Do Bees Lay Eggs? (How Are New Bees Born)

A lot of animals in the animal kingdom lay eggs, ranging from ducks and sea turtles to corn snakes and platypuses. But what about bees? Do bees lay eggs? Here we will take a look at the answer to this question and other similar questions.  

Do bees lay eggs? 

Bees do lay eggs because they are members of the insect family and every life cycle of an insect begins with eggs. During the winter, the queen bee will form a new colony. She lays an egg inside each cell of a honeycomb. Any of the bee eggs that get fertilized become female bees, but any eggs that remain unfertilized become male bees. 

The queen bee has to lay eggs in order to create worker bees. These worker bees will be the bees that forage for food and take care of the bee colony. 

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Queen bee vs regular bee
Queen bee vs regular bee

In each colony, there is only one queen bee. These queens mate at an early age and collect millions and millions of sperm that she stores. This sperm is what she uses to lay eggs for the rest of her life. When the queen lays her eggs, she can lay up to 2,000 eggs in a day!

These eggs take only a few seconds to lay and they are about half the size of a single grain of rice. As she is laying her eggs, she moves through the honeycomb and closely examines each cell. 

Beekeepers often mark queen bees with bright paint so they can spot them faster the next time.

The queen lays her eggs in an organized pattern, laying each egg right next to the other. But as the queen gets older, she is able to lay fewer eggs and she lays her egg in a less organized pattern.  

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After only three days, the eggs hatch into larvae. These little baby bees resemble a grain of rice with a mouth- they have no eyes, legs, antennae, or wings. The larvae will be fed by worker bees. They will be fed with honey, royal jelly, or plant liquids.  

Queen bee marked with green paint
Queen bee marked with green paint

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How does a bee become a queen bee? 

Since queen bees are the only bees that get to lay eggs, how does a bee become a queen? In the colony, there are three types of bees. There is the queen bee, then there are worker bees and drone bees. Worker bees are all female, whereas drone bees are all male. The worker bees are sexually underdeveloped- the queen is the only sexually developed bee. Worker bees are the only bees that leave the hive- they go to forage for food and protect the hive.  

These working bees feed the larvae. One larva will receive special food, which is the royal jelly. The royal jelly is richer than the honey that all the other larvae will be fed. The royal jelly allows the larva to fully sexually develop, which allows it to become a queen. This larva is then enclosed into a cell in the hive where she then makes pupae and further develops into the queen.  

Queen bees can live up to six years, but as she gets older, her productivity declines with age. When the old queen dies or goes missing, it is time for the new queen (the larva who was fed royal jelly) to take over. The process of a new queen replacing the old queen is known as “supersedure.” 

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How do the bee’s eggs get fertilized? 

The queen bee has complete control over which eggs become males and which eggs become female. She selectively releases the stored sperm through her spermatheca as she releases an egg. These eggs then become females.  

How can a queen bee be identified from the worker bees or the drone bees? 

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Out of all of the bees in the hive, the queen is the largest. The smallest bees are the female working bees and the male drone bees are in between. The queen has the longest abdomen in the colony. In any given colony, there can be up to 80,000 bees living in there, so in colonies that are kept by beekeepers, beekeepers often add a light spot of paint onto the queen’s thorax.

This does not harm the queen and it makes it much easier for the beekeeper to be able to locate the queen.  

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