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Honey Bee Biology

The honey bee queen lays up to 1200 eggs every day. The eggs hatch in three days. A queen can lay fertilized or unfertilized eggs. Fertilized eggs become workers or queens. The difference is in the diet until they are pupae. Unfertilized eggs become drones. The eggs and larva must be kept at 91.4 to 96.8 F (33 to 36 C). Workers use their flight muscles to convert sugar into heat or fan with their wings to regulate the hive temperature. Honey bees do not hibernate in the winter. Egg laying will slow or even stop if the cluster cannot be kept warm enough.

Larval stage of queens is 4.6 days. Worker larva develops for 6 days. Drone larva requires 6.3 days. Larvae are fed 150 to 800 times per day. Pupal stage is 7.5 days for a queen, 12 days for workers and 14.5 days for drones. Queens emerge in 15 to 17 days. Workers emerge in 19 to 22 days. Drones emerge in 24 to 25 days. It is easier to remember worker life cycle in threes – egg for three days, 2 x 3 days larval, and 4 x 3 days pupal for 7 x 3 to emerge.

Africanized Honey Bee (AHB) development times are shorter. Worker AHB develop in 18.5 days. European Honey Bees (EHB) develops in 21 days. Queen AHB emerges in 15 days, while EHB emerge in 16 days. This difference is how AHB supersede or kill the European queens by emerging first.

Worker responsibilities change with physical development -- 1 to 3 days housekeeping, day 3 to 16 undertaking, day 4 to 12 nursery duty, day 7 to 12 tending the queen, day 12 to 18 nectar and pollen storage, day 12 to 18 fanning, day 12 to 35 building comb, day 18 to 21 guard duty, and day 22 to 42 foraging. Queens live 2 to 5 years. Drones live 4 to 8 weeks. Workers live 15 to 38 days in summer and 140 to 320 days in winter. Drones are starved or forced out of the hive in the fall or when food is low. Workers die during foraging or exposure outside the hive.

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