Where Honey Bees Thrive: The Life Cycle of Honey Bees



Bees go through 4 different growth stages. These are egg, larva, pupa, and adult stages. During the egg period, which begins with the queen bee laying the eggs, extremely careful care is applied to the baby bees. After 3 days, white worm-shaped bee larvae emerge from the cells. The larva enters the pupal stage when the worker bees weave a slightly domed wax cap over it. The bee pupa stays in its cell for 12 days. The honeybee that emerges from the pupa begins its life, which will last for about 6 weeks, as a result of the developmental stages it has undergone in this cell. So, do you know where honey bees thrive?



Honey bees thrive in special cells on honeycombs inside the beehives. The cells made for raising worker bees on the honeycomb are small, while those made for raising drones are large. The queen lays infertile eggs in the large eye and fertilized eggs in the small one. At the end of the third day, the egg enters a completely horizontal position at the base of the comb cell and turns into a larva. Honey bee larvae change rapidly and significantly in terms of color, shape, and volume during development. The larva, which changes its coat 5 times during the 6-day larval period, enters the pupa stage. After this stage, it continues its life as an adult honey bee.

Biological Developmental Stages of Honey Bees


Among animals, honey bees are a creature with high knowledge of engineering and architecture. The biological development stage and life cycle of the honey bee, which has 20 thousand species, is interesting. Although their lifestyles differ from many living things, the communication between them is astonishing. A bee colony consists of one queen bee, several hundred drones, and between 20 and 80,000 worker bees. Although the colony family is numerous, the biological developmental stage and life cycle of the honey bee works perfectly. They maintain their division of labor in a disciplined manner without experiencing chaos.

In terms of physical characteristics, all three individuals have different appearances. Worker bees and the main queen are of the female sex. There is only one queen bee in each bee colony. These are larger than worker bees. The main task of the queen bee is to lay eggs in the hive by mating with drones for the sustainability of the hive. Reproduction takes place only by the queen bee.



Male bees, on the other hand, are larger and more convex than worker bees, and they can be distinguished by their eye structure. They do not have organs to collect nectar. The drones have only one job and that is to fertilize the queen bees. Worker bees carry out tasks such as combing the hive, collecting nectar and pollen, producing royal jelly, temperature regulation in the hive, cleaning the hive, and defending the hive from external factors.

Compared to some of the living species, the care of the offspring is carried out more carefully. After passing through the egg, larva, and pupa stages, it becomes an adult. Each stage has a different care system. During this period, which starts with the laying of the egg by the queen bee, the bees carefully and carefully protect their young. All responsibilities of the brood in the beehive belong to the worker bees.

Worker bees first prepare their brood cells in the honeycomb so that the queen can lay eggs. The queen checks if this cell is clean. By checking whether it is suitable for spawning, it proceeds by laying its eggs. Necessary conditions for egg development occur. It is important to keep the cell temperature constant with the nutrients needed by the larvae. Worker bees carry out these methods very carefully.

  • Egg Period

The development period of the eggs laid by the queen bee is 3 days. During this time, white and worm-shaped bee larvae emerge from the cells. Creatures emerging from eggs do not have eyes, wings, and legs. When we look at its external appearance, it does not look like a honey bee. During a larval growth period, it is visited by worker bees approximately 10 thousand times.



  • Larval Period

Larval stages are the periods when bees feed continuously and show the most development in terms of body. The bee larva feeds regularly. At the end of a week, it is 1500 times more than its previous weight. From the seventh day onwards, the larva stops feeding. The cell mouth is completely closed by a lid made of wax. The larva weaves a cocoon around it with the material it has produced and imprisons itself here. This is the transition phase of bee larvae from the larval stage to the pupal stage.

  • Pupal Period

The honey bee, which remains in the pupa for 12 days, begins its 45-day life. In its 45-day life, it works for the continuity of the colony by traveling from flower to flower and continues to produce honey, propolis, and royal jelly, which are food sources for us.

The Life Cycle of Honey Bees


The life cycle of a honeybee is continuous. Each colony contains three adult social classes: egg-laying queens, sperm-producing drones, and sterile female workers. The drone’s only job is to mate with the queen during seasonal mating flights, and the drones die shortly after they ejaculate their sperm. Worker honeybees can live for six weeks, while queens can live up to five years.

The life cycle of honeybees begins with the hatching of an egg. At the initial stage of its development, the fry form a digestive system, nervous system, and outer covering. Each colony member becomes an adult at different times. The queen becomes a full adult in 16 days; drones develop in 24 days and female workers require 21 days for larva and pupa development. Within each colony, a single queen directs her workers and drones. While future queens will constantly consume royal jelly inside larger cells, workers and drones are fed royal jelly only for the first few days of their lives.

When an existing queen dies or is unable to lay eggs, worker honeybees raise a new queen. When the new queen becomes a young adult, she embarks on a mating flight to mate with several drones. It begins to lay eggs in the hive with the sperm stored in the mating flight. Honeybee queens may lay unfertilized eggs which will become drones or fertilized eggs that will become female workers or next-generation queen bees.



For a colony to survive, the queen must lay a large number of fertilized eggs. These workers forage for food, build a strong and well-insulated hive, tend the larvae, and defend the colony from enemies. The queen carefully examines each egg before placing it in the eye. It takes only a few seconds to lay eggs, and a queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs in a single day. When a young and healthy queen lays her eggs, she keeps them close together in the eyes. As the queen ages, the sperm sac empties. In turn, it produces fewer eggs and the egg pattern in each eye begins to look more irregular.

The honeybee’s body is divided into segments: the sting, legs, antennae, three segments of the thorax, and the six visible segments of the abdomen. The honeybee’s head consists of eyes, antennae, and feeding structures. The eyes consist of a compound and simple eye: The compound eye helps bees to understand the color, light, and direction information from the sun’s UV rays. The function of the simple eye, also known as the ocelli, is to help determine the amount of light available.

The function of antennas is to detect and detect odors and measure flight speed. Jaws are the mouth of the bee, which is used for eating pollen, cutting and shaping wax, feeding the larva and queen, cleaning the hive, cleaning, and fighting. The bee’s rib cage contains the wings, legs, and muscles that control its movements.

The front wing, which is usually larger than the rear wing, is used for flight and as a cooling mechanism, while the rear wing is used to remove heat and cool the hive. Finally, the six parts of the abdomen contain female reproductive organs in the queen, male reproductive organs in the drone, and stings in both the worker and the queen.



In the wild, honeybee hives are often found in tree holes and rock crevices. The hive is made with wax secreted from special glands in the abdomen of worker honeybees. Workers take several wax flakes from their bellies and chew them until the wax softens. Workers then use the wax to make the eyes in order to shape and form the hive. Unlike other bee species, honeybees do not hibernate during cold periods.

Instead, they stay tightly interlocked inside the burrow, sharing their body heat and feeding on stored food. Honeybees are social creatures and live in colonies. However, they do exhibit some aggressive behavior within the colony: drones are ejected from their nests when the weather is cold, and a queen will sometimes sting other queens during her mating flight to gain dominance.

Honeybee Facts: How Honey Bees Thrive?


Like other bee species, honeybees are social and live in colonies with a population of thousands of bees. There are three types of adult honeybees in a colony: queen bees, drones, and sterile female workers. There is only one queen but thousands of worker bees laying eggs in each colony. Queen bees mate with drones, establish new colonies and lay eggs. Queen bees lay eggs in the nest’s eyes, and when they hatch, they become larvae. There is only one queen bee in each colony with a production capacity of 2,000 eggs per day.

Adult workers serve the larvae in the eyes and feed them with pollen and honey for about three weeks, during which time they become adults as well. Mature bees chew the glazed eyes to emerge. Drones are a minority in a colony, and they say they serve only one purpose: to mate with an unmated queen. Immediately after mating, the drones die.

Although sterile female females do not usually produce their own eggs or establish new colonies, they do perform important tasks. Young honeybee workers serve the larvae by releasing fluid from their abdominal glands. As workers mature, they become responsible for the transport and storage of food collected by field farmers. When they become strong adults, they forage for food as foragers until they die.



  • Distribution

Honeybee species are found worldwide. They are most commonly seen in the summer and late spring when new queens leave their old colonies with thousands of workers to build new nests. During this period, bees can be seen congregating in large groups (swarms) to find a new nesting site. It takes about 24 hours for this swarm to find a new home. While most swarms are harmless, some types of bees are extremely aggressive and may attack for no reason.

  • Pollination

For millions of years, honeybees have been the main pollinators, and so flower-producing plants rely on bees. The purpose of the plant is reproduction. Bees achieve this by unwittingly transferring pollen, the male sperm cell of a plant, from one flower to another. Without pollination, many plants will not be able to grow and will eventually die.

People benefit from this relationship with the production of crops and honey. Most of the crops that humans consume are pollinated by honeybees. Most breeders support honeybee colonies for this reason. Without pollination, plants do not produce fruits and vegetables. Besides pollination, honeybees extract nectar along with pollen from flowers. The nectar is carried back to the nest where it is turned into honey in a process.

  • Honeybee Dance

There are two major theories on how honeybee foragers communicate with other workers about a new food source: honeybee dance and scent waves. Honeybee dancing is more widely accepted, although there is evidence to support every claim. While dance language combines dance and scent as a bee communication tool, the scent wave theory claims that honeybee gathering is based solely on the scent of flowers. The honeybee dance plays an important role in the survival of the species: it has been part of colonies for many years and remains one of the most important methods of obtaining food.

The honeybee dance is a way for bees to communicate with each other. A honeybee discovering a new food source communicates its location to other honeybees through honeybee dance. When a worker bee returns from a fertile food source, it will dance in a circle in the nest.



There are two main types of honeybee dances: circular dance and wag dance. Circular dance, as the name suggests, is a movement in the shape of a circle. This is used to indicate that the food source is less than 50 meters from the nest. The tail-wagging dance is in the form of a pattern of eight, the bee wags its belly and this is used for food located more than 150 meters away. The exact distance is reported according to the dance time. A longer dance time indicates a greater distance.

The dancing worker bee can also show direction with a tail-wagging dance and by moving with reference to the vertical position of the sun. Degrees to the vertical right or left indicate the direction of the food. For example, if the bee’s dance is rotated 30 degrees vertically, the food is at an angle of 30 degrees from the nest associated with the sun’s vertical.

This language can also be understood by humans, and researchers determine its effectiveness by measuring the quantity and quality of new pollen and nectar brought into the nest. However, some features of this dance language are still poorly understood, including the bees’ understanding of dance patterns even in the dark.

Honeybee Breeding Mechanics


When an unmated queen flies to an area where thousands of male honeybees are waiting, she mates with several males in flight. A drone attaches to the queen and stings her genitals, ejaculating her sperm. After ejaculation, the drone moves away from the queen, but her genitals are severed from her body and remain attached to the newly fertilized queen.

The next male honeybee to mate with the queen removes the previous genitalia and loses his after ejaculation. Drones can mate only 7-10 times during their mating flight, and after mating, the drone quickly dies because its abdomen is split when its genitals emerge. Even drones that survive the mating flight are kicked out of their nests because they complete their task by mating.

Unmated queens mate early in their lives and only participate in one mating flight. After several matings during this flight, a queen deposits up to 100 million sperm in her oviduct. However, only five to six million pieces are stored in the queen bee’s sperm sac. The queen uses only a few of these sperm at a time to fertilize the eggs throughout her life. If a queen’s sperm stock is depleted during her lifetime, the next generation of queens will mate and produce their own colonies.

The honeybee mother controls the sex of her young: as the egg moves from the ovary to the oviduct, a queen can determine whether a particular egg will be fertilized. Fertilized eggs turn into female workers and queens, while unfertilized eggs become drones. Female workers cannot mate, but they can lay unfertilized eggs, which turn into male honeybees.



Queen bees lay their eggs in structural oval-shaped cells that stick to the ceiling of the hive. Worker honeybees fill these cells with royal jelly to prevent the larvae from falling. While workers who will soon mature are fed with royal jelly for the first two days, future queen bees are given royal jelly during the entire larval stage. The development of each colony member varies by class: drones need 24 days to develop from egg to adult, workers need 21 days, and queens only 16 days.

  • Honeybee Egg

The life cycle of all insects, including the honeybee, begins with the egg. During the winter, the queen lays eggs in each cell in a comb and creates a new colony. Fertilized eggs turn into female worker bees, unfertilized eggs turn into male honeybees. For a colony to survive, the queen must lay fertilized eggs to create worker bees that forage for food and look after the colony.

Each colony contains only one queen, which mates early and collects more than 5 million sperm. The honey bee mother makes a mating flight and collects enough sperm during this mating to lay eggs throughout her life. If a queen can no longer lay eggs, the new queens are responsible for mating and laying honeybee eggs.

Honeybee eggs are 1 to 1.5 mm long, about half the size of a single grain of rice. When laying eggs, the queen moves along the comb and closely examines each eye before laying her eggs. The egg-laying process takes only a few seconds, and a queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs in a single day.

A young queen lays her eggs using an organized pattern and places each egg in one well next to the others. Queens begin to lay their eggs in the center of the eye frame so workers can place honey, royal jelly, and other food for the larvae on the outer edges. However, as the queen ages, she lays fewer eggs less regularly.

When the queen lays a honeybee egg, the egg is attached to the inside of the eye with a mucous thread. In the first stage of development, the digestive system, nervous system, and outer covering are formed. After three days, the egg is fed by honey, royal jelly, and other liquids from the plants by the worker honeybees and turns into larvae. These honey bee larvae do not have legs, eyes, antennae, or wings; they resemble a grain of rice with a small mouth. They feed and become adult workers, queens, or drones.

  • Honeybee Queen

Although many consider the honeybee queen to be the most important member of the colony, worker bees can sometimes identify that their colony needs a new queen. This occurs due to hive shrinkage, poor age-related performance, and unexpected death of the queen bee. Space in a hive can be tight, as the queen bee can produce up to 2,000 eggs each day. The mature queen takes half of the worker bees in her colony to establish a new colony and swarms. The other half of the worker bees stay with the new queen and continue their duties in the old colony.

Alternatively, as queens age, their egg-laying ability decreases, and they lay their eggs in more irregular patterns. If an old queen finds it difficult to fulfill such responsibilities, workers will have another queen take her place. The aging queen bee is killed after the replacement process.



Finally, when a honeybee queen dies suddenly, an urgent and unplanned replacement process begins. Worker honey bees identify a few larvae in the appropriate age range and begin to turn these larvae into queen bees. The only difference between a worker honey bee and a queen is the food taken during the maturation process: workers feed prospective queens with royal jelly for their entire lives, while worker bees are fed royal jelly only during the first two days of the larval stage.

Each colony can be managed by only one queen at a time. When an unfertilized queen emerges, it finds other unfertilized queens and eliminates them one by one. If two unfertilized queens appear at the same time, they will fight each other to the death.

Queen bees control their workers by releasing pheromones known as queen bee scents. Once the new queen has mastered the hive, she embarks on a mating flight in a drone area where thousands of males await. Drones detect the presence of a queen by their scent, but they can only find a queen if it is within sight. Drones and queens mate in the air, and the drones die soon after they have given their sperm to the queen. Queen bees mate with several drones during each mating flight by collecting the sperm of the drones in the sperm sac.

The queen mates early, as her sperm reserves allow her to lay millions of eggs during her lifetime, and only participates in a mating flight once. Although a queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day during active seasons, the amount and speed of a queen’s egg-laying depend on the weather, food availability, and honey. The fertilized eggs of the queen bee become female workers or future honey bee queens. The unfertilized eggs of the queen bee turn into drones.

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