The lifecycle of a bee is very interesting. Many people believe that bees are born fully grown. But is this true?
The idea that a bee is born fully grown is misleading. It will first be born as an egg. This develops into a pupa, then a larva, until it will eventually emerge as an adult. Generally, this process will take about 14 days.
Bees have a complex life cycle. Keep reading to learn more about how new bees are born.
How Are Bees Born?
The birth process of a bee is quite complicated. It will go through four stages. These are:
- The egg will be laid
- It will turn into a pupa
- It will transform into a larva.
- The bee will emerge from the cell as a fully-grown adult.
Let’s take a closer look at each stage of this process.
Laying the Eggs
The first stage of the process occurs when the queen lays her eggs. Each egg goes into a cell, which has been made by the worker bees. The eggs that go into these cells have been fertilized.
It will take the queen three days to lay her eggs. The type of cell that the egg goes into will determine the type of bee that will be produced. Three types of bees can be made, these are:
- Worker bees
Most of the cells will be the same size. These will form worker bees. These are females who are incapable of reproducing. It will be their job to take care of the queen. This involves completing a range of tasks. For example, they will be responsible for feeding the larvae and the queen. They will also need to use the wax to form the cells. They will also collect the pollen and nectar.
If the hive is ever attacked, it will fall on the worker bees to protect it. Because of this, they are equipped with stingers. If they strike a mammal, like a human, they will die. However, they can use the stinger multiple times against insects.
The second type of bee are the drones. The cells for these eggs are larger than the ones used for worker bees. Unlike the worker bees, the drones don’t do anything around the nest. They are male and their only role is to mate with the queen. Though most of them won’t get the chance.
Around three days after they are deposited, the eggs will hatch. This will produce larva. This looks like a tiny worm. For the first few days, the worker bees will feed it royal jelly. Usually, they will then transition into feeding the larva honey and pollen.
The larva will eat and grow rapidly. They will often be close to their full-grown size after five days. This is the cue for the next stage of the process to begin.
The worker bees will seal up the cap of the cell. Inside the cell, the larva will begin to transform into a cocoon. This is where it will start to change from the worm-like larva into a bee. It will grow wings and the hairs along its body will start to develop.
How long it will take to go from being a pupa to being a fully formed bee will depend. Some species will take a little longer than others. Also, the type of bee will determine how long it spends in the capping. Worker bees will emerge before the drones. As a general rule, it will take around 14 days for the pupa to change into a bee.
Once the bee emerges from the cocoon, it will chew its way out of the wax cell. It will then be part of the colony. This great video from National Geographic shows the time-lapse of this process.
Making a Queen Bee
One of the most important parts of the colony will be the queen bee. They are the only female bee that is fertile. This makes them the only bee that is capable of reproducing. It is also her responsibility to use pheromones to control the actions of the worker bees, telling them what type of cell to produce. She’ll be able to sense the swarm coming and will ensure that her hive is ready. This will get new queens ready to go out and start their own colonies.
Because of this, there is a slightly different process that will need to be followed when a queen bee is being born. These steps are:
- The worker bees will look at all the larva that were made. They will choose the healthiest and strongest, moving them to their own chamber.
- During the pupa process, the worker bees will feed them royal jelly during the entire process. This ensures that they will be able to grow more rapidly.
- Like the other bees, when the queen is ready, she will chew her way out of the wax chamber.
- But, unlike other bees who will assume their role in the colony, it’s up to the queen bee to prove that she is worthy. As a result, she will fight other queen bees. This will determine who can leave the colony during the swarm. Often, the worker bees will try to separate the queens, to make sure that they don’t all fight to the death.
Replacing the Queen
The queen’s pheromones tell the worker bees about her health. If she is starting to get old, they know that it’s time to start trying to find a replacement queen.
Sometimes, though, the queen will be killed unexpectedly. In this case, the workers will need to select a larva to replace her. This might not result in the strongest queen being selected. Usually, this temporary queen won’t last as long. But it will be enough to allow them to start breeding, so the colony can produce a more permeant option.
Number of Bees in a Colony
The number of bees that are in the colony will depend on a few factors. During the summer and spring, the colony will be more active. As a result, more worker bees will need to be produced. During the winter months, the numbers will decline. Generally, though, there will be between 20,000 to 80,000 worker bees.
Sometimes, the number of bees in the hive will grow too rapidly, leading to overcrowding. In this case, there will be a swarm. The old queens will take half the worker bees with her and fly off to start a new colony. It might take them a few days to find a new home. They will often travel as a cluster. Usually, some scout bees will fly ahead. It will be their role to look for a suitable place for the new colony to be located. The swarm usually occurs around the early summer months. The new queen will be left with the existing colony for her to rule over.
How Long Do Bees Live For?
The process of birthing new bees will be continuous. This is because bees have a relatively short lifespan. During the summer months, a worker bee will only live for around six weeks. A drone bee won’t be required to do as much hard work as a worker bee. Because of this, they will live longer. It’s common for them to live for around 90 days.
The queen bee is the longest lasting of all the bees. Depending on their species, they can last for one to three years. During this time, they will be very productive. It’s estimated that the queen will be able to produce up to one million babies during their lives.
The life cycle of a bee is fascinating. They will need to be fed and nourished by the worker bees. As a result, they will be able to emerge from the cell fully grown. This is a fine-tuned process, allowing the colony to produce thousands of bees each year.