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Life cycle of honey bees

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The life cycle of honey bees is holometabolo. That is, individuals that undergo four different stages of life development: egg, larva, pupa, imago.

The life cycle of honey bees goes through all stages, during the different stages they are cared for and fed by nurses who take turns keeping them safe.

All people who want to learn beekeeping are amazed to discover the life process of bees.

bee cycle
Life cycle of bees

Bee metamorphosis life cycle


The queen lays a single egg in each cell or wax socket intended for brooding. The eggs are small, white, and oval and without segments. The larvae emerge or hatch from the eggs after three days of life.

life cycle of bees


Just hatched from the egg, the larvae curl into a C-shape at the bottom of the cell, where the typical segments can be seen. The larvae are white, blind, and limbless, with a wet sheen.

The larvae are fed larval food and / or royal jelly within their alveoli (hexagonal cells), until they are large enough to metamorphose, also known as the pupal or nymph period.

life cycle of bees
The life cycle of bees

Last phase

At that time, the adult worker bees close the alveoli of the pre-pupae with wax, something known in beekeeping as «capped cells».

It should be noted that the chemical signal in the form of an odor that the larva gives off to be capped is also interpreted by the Varroa destructor mite-parasite to opportunely hide inside the alveolus.

life cycle of bees

Pupal or nymph cycle

life cycle of bees

The metamorphosis of the larvae into pupae that will mature into adult insects takes place in the hidden intimacy of the operculum, under the closing wax of the cell.

This period of rest is completed in a longer period in the case of drones, due to their greater size. Some drone covers (drones) have a characteristic pore, in the case of the pupa in Apis cerana and Apis Koschevnikovi Buttel-Reepen.

Cycle of adults or imagos

According to their pupal development, the new adults work their way out of their closed (capped) cells.

Honey bees are considered super organisms, since the entire colony is a biological unit, above the individual limited capacity.

different stages of growth bees

The cycle of reproduction

Reproduction with respect to a colony is known as a «swarm» and usually occurs in the spring and summer. However, swarms can be more frequent in tropical areas, where the climate is more favorable throughout the year.

The estimation made by young bees on the abundance of resources (nectar and pollen), the size of the colony when it is large and the weather forecast are the main triggers for the generation of a new swarm.

The swarm of bees

To initiate the swarm (the process of decision and reproduction of a swarm), the colony will prepare 10 to 20 new daughter queens.

When the daughter queens are in the final stage of pupation, the queen mother and up to two-thirds of the adult worker bees leave the colony in search of a place to establish a new hive.

como perciben las abejas su ambiente

The Queens

The daughter queens will fight or be aborted in their final nymph process, so that only one new queen remains in the colony.

The chosen queen is a virgin, but will leave the colony on the «nuptial flight» to mate with up to 8-20 drones from other families, who will die in the process.

The sperm that the queen collects is stored in a special organ called the spermatheca and is used by the queen to fertilize the eggs for the rest of her reproductive life.

life cycle of bees

Worker, queen or drone?

The sex of each bee is determined through the fertilization of an ovum of the queen, it will be male if the ovum is not fertilized with sperm (haploid) or female if the queen adds a micro-dose of sperm to the ovule (diploid like the mammals).

life cycle of bees

In this system, the queen decides the sex of her offspring by means of unfertilized or fertilized eggs.

Unfertilized eggs (no genetic paternal contribution) will become drones, and fertilized eggs (both maternal and paternal genetic contributions) become females (workers or queens).

Female larvae are further differentiated between workers or queens based on the basis of the diet they are fed by young (nurse) bees.

The royals in the hive

In addition to building a special cell for the queens, known as royalty, which has the shape and size of a peanut pod.

life cycle of bees


The larvae destined to be workers are fed a standard diet based mainly on pollen and nectar (food or larval porridge) until they become adult workers at 21 days.

On the contrary, the larvae that are fed only with royal jelly will become queens, in just 16 days from the fertilization of the ovum by the sperm.

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