Where are the Baby Bees?
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. Here are the honey bee facts regarding young bees.
We know that bees – like all living things – have a beginning of life and an end. They begin the life process, grow, work and then die.
Where are the baby bees – those teenagers that are not yet grown? We don’t see this because bees are insects . Their development pattern is different than mammals.
The honey bee colony can exist as a functioning unit for years. Alas, except for the Queen, individual honey bees do not live very long.
Bumble Bees are another insect that has a shorter life span. Unlike a colony of honey bees, Bumble Bees do not overwinter as a group – only the queen bumble lives until next year.
Adult Bees are Needed to Work Hard
Honey bees in particular must work hard during Summer. Survival over Winter depends on the bees making honey and storing it for later use.
All this hard work wears out parts of the bee body. And, worn out body parts are not replaced.
The Queen Honey Bee lays eggs that will develop into adult bees. As bees emerge from the honeycomb cells, they must be ready and able to take on the work of the colony.
What are Baby Bees Called ? Bee Brood
Brood is the term used to describe baby bees. While not a smaller version of an adult honey bee, brood refers to the development stages.
For the sake of clarity, I am going to include bee eggs in this discussion. But technically, eggs are just that, bee eggs.
Having a good supply of growing bee brood is very important to beekeepers. The hard working bee colony needs a constant supply of young worker bees in order to be productive.
As beekeepers, we strive to learn as much bee biology as possible to help us understand how the colony works. Reading quality books on beekeeping is one way to get some clear answers to the problems our bees face.
A honey bee colony consisting of thousands of individuals is a good example of bee reproduction. Many bees are needed to feed and protect the bee family.
The honey bee life cycle involves 4 stages.
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 Brood Nest
Beekeepers refer to the area of the beehive where young are developing as the “brood nest”.
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.
Types of Brood or Baby Bees
Again, technically bee eggs are eggs but many beekeepers lump them in with the term brood. I will do the same here.
How Baby Bees are Born
The mated queen honey bee lays eggs. One egg in each honeycomb cell in the brood area.
In a few days, the egg will hatch. Actually, it does not really hatch – the outer shell of the egg dissolves.
Now, we have a tiny white larva. The bee larva has started on its journey to become an adult member of the colony. This larva will eat and grow at an amazing rate.
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.
Over the next 8-9 days, the larvae will grow larger and fill the bottom of the cell. One the larva fills the bottom of the cell is about 6 days old.
How do Baby Bees Eat?
The defenseless bee larvae lie in their cells consuming brood food provided by the nurse bees.
Nurse bees consume large amounts of protein rich pollen. This enables them to produce royal jelly and other types of brood food. The nurse bees make many trips to each brood cell.
They do not fly outside the hive until their term as nurse bee is over. As they grow older, they will be assigned other tasks for the colony.
Do Baby Bees Eat Honey?
No, developing larvae are unable to leave their cell. They depend on nurse bees to bring them special food. Larva would not be able to digest honey.
Transformation Towards Adulthood
Once the larval or feeding stage of the baby bees had completed. It is time to transform into a stage that will become more recognizable.
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.
Wax production is costly for a bee colony. Older wax does well for brood caps. This top will protect the developing bee during transformation.
Once a section of brood is covered and sealed, it is called “capped brood”. We can not see what is happening inside but it is a remarkable transformation. The white grub is changing into a bee pupa and then an adult bee.
A New Bee is Born
Now, we come to the big moment. An adult bee emerges from the capped cell. She chews her way out of her chamber.
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.
She is not a baby bee any longer and she does have a stinger. A few days of maturing is required before the stinger functions.
Honey bees are not born small and then grow to full size. These insects emerge from the cell as a full sized adult.
This is why you will never see a true baby honey bee that looks like an miniature adult. They are born full-sized.
Beekeeping is an interesting hobby that enables a close look inside the world of the honey bee.
Our hives depend heavily on a constant workforce of young adults to do the many tasks required by a colony. We need to maintain healthy queen bees in our colonies at all times to produce future workers.