Exploring the Amazing Life Cycle of Bees: The Incredible Journey

Bees flying around Coke cans
Photo: ©Paul E. Picaso

You can find bees almost anywhere, especially in the summer. Such was the case when this author was sitting on a picnic bench and was amazed to notice a bee fly down on the table, preparing a worm for its dinner.

The worm, ten times smaller than the bee, struggled for its life to try to get out of the bee’s grip. Moved its body and head up toward the bee’s claws and tried to bite them but to no avail.

The fascinating part was that this insect worked so meticulously, with no care in the world for the worm. It is what makes these insects the flawless creatures of nature that they are.

A Testament to Nature

Close-up of a swarm of honey bees in a flowering rapeseed field
Close-up of a swarm of honey bees in a flowering rapeseed field. Photo: iStock

Related to the wasp family, bees are an incredible species, and their voyage through life is truly remarkable. From the moment they hatch from their egg, they begin a journey of development, ultimately culminating in the production of honey and the continuation of their species. 

Along the way, they travel through a myriad of stages, each one more fascinating than the other. From larva to nymph, to adult, bees are incredibly hard-working and resilient, and their life cycle is a testament to their tenacity and determination. 

Join us as we examine each stage, from the moment of their birth until the end of their lives, bees have a story that can be an inspiration to us all.

Egg and Larva Stages

Honeycomb with assortment of bees on top
Closeup of bees on honeycomb. Photo iStock – DiyanaDimitrova

The first stage begins with the egg. A female bee, known as the queen, will lay the eggs in the cells of a honeycomb that she has built. The eggs are then fertilized by male bees known as drones. The eggs will incubate for three days before hatching into larvae. 

The larva stage is the second stage of a bee’s life cycle. During this stage, the larvae are fed by the worker bees, who secrete a special food called “royal jelly“.

This jelly is rich in nutrients and helps the larvae grow and develop. During this stage, the larvae will molt several times, growing larger and more mature with each molt. After about five days, the larvae will form a cocoon and enter the pupa stage.

The Pupa Stage

During this stage, the bee is in a state of suspended animation. The pupa will remain in its cocoon until it is mature enough to emerge as an adult bee. This stage usually takes about 11 days, and during this time the bee’s body undergoes a complete transformation, from larva to adult.

Nymph and Adult Stages

Once the bee has emerged from its cocoon, it enters the nymph stage. During this stage, the bee is still developing and maturing. The bee will begin to take on the characteristics of its species, such as coloration and size. The nymph stage usually lasts between 10 and 12 days before the bee is ready to enter the adult stage.

The adult stage is the final stage of a bee’s life cycle. During this stage, the bee will begin to produce honey and help to maintain the hive. The adult bee will also mate with other bees, which will help to ensure the survival of the hive. The adult bee will typically live for about four to six weeks.

The Role of the Queen Bee

Close up of bee on flower
Photo: iStock nechaev-kon

The queen bee is the most important member of the hive. She is responsible for laying the eggs that will eventually become the worker bees, drones, and future queens. The queen is larger than the other bees, and she has a special gland that produces a chemical called “queen substance” which helps to keep the hive in order. She is also the only bee in the hive that can mate with the drones.

The Worker Bee’s Role in the Hive

The worker bee is the most common type of bee in the hive. They are responsible for many tasks, such as building the hive, collecting nectar, and producing honey. They also help to maintain the hive by grooming the queen and the larvae, and by defending the hive against predators. Worker bees typically live for about six weeks.

The Role of the Drone Bee

The drone bee is a male bee whose primary role is to mate with the queen. Unlike worker bees, drones do not have a stinger and they do not produce honey. They typically live for about five weeks and then die shortly after mating with the queen.

The Life Span of a Bee

The lifespan of a bee varies depending on the type of bee. Queen bees usually live for about two to three years. Worker bees typically live for about six weeks, and drones usually live for about five weeks.

How Bees Create Honey 

Bees make honey by collecting nectar from flowers and then processing it within their hives, called pollination. This process involves several steps:

    1. Foraging: Worker bees fly from flower to flower collecting nectar using their long proboscis. They store the nectar in their “honey stomach” and return to the hive.
    2. Processing: When the worker bees return, they regurgitate the nectar into the mouths of other worker bees. These bees then add enzymes to the nectar which break down the complex sugars into simpler sugars such as glucose and fructose.
    3. Evaporation: The bees then spread the processed nectar on the honeycomb to dry. They use their wings to fan the nectar and evaporate the excess water, which concentrates the sugar.
    4. Ripening: Once the nectar has been evaporated to the desired consistency, the bees will seal the cells of the honeycomb with wax. This seals in moisture and protects the honey from contamination.
    5. Maturing: Over time, the enzymes in the honey will continue to break down the remaining sugars and convert them into glucose and fructose. The final product is the sweet, thick, golden substance that we know as honey.

The honey produced by bees is a valuable food source for the hive and provides the colony with energy and nutrients throughout the year. Bees are remarkable creatures and the process of making honey is just one example of their impressive abilities.

The Benefits of Beekeeping

Beekeeping is a great way to help the environment and promote the health of our planet. Bees are essential for pollinating plants, and without them, many plants would not be able to reproduce. Additionally, beekeeping can be a great source of income, as honey is a valuable commodity. Finally, it can be a great hobby and can be very rewarding to watch the bees grow and thrive.

Bees are Not Without Their Predators

Pair of Merops birds feeding on bees
Pair of Merops birds feeding on bees. Photo: Wikipedia Public Domain by Chiswick Chap

The most notorious bee predators are birds, such as the Greater Honeyguide, Honey Buzzard, and Shrikes, but we can’t leave out the crab spider and praying mantis.

In the animal kingdom, it’s the honey badger, part of the mammal family that bees need to keep an eye on.


Bees are remarkable creatures. From the moment they hatch from their egg to the moment they create honey, bees are incredibly hard-working and resilient.

Bees are part of nature’s ecosystems and there is no doubt that without them, there would be a disruption in Earth’s biosphere. How much of a change is debatable, but understanding their life cycle is essential to understanding their role in our environment and why they are so important.