bee biology

Honey bee eggs in the brood nest

Once the brood comb is prepared, the queen lays one honey bee egg in each cell. Estimates vary widely as to how many eggs a queen can lay, but 1500-2000 per day is a reasonable assumption. Over the course of one spring and summer season, the queen probably reaches a maximum of about 200,000 eggs.

When first laid, the eggs are about 1/16 inch long (1.6 mm) and a pearly translucent white. Oddly, they stand on end in the cell. Gradually, within the first day, they tip to one side and lie prone at the base of the cell. After about three days, the chorion—the membrane coating the egg—dissolves and the new larva is exposed.

Keeping the eggs warm

Honey bees keep the brood nest at a constant temperature that ranges from about 91-97° F (33-36° C). This phenomenon is unique in the insect world and requires large populations. If the population isn’t large enough to care for all the brood and keep them warm, the queen will slow the rate of egg laying, and the workers may eat some of the eggs.

The excellent photograph below shows the eggs standing upright in the cells. In the upper left you can see larvae floating in pools of milky-colored royal jelly.

Honey Bee Suite

Honey bee eggs and larvae in the brood nest. Photo by Wausberg

Honey bee eggs and larvae in the brood nest. Photo by Wausberg


  • Hi dear Sir,
    I would like to inform you that I am looking for to learn producing royal jelly from honey bees.
    I have been producing honey since one year ago and now, I decided to develop our activities.
    Would you mind to learn me how can I make royal jelly from honey bees in extra measure.
    If you send me levels of process with pictures, I will be appreciate you so much.
    Best regards

    • Mehdi,

      I’m sorry, but I don’t know anything about collecting royal jelly. It is not something I am interested in harvesting, so I have never tried it and probably never will. I sometimes collect small amounts with a dropper for queen rearing, but I know nothing about collecting it in large quantities.

  • Harvesting royal honey is a tedious project. Royal honey is the honey fed to young bees from the time the egg is laid until it becomes a larvae. It has to be scooped out of the cell with a special small tool. I guess a person could take the whole bee brood frame and centrifuge it like a regular honey frame, then strain out the bee eggs and small larvae which would float to the top. The queen bee is fed royal jelly longer than the regular bees; this enables her to fully develop into a queen bee.

    • Jeff,

      Harold seems to distinguish between “royal honey” and “royal jelly.” I agree that royal jelly is extracted from queen cells. But is “royal honey,” which I assume is the royal jelly & honey mixture fed to worker larvae, a harvestable product in its own right? I honestly don’t know.

      Harold? Any input?

  • I assumed it was a typo on his part, rather than Royal Honey. I have never heard of royal honey.

    Wouldn’t it be easier to back blend royal jelly with honey then? At least you could control the quality.

    • Jeff,

      I’m out of my league here because I haven’t heard of royal honey either. I’m also not a fan of royal jelly for humans–I say leave it for the bees. I was hoping Harold would enlighten us, but I haven’t heard from him again.

  • Thank you SO much for the bee egg picture. I’m a BRAND NEW beekeeper and having a hard time seeing the tiny eggs. The larva is easy.

    • Lyn,

      It helps to hold the frame so that the sunlight comes over your shoulder and lights up the interior of the cells.

      • Thanks Rusty, I’ve tried that, but still having a difficult time. Someone said to try some reading glasses too. I’m sure it’s one of those skills that once learned it will be easier. I think it’s also that I’m still a little nervous when going through my bees and take far too much time making my girls (bees) a little impatient also. it all takes practice. I’m excited to be learning and I really appreciate all the help from seasoned beekeepers. I’m starting this week with a local beekeeping club.

  • One of the unexpected pleasures of starting with bees last year was taking pictures. I just leave my small Nikon Coolpix on the lid of the next hive, and grab it when there’s a good shot. Last year I got to see the queen in my split for only the second time, and had the camera ready. (Of course this won’t always happen.) That will forever stand as the most exciting picture I have ever taken in my life. Imagine my delight when, blowing the image up on computer, I was able to see eggs in the cells near her. I had never been able to distinguish them while working the hives, even with my mentor saying, “Look, look, eggs!” After that, it became easier. Lyn, you have many such moments ahead of you. Best of success!


    • I’ve been beekeeping almost a year now. I stared with one hive (1 deep super, 10 frames , new queen already with colony) I split the original last year in summer. Perfect, they made a new queen!! This season I’ve kept my now huge hives from swarming by splitting twice, the same way I did before…. new split about 3 feet from original in bee yard…. new queens made and up and running! So cool !! Now up to four big hives….. what ever I’m doing it must be right because all my girls are very healthy and BUSY!! I LOVE BEEKEEPING : ) It’s so Zen..

  • I am new to the honey bees. I bought 2 nuc last spring. One made it through the cold winter we have in Maine so a local beekeeper helped me split the hive. I bought a new queen for the hive. All has went well till the new hive swarmed. I caught the swarm. Everything is calm now. My question is that being a new queen an it swarmed so early should I replace her? Is she going to all ways swarm on me?

    • Sherm,

      I do not believe you should replace the queen. Swarming is a decision made by the workers, not the queen, and it is based on many factors. Only strong and healthy colonies can swarm, and since your queen produced enough bees to swarm in a short time, she sounds like a healthy, productive queen. I would definitely keep her. Remember, from a bee and a reproductive point of view, swarming is a good thing. Try not to think of it as a bad thing, just a good thing that has to be dealt with.

  • I can easily see eggs in new comb. However, the majority of what I have is old black comb (I am slowly replacing it) and I have yet to be able to see eggs in it. I know they are in there as I continue to see the other life stages. I have tried magnifying glass, flashlight, strong sunlight behind me, looking at the cells from different angles and all I end up with is frustrated. Is there anything else I could try? After having one colony go queenless, I am now anxious when I can’t find a queen and can’t see eggs in black comb.

    • Alice,

      That is funny because the people who manufacture and sell black plastic combs say the major advantage is being able to see eggs more clearly. But I think perhaps light goes through new comb and back-lights the eggs, but it doesn’t in old comb. I know what you mean.

  • Hello Rusty,

    I am a graduate student from the University of Florida, and I am creating an extension document on queen bee management for the university’s publicly available UF EDIS extension website.

    I would be very grateful for your permission to use your image showing eggs and larvae in the brood nest. It is very helpful in demonstrating a queenright colony. Additionally, I have simply downloaded this image from Google images. Do you have a full resolution copy of the image that you would be willing to share with me?

    Thank you for your time and consideration!

    Gabriella Steele

    • Gabriella,

      If you read the caption, you will see the photo is from Wikipedia and was taken by Wausberg. I believe large format files are available.

  • Hi Rusty, thank you for getting back to me so quickly! I appreciate the image clarification, I’ll look into Wikipedia.


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.