The life cycle begins when an established colony’s queen begins laying eggs within individual cells inside a honeycomb.
Queens store more than 5 million sperm cells inside their bodies, enabling them to lay eggs throughout their life after only one mating flight. When the eggs hatch, those that were fertilized become female worker bees, while the unfertilized eggs become male bees, or drones. It is the responsibility of the queen to lay enough fertilized eggs to produce a well-developed force of worker bees for the colony.
Bees pass through four stages: eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. Bee eggs measure approximately 1 mm long. Queen bees examine their eggs before placing them side by side at the center of the comb frame, with pollen surrounding them. Queens can lay up to 2,000 eggs each day throughout the spring. As queens age, the number of eggs they lays significantly diminishes. They may also no longer be able to place the eggs closely together, resulting in a patchy comb.
After three days, the eggs hatch into larvae, which have no eyes, wings, legs or antennae. Inside the hives, certain bees are responsible for feeding the larvae with a combination of pollen and honey. Around six days after hatching as larvae, they reach the third stage, spin cocoons and eventually hatch into adult bees after another seven to 10 days. Like ants, newly hatched bees have different designated responsibilities until they grow old.