bee biology infrequently asked questions

Do honey bee eggs just sit in the cell and do nothing?

It’s is hard to image what you expect them to do. I’ve never seen an industrious-looking egg, even though a lot is happening on the inside.

Honey bees remain in the egg stage for about 72-76 hours, assuming nest temperatures are normal. During that time, the fertilized (female) or unfertilized (male) cells begin dividing and differentiating into the tissues that will form a larva. This is a complex process that is not visible from the outside.

After the third day, the egg ecloses into a larva. The term “eclose” is used because the larva doesn’t “hatch” like a chicken does. Instead, the outer covering of the egg just dissolves away, which is why you never see egg shells in the bottom of your brood comb.

So, in answer to your question, rather than doing “nothing,” your honey bee eggs are actively growing into larvae.


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  • Maybe what this person meant by this question was more about the entire time from egg to emerging bee. I thought it was interesting that they simply sit there, never really move or do anything except eat and grow. Do they move around at all? Maybe to cap themselves in?

    Anyway, when I first became a beekeeper, I didn’t know a single thing about bees except for what a child may know: they fly, sting, gather nectar and turn it into honey in big hives.

    I got my first hive from an extraction from my house. The “beekeeper” *scowl* took some of the comb, and placed it haphazardly in a box, all smooshed together. Sure enough, in a day or two, I saw small hive beetle maggots coming out of the bottom of the box. I was a little disgusted with how they were squirming all around and how the whole box was dripping and oozing and smelling bad, BUT I did think that maybe those were baby bees that got lost from being displaced or unhappy or something!! hahahahaha! My poor bees had made a medium small huddle in a far corner.

    I was determined to take care of them and see them survive. I quickly found a beekeeper in my area, and it was only under his guidance, brood frames, and a queen from that beekeeper who’s now a good friend that I kept the hive going. Essentially, I got a small nuc from my friend.

    But yeah, baby bees don’t really do much do they?

    • Chini,

      Good bee story. Someday I would like to collect a lot stories about the way (and why) people got into beekeeping. It would be fun to read.