological record for beekeeping was in Israel, near the Jordan Valley, all equipment found at the site pointed to at least 1 million domesticated bees and up to 500 kilograms of honey produced at the site.