How long do honey bees live? This is one of the most common questions we always tend to ask ourselves as far as honey bees are concerned. Luckily, after spending hours conducting extensive research on honey bees and how long they live, I got an answer for you. In this article, we will write about how long do honey bees live and the comprehensive details of the lifespan of each caste of the honey bee.
The answer to this question prominently depends on two factors – the three castes of honey bees or the role of the bees within the colony. There are typically three main castes or categories of honey bees: The queen bee, the worker bees, and drones. Generally speaking, queen bees tend to have a longer lifespan than other types of bees. Moreover, they all progress through the same four stages of the lifecycle, namely: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
In this article, I’m going to demystify more about how long do the honey bees live as well as the life expectancy of each caste from inception until death. If you want to learn more about sour honey and do hornets make honey, please visit our other articles!
How Long Do Honey Bees Live?
As previously stated, the honey bees come in three castes – queen bees, the worker bees, and the drone. Although they have similar characteristics, the lifespan of each one of them varies significantly. In a typical colony, it comprises of up to 60,000 bees in it – each one of them performing a particular role to help maintain a smooth running as well as the success of the colony. Something else that determines the life expectancy of the honey bees is the time of the year in which they were born. The worker born in autumn are considered to have a longer lifespan, while those born on spring/summer tend to have a shorter and busier lives.
Here are the comprehensive details of the lifespan of each caste of the honey bee:
Naturally, queen bees have a lifespan ranging between 3 to 4 years – if all goes well, and she isn’t attacked by any disease or illness. When compared to the bumblebee queen or the solitary bee species, the honey queen bee tends to live much longer.
However, the queen bee which produces few eggs might not be favored by the colony. At this point, supersedure is usually implemented. For those who don’t have any idea what’s supersedure – a supersedure is a process or act of superseding, which involves replacing of an old or inferior queen by a young or superior queen.
The Worker Bees
The worker honey bees are the smallest members of the colony, although they tend to have the most substantial number of individuals – a single beehive can compose of 20,000 to 80,000 workers. As mentioned earlier, the worker honey bees born in autumn tend to have a longer lifespan than those in the spring/summer.
The worker honey bees raised during the spring/summer months; they have a lifespan of about 6 to 7 weeks. According to research, these bees are ever busy with a lot of hungry larvae to nourish, as well as the honeycomb to be formed. During this period, it’s when the colony is at its most productive with worker bees busy collecting the nectar and pollen for nourishing the colony.
On the other hand, the worker honey bees which are born during the autumn months, tend to live for a period of about 4 to 6 months. The worker bees born during this season don’t have much to do since there is no brood to nurse, plus the queen bees stop producing eggs. Since the colony is in its phase of inactivity, the bees tend to bunker down to keep their hive swarm until spring months, when they emerge and begin foraging again. NOTE: The autumn worker honey bees play a significant role in keeping the honey queen bee during the cold winter season by huddling around the queen.
The Drone Honey Bees
Drones of male honey bees are nearly focused on reproduction, but they also help the worker bees in regulating the temperature within the hive. You will find that some drones tend to have a lifespan of only some weeks. In some case, there are some drones which end up living for up to around four months, at the most. NOTE: Drones may die immediately upon mating with the honey queen bee.
The Life Cycle of Honey Bees
Just like most insect species, the honey bees undergo a process referred to as metamorphosis, where they start off as eggs and grow, and transforming as they reach adulthood. As previously stated earlier, the honey bees undergo four major life stages – Egg, Larva (Larvae), Pupa, and Adult.
The queen lays eggs after her mate flights. The queen bee lays about 2,000 eggs each day. Eggs are typically 1 to 1.5mm long, around half the size of the single grain of rice.
Ideally, the eggs are laid in cells – one egg in one cell. The worker honey bees are the ones responsible for creating honeycombs. After laying eggs, the honey queen bee then decides after that who will be the drones or who will be the worker. Moreover, the eggs which are fertilized, they are destined to be female worker bees, whereas the unfertilized eggs become the drone bees (male bees).
NOTE: The egg-stage development only lasts three days, and then larva hatches.
A larva or larvae is a worm-like form which hatches from the egg after three days. It’s specialized to eat, plus it never leaves its wax cell. A larva grows incredibly fast in the five-step development knows as metamorphosis – during that period, the larva increases its size 1,500 times. The adult nurse bees visit the larva about 10,000 times during the development period. The nurse bees inspect and also feeds the larva.
When the larva is wholly grown and filling the cells, they change to pupa. During the pupa stage, the larva forms caps which encloses itself where it’ll stay until it comes out as an adult. Its legs, eyes, and wings start showing, and the little hairs which cover its body begin growing. Moreover, it takes around 12 days of isolation for the larva to come out as an adult. Its development may even take longer if the temperature of the brood nest depresses.
After emerging from their cells, the adult bees move away from the cells. The worker honey bees clean the cell and prepare it for the next egg. The adult bees go out of the colony for forage and to eat. And this is where the counter of how long does a honey bees live start counting. As mentioned earlier, the honey bees have different lifespans depending on the castes of the honey bees in the hive.
What Are The Possible of Shorter Lifespan?
How long do honey bees live depends on numerous factors. Here are some of the things which may affect how long do honey bees live:
- Susceptibility to different diseases or illnesses.
- External environmental factors such as pollen consumption, protein abundance, and the presence of the natural disasters.
- Natural causes such as being eaten by some animals or being killed by some species of wasps, flies, and spiders.
- The honey bee’s level of activity also affects its lifespan.
We hope that you learned more about bees and how long do honey bees live.