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Baby Bees – Future of the Hive

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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. Just one of the many amazing facts about honey bees and how they live.

mass of bees on hive entrance - baby 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.

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.

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. The queen honey bee is responsible for laying eggs that will develop into new bees.

Baby bees or brood inside a beehive image.

What are Baby Bees Called ?

Baby bees are called brood. Brood or larvae are 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

The mated queen honey bee lays a single egg in honeycomb cells within the brood nest area. Fertilized eggs develop into worker bees and 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.

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.

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.

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.

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 had 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.

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.

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.

Male bees of course do not have stingers and therefore are not able to sting at any age.

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.

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.

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.

Beekeeper Charlotte

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