Bee Life Cycle

All About the Bee Life Cycle

Enter the marvelous, meticulous world of the bee. Life cycle is as varied as the thousands of bee species are, not to mention the differences in lifespan within each individual colony. Three stages are certain for each type of bee: life cycle starts in the egg stage, when the queen determines the sex of the egg by fertilization or lack thereof. Most generally, in bee colonies, the fertilized eggs are to be undeveloped, or sterile,  female worker bees, and the unfertilized eggs are to become the male drones whose soul purpose in life is to fly out for mating and then come home for a meal.

The next phase in the growth of a bee: life cycle number two, larvae. The larvae in some species are left to grow up alone within their cell, and have been left a ten day provision of food. This rationing is meant to get them through to the pupae stage, where they will use all of their energy to nit a cocoon. Most colonized species feed and clean up after their young on a daily, even hourly basis. The worker bee in the honey bee colony is expected to collect nectar and pollen, feed the queen, feed the young, make the honey, do the housekeeping, and defend the hive. The drones lay low and have no duties, but are banished from the warm sanctity of the hive when the winter season approaches.

The amazing honeybee has a distinct gift. If at any time during the larvae or pupae stage of the brood the colony should need a new queen, a store of hormonal secretions known as royal jelly can be administered to a fertilized youngster, turning what was to be a tiny worker bee into a large and fertile queen.

Worker bees in any colonized environment have a shorter lifespan than the other members of the hive, so it makes perfect sense that the ratio of worker bees to drones is so staggering. 98% of any given colony is comprised of these faithful servants. Though the queen decides who is who, the overall result is usually the same. In cases where the colony outgrows the hive, scouts are sent to find a new building site. These are normally peaceful swarms, though even the most amiable species will attack in unison should a perceived threat trigger the defense pheromone present in all bees.

The bee life cycle is a complex one, as with each species comes a new set of challenges, preferences, life spans, and tolerances. Solitary and colonized bees are born and develop in the same ways, but instinct takes them along their individual journey thereafter, making them all the more fascinating.