How long do bees live?
Bees (Anthophila) are a clade of well-known flying insects belonging to the Hymenoptera order and the Apocrita suborder. In a strictly taxonomic sense, bees do not have a specific location, so they are usually grouped within the apoid superfamily. However, this does not mean that their contribution is inconsequential to the well-being of the ecosystems they inhabit.
Bees, along with butterflies, bats and hummingbirds, play an extremely important role as innate pollinators. While for some people bees simply buzz and annoy, in reality, bees are responsible for the success of more than 75% of food crops around the world.
Likewise, bees are incredibly intelligent and organized insects. Its short life expectancy (which does not exceed 7 weeks, in the case of worker bees, 3 months, in the case of drones, and 6 years, in the case of queen bees), it is not a limitation for the fulfillment of their work thanks to its hierarchical organization and its particular division of work.
- Bee lifespan
- Where do bees live?
- What do bees eat?
- Interesting facts about bees
Generally speaking, no particularly striking difference can be made between the life expectancy of a bee in the wild and the life expectancy of one that has been raised in an apiary.
Their natural longevity limits are very strict, so there is no way to extend them excessively, even in captivity:
- Workers: live 7 weeks.
- Male or drone bees: 3 months.
- Queen bees: between 3 and 6 years.
On the other hand, it is important to highlight that, in a strictly taxonomic sense, bees are not a species, but a clade of insects, in which up to 20,000 different species can be found, each with its own life expectancy (according to the roles of their social castes).
The lifespan of other bees like bumblebees and solitary bees is usually shorter. Some bees are kept by humans (beekeeping), but this doesn’t mean that they live in captivity. The beekeeper only supports their natural activities.
However, there is one thing that makes bees raised in this way safer – the fact that they are placed in special boxes and protected from different predators. Yet, it is not unusual for bears to break in, cause damage and kill bees.
Like most living beings, bees can develop certain diseases. These diseases can affect their lifespan too. In addition, pollution caused by humans can affect their health too making them die faster.
It is also worth mentioning that bees have natural enemies. A good example of a mammal that eats bees is the badger. The bear eats honey but doesn’t eat bees. In addition, many birds eat bees and there are some species of spiders, flies, and wasps that kill and eat bees.
Given the incredible biological diversity of bees, this article will limit itself to exposing only the life expectancy of the most well-known species of bee of all: the European bee, domestic bee or honey bee.
How long does a honey queen bee live?
The honey queen bee lives an average of three years, although it can reach up to six years of life. However, since inefficiency is not an option for strict worker bees, queen bees are usually killed by the latter when their reproductive capacity and quality decline. For this reason, it is difficult for a honey queen bee to reach six years of life.
How long does a honey worker bee live?
The honey bee worker lives an average of 7 weeks, being the breed of honey bee with the lowest life expectancy. In this case, it depends on when they are born (those born in autumn live longer).
How long does a honey drone live?
Despite having only half of the chromosomes of honey worker bees, the honey drone has a life expectancy greater than the latter, reaching an average of 3 months longevity (their lives depend on the time of mating).
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Where do bees live?
Contrary to popular belief, not all species of bees are honey-bearing, in other words, not all bees produce honey. Also, not all bee species establish division of labor in their nests, which means that not all bee species have queens and workers in the strict sense of the word.
Despite the aforementioned differences, most bees live in nests, whether built by themselves, by partners, by man, or by an enemy colony. Although some species of bees are more gregarious than others, they all need a nest to successfully complete the fertilization of their future eggs.
Bees are found everywhere in the world except Antarctica. They are usually found in areas covered with flowering plants.
What do bees eat?
In general terms, bees (Apis mellifera) feed on nectar, honey and pollen obtained by worker bees from flowers; the first provides them the necessary proteins, fats and minerals, while the latter is their quintessential energy food.
What do honey worker bees eat?
During the first days of their larval phase, worker bees feed on royal jelly (a substance secreted by the hypopharyngeal glands in the heads of adult worker bees).
On the fourth day, the worker bees change their diet to one consisting of pollen, nectar, and diluted honey.
What do queen honey bees eat?
Throughout their lives, queen bees are fed royal jelly by nurse bees (young worker bees). This subtle change in the diet of queen bees affects their development, giving them an incredible reproductive capacity and a greater size.
What do honey drone bees eat?
During their larval stage, drones are fed exclusively with honey. Once adult drones include pollen and nectar in their diet.
Interesting facts about bees
Not all bees produce honey
Surprisingly enough, only seven of the more than 20,000 species of bees produce honey.
It is not easy to produce honey
Although western honey bees are capable of producing 1.6 million tons of honey each year, this does not mean that their production is easy.
In fact, to produce a kilo of honey, it is necessary for the bees to collect the nectar equivalent to a total of four million visits to different flowers.
Daisies are its favorite flowers
Daisies are one of the favorite flowers of pollinating bees; the reason: daisies bloom most of the year.
The importance of bees
More than 75% of the world's food crops depend on the success of the work of pollinators (bees, wasps, butterflies, birds, moths, beetles, bats, etc.). These not only contribute to food security in the world, but also function as natural alarms of the health of local ecosystems.
The sense of orientation in bees
How is it possible for a worker bee to know exactly where its hive is despite being so far away during its collecting flights? Simple, bees have a fairly developed sense of orientation, which allows them to orient themselves thanks to solar movements.
The queen bee is not the one who has the last word
In a domestic bee hive, it is not the queen bee who has the last word. In reality, it is the worker bees who make the most important decisions. The latter decide which worker bee will become the next queen and, also, whether the queen bee should continue to live or if, on the contrary, it should be killed for the good of the hive.
The History of the bee
Due to the fact that humans get honey from different species of bees, a few millennia ago, people have decided to start with beekeeping. There is evidence that beekeeping was an important part of agriculture in Ancient Egypt. In addition, to honey, bees (honey bees) provide propolis, royal jelly, and beeswax.
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