Have you ever wondered what happens in the lives of these buzzing bugs and how they produce the delicious fluid called- Honey? Well, read one! There are three stages in the lifecycle of a honey bee: the larval, the pupal, and the adult stage. In a typical hive, a single queen bee lays fertilized and unfertilized eggs. A fertile egg will hatch worker and queen bees, unfertilized eggs hatch drone bees. An egg usually takes around 3-4 days to hatch; the development of bees varies within hives and species.
They hatch from fertile eggs and are always female. The larval stage occurs after an egg hatches and lasts for sixor more days, depending on species. A compound called “”worker jelly””is fed to the larvae in mass quantity for the first few days. This is also called brood food and is produced from the hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands of adult worker bees. They are fed 150-1000 times a day for up to 3 days. After 8-9 days, the brood cell is capped, and the larvae molt by spinning a silk cocoon and marking the beginning of the pupal stage.
This stage is when most of the adult bee formation happens; wings, legs, abdomen, internal organs, and muscle development. The food eaten and stored during the larval stage supplements growth during the pupal stage. After 20-21 days, the developed pupa chews through the cap of the brood cell and emerges as a teneral or callow bee. Their skin is soft and takes around 3-4 hours to harden.
Once they emerge out of the brood cell, the bees need to feed within a few hours. If at this time the bee does not ingest the required bacteria that pollens bring, the lifespan and development of the bee are threatened. For the first three weeks, these bees carry out functions within the safety of the hive. This includes feeding, cleaning larvae, cleaning the hive cells, building combs, guarding, patrolling, accepting pollen from foragers, storing, curing, packing pollen, etc. After these threeweeks, the glands of these bees begin to produce food, and wax formation or disintegration begins. This is when they move out of the hive and startthe life of a forager.
A worker bee usually lives for 15-40 summer days. Changes in the climate and arrival of winter bring about changes in the anatomy of the bee. Well developed hypopharyngeal glands and also increased fat body supplies can enable a worker bee to live for 140-340 days.
Queen bees and worker bees hatch from unfertilized eggs. The only factor that differentiates them is the diet. A royal diet provided to larvae placed in a specially constructed cell by worker bees called “”queen cup””form the larvae into a queen bee. Upon hatching, this bee is called a Virgin bee. Whichever queen bee hatches first will kill or eliminate the others, and will leave the hive to mate with up to 20 drone bees.
Drone bees are male and makeup 15% of the colony. The drone larvae are fed only pollen and honey. The drone bee’s sole purpose is to mate with the Virgin queen bee. After successfully mating, they die within a short time. The lifespan of a drone bee is eightweeks.
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