Beekeeping basics: Introduction to honey bees

Life cycle of the honeybee

Honey bees have four distinct stages of development in their life cycle:

  • Stage 1: Egg
  • Stage 2: Larva (larvae)
  • Stage 3: Pupa (pupae)
  • Stage 4: Adult worker bee

While all honey bees, regardless of caste, must develop through each stage, the length of time required by a queen, a drone and worker bee to fully mature varies.


Stage 1: Egg

The process starts when the queen lays an egg. Regardless of whether that egg is destined to become a new queen, a worker or a drone, the egg will remain an egg for 3 days.

If the egg is selected to become a new queen, nurse bees will feed it copious amounts of royal jelly during those first 3 days to help it develop properly.


Stage 2: Larva

By day 4, the egg will change into a larva. Larvae is white and resembles a grub. Nurse bees feed larvae continuously during this stage. Queen bees and worker bees remain larvae until day 8. On day 9, worker bees will cap their cells. Drone larva is fed until day 11. On day 12, worker bee will cap the drone cells.


Stage 3: Pupa

Once larvae is capped, it will develop into pupae. As they continue to grow inside their cells, pupae start to resemble adult honey bees. Worker pupae remains capped for 13 days and will emerge on their own on day 21. Queen pupae remains capped for 8 days and will emerge on their own on day 16. Drones take the longest to develop. Drone pupae remain capped for 13 days and will emerge on their own on day 24.


Stage 4: Adult

Adult bees emerge from their cells once  they are fully developed. When they are ready, they chew through the wax cappings on their cells, wiggle out, and begin to work.

Worker bees will live approximately 42 days during the foraging season (but longer during winter). Queen bees can live 1 to 5 years. Drones will live approximately 90 days.