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What is the life cycle of a worker honey bee?

What is the life cycle of a worker honey bee?

Worker bees are the most numerous members of the bee society. Their number varies depending on the season and the strength of the bee colony. During the winter the number of worker bees in the hive is about 20,000, and in the summer, super strong bee colonies can reach up to 100,000 bees.

Worker bees perform various tasks inside and outside the hive. They feed the brood at all stages of development, they feed and nurture the queen, produce wax and build honeycombs, collect nectar, bring water to the hive, collect pollen powder and propolis, etc.

In the bee society there is a division of labor according to the age of the beeс. All jobs can be divided into those performed by young bees within the hive up to their age of 21 days, and those performed by bees older than 21 days, outside the hive.

The bees lay from fertilized eggs that the queen lays in the worker cells. After three days, the egg shell cracks and the larva hatches from it.

This larva immediately needs food, which is royal jelly.

From that moment on, the young bees feed the larva abundantly, so that it swims in royal jelly. But, they feed the worker bee larvae only in the first three days of age with royal jelly.

Тhe larvae, which are to develop into queens, are constantly fed on royal jelly. In fact, whether a larva develops into a worker bee or queen bee depends primarily on the food it receives.

After three days of age, until the cells with the worker larvae are closed at the end of the ninth day, the bees feed the larva with honey and pollen.

One part of the food remains in the covered worker cell, so in the phases of the larva’s passage through other stages of development, until the young bee leaves the cell, it does not need nutrition. About 21 days pass from the moment when the queen lays an egg in the worker cell, until the young bee comes out.

When the time comes, the young bee bites the lid of the cell and comes out. Older bees also help her with that.

She, so young, still can’t fly. That is why she has easier work to do in the hive. Her first job is to clean the cells from which the young bees come out. By cleaning these cells, they prepare them for the queen bee to lay them again. The young bee performs these tasks until she is about five days old.

The next job of young bees is to feed bee larvae, but those that get honey and pollen powder for food. The young bees feed on a larger amount of pollen, and the hypopharyngeal and mandibular glands develop in them. Then they can feed the youngest larvae and the queen with royal jelly.
Royal jelly is produced by bees from 8 to 12 days of age.

The queen attendants take care of the queen by feeding and grooming her. Very important is their role in spreading Queen Mandibular Pheromone throughout the hive. This is a pheromone given off by queen, as a signal to the rest of the bees that the hive still has a viable queen.

After this period of age, the mandibular glands become stunted and they stop secreting royal jelly.
When a bee is 12 days old, it begins to develop wax glands that remain so developed until 18 days of age. During this period, bees secrete wax and build honeycombs.

Foraging Bees bring pollen to the hive that needs to be stored in the cells. Young bees take the pollen from the foraging bees and they place it into the honeycomb cells. Its covered with honey which preserves it from spoiling, and a new product is produced called bee bread, which is used for feeding the brood.

Also young bees ventilate the hive with their wings, air conditioning for the hive and reducing the percentage of water within the honey.

After 18 days of age, the bees perform the duty of guards in the hive. In cases when strong grazing occurs in nature, all these household chores are shortened by a few days, so domestic bees become gatherers even before 21 days of age.


Foragers visit flowers, to collect pollen and nectar. The bees can travel several kilometers away from the hive to find the best food sources. Upon returning to the hive, they drop off their wares to younger worker bees who transfer the nectar and pollen to an open cell.

In addition to the above-mentioned jobs that the worker bees performs during their life in the bee society, under certain conditions, when the queen disappears or is killed in some way, the worker bees can produce a new so-called “false” queen, that can only lay unfertilized eggs, from which drones hatch. When the queen is present in the bee colony, she produces pheromones that act on the worker bees so that they do not lay unfertilized eggs.

With the disappearance of pheromones if no queen is present, the sexual organs develop in younger worker bees. They are then fed more abundantly by bees that produce royal jelly. Until then, their genitals were stunted. Due to the small number of fallopian tubes in the ovaries, one bee can lay only 5-10 unfertilized eggs.

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