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The Life Cycle of a Honeybee

Honeybees are divided into three castes: queens, worker bees and drones. Queens and worker bees are both female – worker bees cannot be impregnated, however – while drones are male; their sole purpose is to impregnate a queen.

The life cycles prior to adulthood for these three types of bees varies, but all are all completed in less than a month. It lasts 16 days for queens, 21 days for worker bees and 24 days for drones. The total lifespans depend on a number of factors but can are generally several years for queens, a few weeks to a few months for worker bees and up to a few months for drones although they will die immediately after having sex. 


The first step of the life cycle is as an egg, which is generally just over a millimeter in length. Fertilized eggs end up being worker bees or, much less often, queens while non-fertilized eggs develop into drones. Their status as eggs in all three cases lasts up three days before they progress into the larva stage.


This step generally takes around six days, usually just less than that for queens and slightly more for drones. At this stage, the honeybees are white and worm-like and grow quite quickly. They are also quite hungry, eating more than 1,000 meals on a daily basis. By the end of this nearly week-long period, a honeybee will have multiplied more than 1,500 times in size. Once it concludes, the larvae are sealed in by worker bees and start creating cocoons to further protect themselves. 


The pupal stage is the penultimate one for a honeybee. It takes about eight days for queens, 11 for workers and 14 for drones. At this step, nobody can see what is happening, but a lot is going on inside those cocoons. Eyes, legs and wings form. Coloration occurs. Fine hairs develop all over their bodies. 


Once the pupal phase has been completed, the now-adult bee chews its way through its waxy cocoon and joins the outside world as a fully formed bee. 

Queen bees initially eliminate other queens, including any other queen larvae, before embarking on a mating flight about six days after emerging and then returning to the colony for the duration of their lives. 

Drone bees also initially leave the hive about six days after emerging, either successfully mating with a queen or returning to the hive to try again later. In times of crisis in the hive, drones are generally the first to be sacrificed. 

Worker bees are usually put right to work, feeding and cleaning larvae, cleaning up and guarding the hive, storing and packing pollen and so on. After three weeks have passed, they will start foraging. 

If you'd like to do your part to help ensure that these honeybees live as full of lives as possible and help reverse this disturbing trend of bees' lifespans being shortened, join the beescause movement. We use all proceeds from the sale of our beescause bracelets to help build and maintain hives for our bees.