Bee Life Cycle
Honey Bee Life Cycle
Honey bees are active all year round; they do not hibernate like other bee species.
Honey bees collect nectar from plants, trees and flowers in the summer; they then reduce the water content of the nectar which becomes honey. Honey is the food source for bees; a surplus of honey is stored for use over the winter months.
There are three types of honey bee:
- 1. A queen, which under normal circumstances there is only one. In a healthy honey bee colony, the queen is the only one which lays eggs.
- 2. Workers, which are sterile females that make up the majority of individuals and carry out most of the daily duties such as nectar, pollen and water collection, brood care and honey comb building.
- 3. Drones, which are males. The drone's sole purpose is to mate with new queens. Drone bees have no sting.
Development stages of honey bee eggs.
- Queens: 3 days as an egg, 5 days as larvae, 8 days as pupae.
16 days total in development then hatch as adult. Lifespan 4 years.
- Workers: 3 days as an egg, 6 days as larvae, 12 days as pupae.
21 days total in development then hatch as adult. Lifespan 6 weeks.
- Drones: 3 days as an egg, 7 days as larvae, 14 days as pupae.
24 days total in development then hatch as adult. Lifespan 3 months.
How honey bees reproduce.
The way Honey reproduce is quite complex. When a colony becomes too large for their current nest the worker bees construct special cells where they make new queens.
The original queen leaves the nest taking approx half the bees with her. This is called swarming.
Once they have left the nest they usually cluster on a branch or some other object and send scout bees out to look for a new home.
Once a new home has been found the mass of clustered bees takes off and flies en-mass to their new home.
The new queens produced in the old nest hatch; normally the first queen to hatch will seek out the other queens who are still encased in their cells. Any queens found will be stung to death. The victorious queen then takes over the colony and mates with drone bees.
Sometimes more than one queen hatches and smaller swarms will leave the nest, these are called cast swarms the queen in a cast swarm is un-mated.
Bumble Bee Life Cycle
Bumble bees have a different life cycle to honey bees. In the winter months a queen Bumble bee is in hibernation, they do not store honey to feed from like honey bees do. Queen Bumble bees normally hibernate in the ground.
When the temperature starts to rise in spring, the queens emerge from their winter sleep and start to feed on nectar producing flowers.
The queens search out a suitable nest site, often the same areas are used year after year. Once the nest site is chosen, the queen makes a beeswax honey pot which she then fills with a small amount of honey. Bumble bees do not make enough Honey to harvest in the same way as honey bees do.
Pollen is also stored in the nest for the queen to use in hard times of bad weather. The queen lays a small amount of eggs on a ball of pollen and then keeps the eggs warm during the incubation period of around 4 days. Young bumble bees are fed pollen.
There are several different species of Bumble bee and pupating times vary. When the young larvae are ready to pupate into adults, they spin a silk cocoon where they undergo transformation into adult bees.
In late summer queens and drones are produced which mate, the drones die and the queens go into hibernation ready for the next year.
Mason Bee Life Cycle
Unlike Honey bees or Bumble bees, mason (or masonry) bees are solitary bees. Solitary bees do not make any honey or wax.
Mason bees emerge in the spring from their cocoons. Males emerge first. When the females emerge, they mate and the males then die.
Mason bees like to nest in small tube like holes. Plastic weep vents and window surrounds are favoured, often these are in brickwork and people mistake them for wasps.
Females collect nectar and pollen to feed their offspring.
The female packs mud into the hole, then nectar and pollen, she then lays an egg and packs more mud to seal it all in. She will keep doing this until the hole is filled. Male eggs are laid last in the tube ready to emerge first.
Once the hole is filled the female will plug the hole with mud.
By midsummer the larvae have used all the stores provided by their mother and are ready to spin a cocoon to pupate into adults.
Mining Bee Life Cycle
Mining bees have a similar life-cycle to Masonry Bees, except they burrow into the ground to lay their eggs. They are a solitary bee.