Bees are highly organized, communicative, social animals with assigned roles to complete activities so that the hive works like clockwork. All this takes place throughout their life cycle and, in this Green Ecology article, we will expose what the life cycle of bees is like, as well as the other particular 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 go through a life cycle with metamorphosis , in which they have to go through various physiological and morphological changes 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.
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 bees carry the food they need to their eggs.
Only 3 days pass after laying the eggs when a larva emerges from them. As they belong to arthropods, these larvae must molt to increase their size until they reach the desired size. 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. It lasts from 4 to 9 days where the bees cap their cell, that is, they open it.
Pupa and metamorphosis
The larvae become pupae, structures where they are included 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.
Once metamorphosis is complete, the new adult breaks the larval cuticle and is ready to begin 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 the haplodiploidy system in which, if the egg has not been fertilized, a male will form, 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.
The queen bee is selected from the egg, while the other bees will be workers. This depends on feeding the larvae, since 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 larva gestates.
- 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.
- Flights from recognition: 2 days later, after finishing the metamorphosis undertakes 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 to 5 million sperm cells in its sperm library (organ of the reproductive system of female bees) to produce eggs throughout its life.
- On the 14th day of being fertilized, it can begin to lay eggs . In fact, the queen bee is the only one that lays eggs.
- It can lay approximately 2,000 eggs daily 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.
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.
- Food: they are initially fed with 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. Later 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 their activities are distributed 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 well.
- 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 job is to collect water, pollen and nectar from plants. They live actively for only 6 weeks, during the spring to summer season.
Drone life cycle
Drones are male bees , which are unfertilized eggs. The process of parthenogenesis takes 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.
Their main job is to fertilize 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.