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Baby Bees : The Youngest Members of the Colony

Don’t you just love seeing baby bees flying around outside? No? You can’t remember when you last saw one? In the bee world, newly emerged bees are actually full-sized adults. But inside the hive, the developing bee babies are preparing to take on all the duties of the hive. These young have a big responsibility.

Baby honey bees growing in wax cells image.

Baby Honey Bees – Their Role in the Hive

The honey bee colony needs thousands of individuals to carry on the functions of daily life. And that large work force is necessary in order to store food for Winter survival.

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Unlike some insects, honey bee colonies over-Winter as a large family inside the hive. Millions of flowers must be visited to collect nectar and pollen before cold weather arrives.

All this hard work wears out parts of the bee body. And, worn out body parts are not replaced. Summer worker bees live only 6 weeks.

This means a new population of bee babies must always be in the works during the Summer months. The queen honey bee is responsible for laying eggs that will develop into new bees. But, she requires care and proper feeding from her worker bees.

Baby bees or brood inside a beehive image.

What are Baby Bees Called ?

Even though bees are insects, we tend to want to describe them with terms associated with mammals. Baby bees are called brood.

Brood (or larvae) most often refers to small white grubs. These larvae are in the growing stage of honey bee development.

For the sake of clarity, I am going to include bee eggs in this discussion. But some beekeepers refer to bee eggs separately.

The honey bee life cycle involves 4 stages

  1. egg
  2. larva
  3. pupa
  4. adult

Each adult bee develops through these stages. The amount of time spent in each stage depends on what type of honey bee (or caste) is involved.

The Queen Bee becomes an adult in 16 days, a worker bee requires 21 days and a male bee or Drone Bee needs 24 days to reach adulthood.

Where are Baby Bees Found?

Beekeepers refer to the area of the beehive where young bees are developing as the “brood nest”.

In the brood nest area of the hive, nurse bees feed bee larvae and keep them warm. These baby bees need to be kept at a constant temperature and humidity. Therefore, it makes sense to have all the brood in the same area.

How Baby Bees are Born

Baby honey bees are not really born – see it’s that mammal term again. They emerge.

First, a mated queen honey bee lays eggs in honeycomb cells. If she fertilizes the egg it will develop into worker bees. Unfertilized eggs develop into drones.

In a few days, the eggs will hatch. Actually, they do not really hatch – the outer shell of the egg dissolves. Now, we have tiny, white larva.

Bee larva eat and grow at an amazing rate. These developing larvae are what beekeepers usually refer to as bee babies.

Full grown adult bees emerging from cell image.

How do Baby Bees Eat?

The defenseless bee larvae lie in their cells consuming brood food provided by the nurse bees. These adults are able to produce this special food because of their own diet.

Nurse bees consume large amounts of protein rich pollen. This is why a colony must collect pollen. This enables them to produce royal jelly and other types of brood food. The nurse bees make many trips to each brood cell.

Do Baby Bees Eat Honey?

No, baby bees are unable to leave their cell. They depend on nurse bees to bring them special food. Young bees or bee larvae would not be able to digest honey.

What do Baby Bees Look Like?

Bee larvae look like tiny white grubs. Beekeepers call larvae – uncapped brood or “milk brood”.

The term “milk brood” is in reference to the brood food that is provided by nurse bees. You can see the tiny bee larva floating in a pool of food.

Baby bees larvae and capped brood in a beehive image.

Over the next few days, the larvae will grow larger and fill the bottom of the cell. Once the larva fills the bottom of the cell is about 6 days old.

Once the larval or feeding stage of the baby bees is completed. The larva stops eating and begins to spin a silky cocoon. The pupal stage is beginning.

Outside the cell, worker bees are closing the top of the honeycomb cell. The developing pupa inside will not require food.

Wax used to seal brood cells looks different than capped cells of honey. This is because worker bees re-use older wax to cap brood.

Once a section of brood is covered and sealed, it is called “capped brood”. We can not see what is happening inside but baby bee larva is changing into a bee pupa and then an adult bee.

Exposed bee brood pupae in a hive image.

Stinger of Baby Honey Bees

Can baby bees sting? All female honey bees do have a stinger but they must mature a few days before the stinger functions. So, you have no reason to fear being stung by a very young bee.

Once she is a few days old, things change and she is ready to start her work and able to defend the hive. Male bees of course do not have stingers and therefore are not able to sting at any age.

Are Bees Born Full Grown?

Yes, bees are born full grown and ready to begin their role in the honey bee colony. The adult bee emerges chews her way out of her capped cell.

This new born bee is fully formed and looks much like the thousands of other bees in the colony.

Over a few days, the cuticle (outside) of the bee will harden, the bee wings will firm up. And the bee will become a fully functioning member of the colony.

Final Thoughts on Baby Bees in the Colony

Honey bees emerge from the cell as a full sized adult bee. This is why you will never see a true baby honey bee that looks like an miniature adult. Undersized bees are often the result of poor genetics or inadequate nutrition. Beekeepers strive to learn as much bee biology as possible to help us understand how the colony works. The more we know about all stages of bee life, include bee babies, the better equipped we are to manage our hives.

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