Honeybees live in colonies. There can be as many as 80,000 workers in a colony. Since the workers only live about a month, there must be new workers developing constantly to replace the workers that die.
The queen lives about five years. She can produce more than 1,000 eggs every day during the summer. Some experts believe that the queen’s egg production peaks in about two years. However, studies show that the queen produces almost a quarter of a million eggs during her life.
The queen produces eggs one-by-one. Each egg is very small –not much larger than the period at the end of this sentence. The queen deposits each egg into a wax cell in the brood comb. This is the nursery area of the nest. While she is producing each egg, the queen can fertilize the egg or not. This determines what type of bee will develop from each egg.
If the queen does not fertilize an egg, it will develop into a drone, or male bee. Their role is to mate with new queens when they are developed. If the queen fertilizes the egg, it will develop into a female bee. These can be either new queens or workers.
The queen produces chemicals called pheromones. One of these pheromones regulate whether workers will develop female larvae into new queens. When the colony becomes very large, new queens develop. They also develop when the old queen becomes too weak to continue producing eggs.
After the egg has been in the cell for about three days, it hatches. The workers feed the larva some “royal jelly”. This is a substance they workers create from glands on their heads. Queen larvae receive it for the entire larva stage. Worker larvae receive royal jelly at first. After that, they receive a mixture of pollen and honey. It takes a worker about three weeks to develop from an egg into an adult honeybee.