The Life Cycle of Bees, Diet, and Habitat
Bees play an essential role in the natural world. The life cycle of bees teaches us how they have come to benefit us.
The role bees play in the food web, and their existence is not only beneficial for the animal food chain, but for humans as well. Beekeeping is one of the oldest professions on this planet. For a better understanding of bees, it is crucial to learn about their life cycle, habitat, and food.
The Life Cycle of Bees
Bees are generally categorized into two types: social and solitary. Although bees from both categories have various life cycles, they all pass through the following four general stages.
The Life Cycle of Bees – EGG
During the summer season, after passing a harsh winter, the eggs are laid by the Queen bee. Queen bees can lay up to 2000 eggs in a single day. An egg is kept in a single cell, and the queen determines the role of the future bee at this stage.
She releases a fertilized egg in a standard cell to develop into worker bees, whereas non-fertilized eggs are released to create into male drone bees. After three days the larvae come out of the eggs.
The Life Cycle of Bees – LARVA
Larvae are tiny, snow-white colored baby bees which are fed by the pre-existing worker bees. These tiny creatures have an insatiable appetite, and they take 1300 meals a day. They grow very quickly.
In just five days, larvae grow 1570 times bigger than their birth size and molt five times during the course. Larvae are fed with pollen, honey, and bee bread. A future queen is fed with a special food called “Royal Jelly” which is a protein-rich nutritious food.
The Life Cycle of Bees – PUPA
After about six days larvae spin a cocoon around itself and develop into pupae. During this stage, the pupae develop features like eyes, legs, wings and their hairs start growing to cover their body. It takes almost ten days for a worker pupa to develop into an adult fully. It chews its way out of the wax cocoon.
Queen bees’ pupae emerge from the cocoon within 6 days, while drone pupae take more than 10 days to complete its’ development.
The Life Cycle of Bees – ADULT
Grown mature bees are referred to as adults who have completed their metamorphosis. Adult bees are generally classified into three categories:
The lifespan of every bee depends upon the caste, and the role it will assume within the hive.
The worker bees have the shortest, but busiest life inside the beehive. Those that hatch out in the summer usually live 6-7 weeks. They are associated with almost all of the labor of the nest. They are infertile females who spend their lives building nests, and the cells inside them. Other duties of worker bees include collecting nectar and pollen to make honey.
During breeding, season workers are responsible for feeding the larvae to nourish them and help them grow.
Worker bees that hatch out during the winter have a longer lifespan, and they can live 4-6 months. During the autumn and winter seasons, they don’t have much work to do because there isn’t any young to care for. They just need to survive the winter and wait for the next breeding season.
Drones are fertilized male bees, and their sole purpose is to mate with the Queen Bee. This ensures that their species survives. Drones have a short lifespan which can last from just a few weeks to around four months, depending on outside conditions.
Usually, drones die instantly after mating as the Queen pulls out their sex organs afterward.
Honeybees collect nectar, pollen and make honey to consume during winters and in winters because of the shortage of stored food, worker bees throw the drones out of their hives as they are of no use during winters.
The Queen holds control over the entire colony of bees. They are female reproductive leaders of the hive and are bigger in size. Also, they are the only egg-laying members of the whole colony. Queen Bees have the longest lifespan among all bees as they can live up to 3-4 years. The DNA of a queen has 32 chromosomes with 16 given by a former queen and 16 by a drone.
A Queen mates with several drones to ensure the genetic diversity in the community of the next generation of bees. When their reproductive capacity is reduced, they are then replaced by a young healthy queen by the colony members.
The worker bees will stop feeding the old queen bee, and due to starvation will die within days. Meanwhile, they fed the larvae with the royal jelly to nurture the new queen. This act of replacing the old queen bee with the new one is called “supersedure”.
HABITAT OF BEES
Bees prefer a tropical climate, and love to live in heavily forested regions where food is abundant in the form of nectar and pollen. They usually build their nests and thrive in natural environmental conditions such as gardens, meadows, orchards, and woodlands.
Bees are not resistant to harsh winters, so they construct nests with highly-insulated interiors. This helps them maintain internal temperature, and use metabolic heat to keep each other warm. Since bees don’t forage for food in the winter, they collect nectar and honey in the summer before to consume later in the winter.
DIET OF BEES
The diet of almost all bees is similar in that they thrive on nectar and pollen from flowers. Bees derive energy from nectar, and this sweet flower secretion further helps in maintaining the water balance in the bees. Whereas, pollen serves as the essential protein source for bees which they need to produce eggs.
After sucking the nectar from flowers, they bring it to their hive and mix it with an enzyme, and then place them inside cells for a few days. When water is evaporated from this solution, it leaves behind a product which is honey.
Worker bees feed larvae with a mixture of pollen and nectar which is called “bee bread” while larvae of future queen bees are fed with protein-rich royal jelly. Besides pollen and nectar honeybees like to eat over-ripe fruits. Some bees love to take in sweet secretions released from extra-floral nectarines of different shrubs and plants.***
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