Bees, Wasps, and Kin

American Honey Bee Life Cycle of Bees
Apis millifera


The life of all honeybees starts as an egg, about the size of a comma "," which is laid by the queen in the bottom of a wax cell in the brood area of a hive. A worker egg hatches after 3 days into a larva. Nurse bees feed it royal jelly at first, then pollen & honey for 6 days.It then becomes an inactive pupa.
The honey comb has hexagon cells on both sides of a vertical central wall. As shown in the photo, these cells are inclined upward, primarily to retain liquid nectar and honey.

Honey Bee Egg

Male bees are called drones. They emerge in 24 days, larger than the female workers. They have large eyes and no stinger. They lead a life of leisure, doing no work while being fed by the workers. Their sole purpose is to mate with a queen from any hive, thereby transfering the genetic traits of their mother. They die upon mating, or are expelled from the hive as winter approaches.

Male Honey Bee
Queen Bee Larva

Before an old queen dies, or departs to start another hive, she lays an egg in a large queen cell. The nurse bees feed the larva a diet of only royal jelley, or bee's milk, made from a gland on their heads. In only 16 days a new queen emerges. She seeks out and destroys any rival queens, because there can be only one queen per colony.

Queen Bee
Queen Bee Laying Eggs

When 10 days old, a new queen takes a high maiden flight, pursued by drones from nearby hives. In about 13 minutes, she mates with 7 or more of them, storing their sperm for the rest of her life of 2 years. She produces chemical scents which regulate hive activity. The queen lays about 1200 eggs per day, about 200,000 per season. This is necessary since worker bees only live 6 weeks in the summertime; and a colony needs to have 40 to 50 thousand bees at its peak. She is cared for by the worker bees. The queen shown on the left has been marked with a red dot for easy identification.

Worker Bee Gathering Pollen

Worker bees gather pollen which they stick to their back legs, to carry back to the hive where it is used as food. Pollen from the stamens of one flower, stick to their bodies, and is carried to another flower where it rubs off onto the pistil, resulting in cross pollination. Mankind's food supply depends greatly on crop pollination by honeybees. Nectar is sucked up through the proboscis, mixed with enzymes in the stomach, and carried back to the hive, where it is stored in wax cells and evaporated into honey.
Worker bees must maintain the hive's brood chamber at 94 degrees F to incubate the eggs. If it is too hot, they collect water and deposit it around the hive, then fan air through with their wings causing cooling by evaporation. If it is too cold, they cluster together to generate body heat. Propolis, or tree resin, is used to seal any openings in the hive against drafts or invaders.

Worker Bee Fanning Hive