How Do Bees Reproduce? A Sneak Peek Into Where and How the Magic Happens

Bees in their beehives

Discussions about human sexuality are sometimes referred to by the euphemism "the birds and the bees." This may sound like a cute and simplistic way of approaching a complex subject. But, the answer to how do bees reproduce is a dramatic story of life and death, of intricate mating patterns, and sophisticated gender determination.

How Do Bees Reproduce?

Bee reproduction is not only a complicated subject, but different species of bees have unique variations of the process. Honeybees follow similar breeding rituals whether they are living in hives of their own creation or in the hives of a beekeeper. The queen, drones, and worker bees all have unique roles to play in the process of conception, gestation, and birth. The life expectancy of each type of bee is determined by its role in the reproduction process and the ongoing life of the hive. Each role is a part of the mystery that answers the question of how do bees reproduce.

The Dramatic Mating Ritual

The Development of the Bees

The Role of the Queen Bee

Somewhere between the age of six and sixteen days, after emerging from the cell, the queen bee will make a mating flight. On this flight, she may encounter thousands of male bees or drones and actually will mate with anywhere from 10 to 20 of them. From this one mating flight episode, the queen will collect as many as 100 million sperms. Although she may live four or five years, this will be the only mating flight she makes. She will spend the rest of her life in the hive laying fertilized and unfertilized eggs.


The sperm is stored in the queen's oviduct. Eventually, the volume will be reduced to about five to six million sperm remaining in the spermatheca, where they will continue to fertilize a smaller number of eggs for as long as four or even five years. The young queen produces as many as 2000 eggs a day and will lay them in a highly organized pattern within the hive, placing a single egg in a cell of the honeycomb. As she ages, her production drops, and her laying pattern becomes more random. Each egg is approximately half the size of a grain of rice.

How the Queen Determines the Sex of Bees

Identifying the Queen

The Queen's Life Expectancy

The Work of the Drones

Drones can play a role in helping maintain the right temperature in the hive, but their primary mission is depositing their sperm in the sting chamber of the queen during the mating flight. If the queen's sting chamber is closed, the drone may ejaculate his sperm to no effect. If he is successful in placing his sperm in the chamber, he will experience a dramatic and sudden end of his life. 


The sperm moves so forcefully through the sting chamber into the oviduct of the queen bee that the intensity of this experience causes the drone's endophallus to rip off. It also rips open his stomach resulting in his immediate death. His role is essential to answer the question of how do bees reproduce

Drones Travel to Congregating Areas

Success Means Instant Death for the Drones

How the Worker Bees Help Reproduction

worker bees on the production

Image by PollyDot from Pixabay

The worker bees are female bees. They can lay eggs but these eggs will only produce drones or male bees. It is their job to provide the royal jelly that nourishes the eggs laid by the queen. Young worker bees serve as nurse bees in the hive, nourishing the larvae, and collecting honey from other worker bees whose primary job is foraging. As they age, their role includes cleaning out the cells after the larvae have developed into bees. They also move into the more physically demanding work of foraging.


Worker bees typically live six to seven weeks in the spring and summer months. Winter worker bees live slightly longer because they tend to have larger bodies and more reserve strength. In cold conditions, the worker bees help to maintain warmth in the hive to protect the queen. These same bees will expel drones from the hive before winter sets in to control the food demands in the hive.

Conclusion

bees production on bee farm

Image via Pexels

How do bees reproduce? The answer is a combination of amazing mating dynamics, unique and specific roles in the bee colony, and built-in intelligence that assures the continued growth and stability of the hive population.

Featured Image by PollyDot from Pixabay

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