Honeybee life cycle

From Academic Kids

Honeybees are social insects that live in a colony. As such, the honeybee life cycle depends greatly on this social structure.

Honeybee swarm pitched on a high limb
Honeybee swarm pitched on a high limb

Colony life

Unlike a bumble bee colony or a wasp colony the life of the honeybee colony is perennial. There are three castes of bees: queens, which produce eggs; drones or males, which mate with the queen; and workers, which are all non-reproducing females. The queen lays eggs singly in cells of the comb. Larvae hatch from eggs in 3 to 4 days and are fed by worker bees and develop through several stages in the cells. Cells are capped by worker bees when the larvae pupates. Queen and drones are larger than workers and require enlarged cells to develop. A colony may typically consists of several ten thousand individuals.

Development

Queens complete development in 15.5 days, drones in 24 days and workers in 21 days for larvae and pupae stages. Only one queen is usually present in a hive. New virgin queens develop in enlarged cells through differential feeding by workers. When the existing queen ages or dies or the colony becomes very large a new queen is raised by the worker bees. The virgin queen takes one or several nuptial flights and once she is established starts laying eggs in the hive. A fertile queen is able to lay fertilized or unfertilized eggs. The unfertilized eggs develop into drones the fertilized eggs develop into either workers or virgin queens. A queen may live three to five years; drones usually die before winter; and, workers may live for a few months.


Type Egg Larva Cell capped Pupa Developmental Period Start of Fertility
Queen 3 days 5 1/2 days 7 1/2 days 8 days 16 days approx. 23 days
Worker 3 days 6 days 9 days 12 days 21 days N/A
Drone 3 days 6 1/2 days 10 days 14 1/2 days 24 days approx. 38 days

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