Life Cycle of a Honey Bee


First, what IS a beehive? 

A beehive is a place where bees live; it is a structure that a bee colony calls home. A colony is the family unit consisting of a queen, worker bees and drones. 


Honey bees have different roles and responsibilities within the hive: 

  • The queen bee is the star of the hive. The largest bee in the colony, the queen is the only female bee with fully developed ovaries and is capable of laying eggs. She releases pheromones to regulate the colony. 
  • The drone is a male honey bee. Drones make up about 10-15% of the colony. The primary focus for a drone is to mate with the queen. Drones compete with one another during the mating flight. Once a drone mates with a queen, it dies shortly after. 
  • The worker bee keeps the hive functioning. Depending on its age, the worker bee will play different roles in the hive. A young worker bee acts as a nurse bee, nurturing and feeding bee larvae as well as processes nectar, feeds the queen, and makes and caps the honey. An older work bee is on foraging duty.  


The life cycle of honeybees consists of four stages: eggs, larva, pupa and adult. This entire process varies lengthwise amongst the different honey bees. It takes about 16 days for the queen, 18 to 22 days for the worker bees and 24 days for the drones. 

The queen bee lays from 2000 to 3000 eggs a day in the honeycomb, one in each cell. The fertilized eggs, which will become female honey bees – worker bees, are laid in smaller cells as opposed to the unfertilized eggs, which become male honey bees – drones. 

Three days after an egg is laid, it hatches into a worm-like form called larva. The larva has no legs, wings or antenna. A larva that is fed only royal jelly, a substance secreted from the glands of the nurse bees, will emerge from its cell, known as the queen cell, as a queen bee. Other larvae, which grow into worker bees and drones, are fed royal jelly for their 2-3 days and then switch to  turn bee bread (pollen and honey). 

The larva is capped within the cell with wax. It spins a cocoon around its body and eventually pupates. The pupa develops wings, legs, head, eyes, thorax and abdomen and begins to look like an adult bee. After about 7 to 14 days, the bee chews its way through the wax capping and hatches out of the cell. 

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