Answering the Question: How Long Do Bees Live
So, how long do bees live? Well, that’s a tricky question—there’s certainly no straightforward answer. About 4,000 “types” of bees are grouped into families, subfamilies, genera, and species. And more specifically, the number 4,000 describes the different genera of bees, which could have thousands of unique species.
In this blog by Covenant Wildlife Removal, you’ll learn more about the life cycle of bees and how long they live.
Continue reading to discover the answer to this complicated question.
The Many Different Lives of Bees
Like honey bees, some live in colonies with over 50,000 members. Each member fills a specific role—Queen bee, workers, and drones. The lifespans of the members of the colony vary. On the other hand, many types of bees live independent lives. These species are known as solitary bees.
Additionally, how long a bee lives depends on external factors, including the weather, available nutrients, human intervention, disease, and parasites.
While lifespans will differ among the various species and families of bees, most bees belonging to a colony will follow a similar life cycle and have similar roles within the hive. In the sections below, we dive into the honey bee’s life for a general reference.
Honey Bee Lifespan
The life cycle of a honey bee involves four stages. It all begins with the queen bee laying thousands of eggs each day. Fertilized eggs become the females of the colony who all fall under the worker caste, except for the occasional young queen bee. Unfertilized eggs become the male population or drones of the colony.
It takes about three days for the egg to hatch and release the larva. The larva remains within a cell of the hive sealed with wax. Eventually, the larva will pupate and develop wings, legs, a head, eyes, and so on. This pupa stage is when the young bee begins to appear more like an adult bee.
Several days later, the bee chews through the wax seal, entering the hive as an adult bee. The total length of this developmental period depends on the caste the bee belongs to:
- Queen bees- about 16 days
- Workers- around 18 to 20 days
- Drones- roughly 24 days
What Does a Queen Honey Bee Do?
Queen honey bees live for an average of two to three years, depending on many factors. Some have been known to live up to five years. And the queen bees of domesticated colonies typically have shorter lifespans, replacing the queen more frequently.
The queen honey bee is the largest member of the hive. She does have a stinger, like the worker members. However, her stinger is not barbed. A barbed stinger is perfect for defending the colony, which worker bees need. The queen’s stinger is smooth because she will only use it to kill rival queens.
In most cases, there is only one queen. Though there are sometimes two queens, often a mother and a daughter. But this occurrence won’t last for very long once the daughter takes over. She is responsible for producing and laying eggs. Furthermore, she has pheromones that regulate the colony. The pheromones aid communication throughout the hive, which is how bees work together as a “superorganism.”
What Role Do the Worker Honey Bees Have?
Worker honey bees may be the smallest members of the colony, but don’t let that fool you. They are also the most numerous and play a significant role in maintaining the hive, foraging for food, and gathering pollen and nectar. They’re also the main defenders of the colony.
Worker bees live a brief life of about five to seven weeks. Their lifespan is highly affected by the season they are born into. During busier seasons, like the spring and summer, there is much work to be done. As a result of the hard labor, the workers will not survive as long as the bees born during slower seasons, like fall and winter.
What’s the Life of a Drone Honey Bee Like?
The responsibility of a drone honey bee is solely to mate with the queen. Their lifespans differ depending on their success in mating with the queen. Either way, drone bees live short lives.
If the drone is successful in its mating flight with the queen, it will die soon after. If he fails at his task, he is essentially kicked out of the hive once there is no other use for him. Once the busy season subsides, the drone is ejected and will soon die of hunger or other external factors.
In general, drones will live for about 20 to 50 days.
What Are the Other Types of Bees?
Aside from the popular and beloved honey bees, many other bee families and species are more common than you may think.
The following list is the groups of bees you may want to be familiar with. Keep in mind that there are still many more types of bees buzzing all around the world. In general, these are the main types, each containing hundreds or thousands of different species:
- Bumble bees
- Leafcutter bees
- Mason bees
- Mining bees
- Carpenter bees
- Plaster bees
- Wool carder bees
- Flower bees
- Nomad bees
- Long-Horned bees
- Furrow bees
- Yellow-faced bees
- Resin bees
- Pantaloon bees
Identifying Bees in Alabama
Because there are a wide variety of bees, it usually takes an expert’s eye to identify the lesser known species correctly. Bumble bees and honey bees are the types most people are familiar with. However, you now know there are far more bees to keep up with than these two famous groups.
In Alabama, you may come across about 14 unique types of bees. The most prevalent of these are:
Bumble bees- Their fuzzy, large, round bodies are colored with yellow and black stripes. They are social bees and live in a colony structure.
Western Honey Bees- These bees range from amber to brown and have medium-sized, narrow bodies. Their thorax or mid-section is covered in fuzz, and their abdomens are stripped brown or black and yellow. They live in colony structures and produce sweet honey in their hives.
Large Carpenter Bees- Their bodies and wings are shiny black with some yellow on the thorax or midsection. They are about the size of a bumble bee and often live in wooden structures, like telephone poles, logs, and decks. They are a solitary bee species.
Small Carpenter Bees- Deep green to bluish-black, small carpenter bees have narrow bodies, more similar to the size of honey bees or wasps. They mostly live independently but will occasionally socialize with others.
Metallic Green Sweat Bee- These fascinating-looking bees are medium-sized with a metallic green or blueish thorax and head with a black and yellow striped abdomen. As you may guess from their name, they are attracted to our sweat, which makes them a nuisance when working or playing outdoors. Luckily, they rarely sting, and when they do, it isn’t too painful for most people.
Bee Prevention Tips
While most bees are generally harmless, some do have the ability to sting and can be more aggressive or defensive than others. Furthermore, if you or a loved one are allergic to bee stings, you certainly don’t want them buzzing around your home.
Otherwise, bees are more of a nuisance pest. In fact, bees are incredibly beneficial insects for your world on a grand scale. They are some of our primary pollinators and keep our planet green and colorful. They pollinate many of the wild planets other larger animals need to survive. Humans domesticate them to pollinate essential crops, like almonds, squash, apples, broccoli, and many more.
That said, if the bees around your home are not bothering you, it’s best to keep them around. However, there are plenty of situations where they are not welcomed on your property. In that case, here are the top bee prevention tips:
- Seal small cracks and openings in the structure of your home, as well as in outdoor structures and trees, where some bees like to nest.
- Repair leaks around the house and yard.
- Eliminate standing water.
- Cover pools, chimneys, drains, and vents with screens.
- Clear away any clutter where bees may nest, like car parts in the garage or yard, pots, cardboard boxes, and more.
Covenant Wildlife Safely and Humanely Removes Bees
Bees are highly beneficial insects for our planet. However, they threaten certain individuals, including those with allergies, young children, and others.
If you are concerned about an increase in bees around the home or notice large nests being formed, call Covenant Wildlife for safe and humane bee removal.