Life Cycle of Bees:

Everything in a hive revolves around the queen bee. She is the mother to all of the bees in the hive. She lays each egg. The queen chooses to lay fertilized eggs (girls) or unfertilized eggs (boys). Eggs are tiny white specs about half the size of a grain of rice. The majority of the eggs are fertilized. From there the nurse bees take over and the egg grows into the larvae stage. The nurse bees provide food for the developing bees. If the hive needs a new queen, nurse bees will feed a cell only “royal jelly” the whole time the bee is developing. As the baby bees continue to grow the larvae move into the pupa stage. This is when the cells are capped. Capped cells are known as brood. You can tell what kind of bee will be born based on just looking at the capped cells. The ones in the image above are all normal female worker bees. If they were male bees the cap would bulge out from the surface. If it was a queen cell the cell is greatly enlarged and looks like a peanut.

Jobs in the hive:

Before we get to the jobs it’s important to note there are three distinct types of honey bees. The queen, worker bees (all of the other girl bees), and drones (boy bees).

The Queen

The queen has a very important and special job. She lays all of the eggs in the hive, often 1,500 a day! That means all of the bees in that hive are her children. She will only leave the hive a few times. Shortly after she is born she will leave the hive to mate. Once she is mated she won’t leave unless the hive swarms. The queen can be hard to see. She looks like the rest of the girls but has a longer abdomen. In the picture below the queen has been marked with a yellow dot to make her easier to find.

The Queen

Drones (boys)

Drones are the bee boys. The life of a drone is not very enviable. Drones cannot feed themselves and rely of the nurse bees to take care of them. Their only purpose is to mate with a queen. Sadly for him if he succeeds at mating he dies. If he doesn’t succeed a hive will tolerate him for some time but especially as winter approaches and resources are limited the workers will kick him out of the hive and he’ll starve. Drones can be identified by their larger bodies. Additionally, their eyes are larger and touch in the middle. Bellow is an image comparing boy and girl bees.

Boy vs. Girl Bees

Workers (girls)

They say the work of a woman is never done and in a hive that is certainly true. Female bees outnumber the males by 100 to 1 and for good reason. As bees mature they change jobs. They start with “house” jobs, or jobs inside the hive, and eventually graduate to “forage” jobs.

House jobs:

  • Nursing – take care of and feed the larvae.
  • Attending to the queen – groom and feed the queen so she can focus on laying eggs.
  • Cleaning other bees – clean dust or other things off of other bees in the hive
  • Cleaning the hive – clean out cells after use so they are ready for the next thing, clear the hive of any other debris that has made it’s way in the hive.
  • Undertaker – most bees die outside the hive, but for the ones that die inside the hive these bees remove them.
  • Building honeycomb – they can secrete wax which can be used to construct new comb.
  • Capping cells – they secrete wax and use it to cap pupae cells as well as honey that is fully ripened.
  • Pollen packing – collect pollen from foragers and pack it into cells for later use
  • Nectar ripening – They deposit raw honey into cells and fan it with their wings in order to reduce the moisture content
  • Sealing the hive – use propolis from foragers to seal cracks in the hive. They can also use propolis to glue frames or other items too large to remove into the hive.

Foraging jobs:

  • Collect nectar and pollen – they fly from flower to flower collecting as much as they can before returning home
  • Collect propolis – the collect the sticky substance used as glue to seal the hive
  • Collect water – they find local water sources to bring water back to the hive. In the summer this is used to help cool the hive as well as feed larvae.
  • Guarding the hive – these bees protect the entrances to make sure only bees that belong to the hive are allowed in. They can tell this by smelling the pheromones bees carry. If they detect danger they emit their own pheromone to warn the hive. Girl bees are also the only ones that can sting you! Once they sting something they die.

Want to see our bees in action? Visit the About page to watch a video!