The honey bee's life cycle is made up of three stages: the larval stage, the pupal stage and the adult stage.
The Larval Stage
This stage is similar for worker bees and queen bees, which are both female bees that hatch from a fertilized egg.
Worker bees, drone bees and queen bees are all fed royal jelly in their first few days as larvae. After that it is only the queen bee who continuous to receive the royal jelly, supplemented with honey toward the end of the larval stage.
Worker bees are fed the most, the larvae is given in big bulks “worker jelly” or “brood food”. The drone bees are fed a modified version of the worker bees' diet, including increased quantities of pollen and honey, during the larval stage.
The next stage is known as the pupal stage. It is in this stage that the bees begin to form wings, legs, internal organs and other adult body parts, using the stores of fat they accumulated during the larval stage.The total time it takes to become a fully developed adult bee is around 21 days for workers, around 24 days for drones and around 16 days for queen bees. For the Queen bee, they develop faster due to their rich diet.
Different casts in the hive
The hive is made up of three castes (categories): A single fertile queen bee, hundreds of male drone bees and thousands of sterile female worker bees.
Summer workers have the shortest honey bee lifespan, while the queen bee lives the longest and outlives both other castes.
Life Span of Drone Bees
Unfortunately for the adult drones, they do not really have a useful purpose within the beehive. Their main purpose is to mate with the queen bee, if they hang around, they only waste the colony's resources. Therefore, if a drone bee is unsuccessful in the mating flight, they are kicked out of the hive. For those that are successful and manage to mate, they die minutes or hours after mating with the queen. For the rest of the drone bees, they survive only as long as the worker bees allow them to.
If there is a shortage of food, the worker bees kill or kick out the drones. This mostly happens around the winter months where the worker bees want to protect their limited resources so the drone bees are rejected from the hive. When this happens they soon die from cold or starvation. The average life span of a drone bee is eight weeks.
Life span for Worker Bees
Worker bees are the smallest members of the colony, but have the largest number of individuals: a hive can contain 20,000 to 80,000 workers. The first part of a worker’s life is spent working within the hive, and the rest is spent finding food, gathering pollen or nectar and collecting water. They are also responsible for pollination.
Worker bees only live for 5- 6 weeks due to how hard they work. The busiest period for the worker bees is during summer. Here they do most of the collecting of nectar as well as feeding the larvae and producing honey.
In contrast to the drone bees, worker bees live longer during the winter, for 5-6 months.
Queen Bee's life span
The queen bees have the most important function within the colony and also have the longest life span by far. Its average life span is two to five years. Within the first week when a new queen emerges, she roams the hive in order to mate with as many drone bees as she can. Sometimes this is even up to 20 drone bees.
Once she has successfully mates, she usually lays between 1,000 and 2,000 eggs a day inside the hive
If the queen bee fertilizes the egg, that egg will become female – a worker bee or a queen bee. However, if the queen bee does not fertilize the egg, it will become a male drone bee.
The queen is under high pressure, the success of the hive depends on her, so if she doesn't lay enough eggs, the workers will start developing a new queen to replace the old one, a process known as supersedure.
This new queen will be pampered with food and affection, while the old queen is neglected and left to waste away. Sometimes beekeepers also “re-queen” the hive.