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The Life Cycle of the Honey Bee

Llangattock Apiaries honey bees

A beekeeper, whether someone who does it for a hobby or whether they are a large commercial producer, cannot be successful unless they fully understand the life cycle of the honey bee.

The honey bee’s life cycle is a unique and fascinating process.

The Life Cycle

The cycle all starts with the egg. The hives queen bee lays an egg in one of the cells which have been constructed for the purpose of laying eggs.   The queen will lay the egg and move on to lay another.  During the spring months the queen can lay an average of 1900 eggs daily.  The egg is attached to the cell with a mucus strand.

When the egg hatches a larvae emerges.  Nurse bees are in charge of caring for the young larvae.  They feed the eggs bee bread.  Bee bread is a strange mixture of gland secretions and honey.  The larvae will go through five distinct growth stages. After each of these stages the larvae sheds its outer skin.  When the larvae are six days old, a worker bee comes along and caps the larvae, cocooning the larvae in its cell.  The larvae stays the in the cocoon for eight to ten days.  It will then emerge from the cocoon as a fully formed young bee.

The Length of Honey Bee Life

The average length of life average honey bee depends on what purpose the bee fulfills in the hive.  A queen bee can live for two years providing that she was able to get herself inseminated with enough sperm during her nuptial flight.  A good strong queen bee can lay as many as 2000 eggs a day.  The queen bee’s responsibility is to kill her sisters and mothers.  The queen bee doesn’t have to look after herself, because she is always surrounded by an entourage of worker bees who feed her and remove her waste.  It is not uncommon for the elderly queen bee to leave the nest in the springtime when the rest of the hive is getting ready to swarm.  Experts believe that the queen produces some sort of pheromone that prevents the hive’s workers bees from becoming interested in sex.  A queen bee that has not made her nuptial flight is called a virgin queen.  Drone bees are male bees that live only to impregnate queen bees during the queen’s nuptial flight.

After mating with a queen the drone dies.

Worker Bees

During the winter months, a worker bee can live up to one hundred and forty days old.  During the summer months the worker bee is lucky to live for forty days, the short summer life span is because the worker bees are literally worked to death.  The worker bee’s duties are wide and varied.  Worker bees called nurse bees are in charge of caring for the young larvae.  The other worker bees have to gather pollen to be made into honey.  Some workers spend their time capping off honey combs, other workers are responsible for taking care of the queen.  Worker bees are in charge of starving the unwanted drone bees and cleaning the hive.  There can be any were from twenty thousand to two hundred thousand worker bees in a single hive.  Worker bees are always sterile. If a worker bee lays an egg it becomes a drone bee.  Workers bees are the bees that people see defending the hive.

The survival of the bee hive depends on the hive having a healthy queen that is laying eggs. If something happens to the queen the hive will die.

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