The Life Cycle of Bees - Phases and Scheme

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Bees are highly organized, communicative, and role-assigned social animals to complete activities so that the hive works like clockwork. All this takes place throughout its life cycle and, in this article by Ecologist Verde, we will expose what it is like the life cycle of bees, as well as the other individual members of the hive. We will also talk about how they differ from each other within the hive.

What is the life cycle of bees

Bees are arthropods, that is, invertebrate insects with jointed legs and exoskeleton, that pass through a life cycle with metamorphosis, in which they have to go through several changes, physiological and morphological, to get to form a completely different animal. There are different types of metamorphosis, since it can occur completely or incompletely but, in the case of bees, it is complete. Below are the phases that make up the life cycle of bees.

You may also be interested in this article on What are arthropods: characteristics, classification and examples.

Laying of the egg

Bees begin in an egg state stored in an apiary cell. These eggs receive multiple attention from the community because each one will give rise to a newborn bee. For this, solitary bees have all their food supplies in their cell, while social ones carry the food they need to their eggs.


Only 3 days pass after having laid the eggs when a larva emerges from them. Belonging to arthropods, these larvae must molt to increase its size until you reach the desired one. During this phase they reach their maximum larval size (between 5 and 6 centimeters). Even so, the bee does not have external legs or wings, since it does not develop any function or activity within the honeycomb and simply limits itself to eating. Has a duration from 4 to 9 days where the bees cap their cell, that is, they open it.

You may also be interested in taking a look at this other article on the Characteristics of bees.

Pupa and metamorphosis

The larvae develop into pupae, structures where they enclosed in an immobile capsule to carry out the necessary metamorphosis to generate a tripartite structure with head, thorax and abdomen, in addition to the legs, wings and stinger in the case of a female bee. This process lasts from 10 to 23 days and during it, the bee does not ingest any type of food.

Here you can find more information about What is metamorphosis.


After metamorphosis is complete, the new adult breaks the larval cuticle and is ready to start your life as an adult bee. Depending on whether there has been fertilization of the eggs or not, the bees can be born male or female. It is a process known as haplodiploidy system in which, if the egg has not been fertilized, a male will be formed, but if it has been fertilized, female bees will be born. It should be noted that each sex has different activities and that we will see later.

Life cycle of queen bees

The queen bee is selected from the egg, while the other bees will be workers. This depends on the diet To the larvae, as the future queens receive pure jelly, an elixir is created by the worker bees through their hypopharyngeal glands. The development of queen bees is carried out as follows:

  • Hatching: it takes 3 to 5 days for the egg to hatch. This type of bees are born in a larger real cell than normal cells where they are provided with pure jelly.
  • Larva: during the next 5 days the larvae gestate.
  • Pupal stage: during the next 7 days: the pupal stage follows. From here emerges a sexually developed adult queen bee, the only one in the entire hive, as a result of its special diet.
  • Reconnaissance flights: 2 days later, after completing the metamorphosis, he embarks on reconnaissance flights.

Fertilization of bees

After 7 days, the queen bees undertake nuptial flights for four days, where 10 to 16 drones are fertilized. From here, the process unfolds as follows:

  • Once it is fertilized, it gathers up 5 million sperm cells in its sperm library (organ of the reproductive system of female bees) to produce eggs throughout its life.
  • On day 14 of being fertilized, you can start laying eggs. In fact, the queen bee is the only one that lays eggs.
  • Can put daily 2 thousand eggs approximately and places them directly in the cells leaving a space for the worker bees to supply the cells with food.

There is only one queen per honeycomb, so the lifespan of a queen bee is 2 to 5 years, due to its feeding of royal jelly. Her life ends when her ability to lay eggs declines and a new queen takes her place.

Life cycle of worker bees

If we focus on the life cycle of worker bees, it develops as follows:

  • Hatching: The egg takes 3 to 5 days to hatch, from which the larva emerges.
  • Feeding: They are initially fed royal jelly mixed with pollen. The first days, the jelly they receive is not pure like the one that future queens receive. It is not until the third day that they can feed on pure jelly. Then they change to bee bread, a mixture of pollen, honey and enzymes that is fermented to sterilize the product. To increase its amount of vitamins, amino acids and proteins, resulting in a very nutritious food. By not receiving only royal jelly, it results in sexually developed individuals not being formed.
  • Larva: it passes in this stage for 6 days, until it leaves its cell to form a pupa.
  • Pupa: 12 days pass until they finally become adult worker bees.

A curiosity that should be noted is that the worker bees are all female and distribute their activities according to age. So it is so:

  • Before 21 days: They do indoor activities such as building hexagonal wax cells, feeding the larvae with bee bread, cleaning the hive, producing royal jelly as nurses, storing the food supply, defending the entrance to the comb, and they ventilate to conserve their food supply.
  • After 21 days: their wax glands atrophy from so much work, so they go outside to carry out other essential activities for the functioning of the hive. At this point they are called foragers and their work consists of collecting water, pollen and nectar from plants. They live actively for only 6 weeks, during the spring to summer season.

If you want to know more about the function of bees, do not hesitate to read this article by Ecologist Verde that we recommend.

Drone life cycle

Drones are the male bees, which are unfertilized ovules. They go through the parthenogenesis process for three days to create the egg and, for 7 days, the larvae develop in a capped cell. The pupa closes for 14 days to create the adult.

His main job is impregnate the queen to produce eggs. They are ready to fertilize between 12 and 24 days after being born. They do this in the air during the nuptial flights of the queen bees. Their life span is related to the reproductive season of the queen and they die after fertilization, since their reproductive system remains stored in the queen. Before fertilizing the queen, they can carry out other activities such as distributing honey among the other individuals in the hive.

We leave you this other post on How bees communicate, in case you are still curious about bees.

If you want to read more articles similar to The life cycle of bees, we recommend that you enter our Wild Animals category.

  • Valega, O. (2016). Life in the hive. Available at
  • Cooper, O. (2022). Beekeeping Guide for Beginners. Available at:
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