How Long Do Queen Bees Live? Interesting Insect Facts For Kids!

Oluniyi Akande
Oct 25, 2023 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Nov 16, 2021
Continue reading this article to find out how long do queen bees live.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.1 Min

In the whole colony of bees, the queen bee is known to play the most important role.

The queen bee affects the hive in more ways than you can imagine. In fact, in the whole colony or hive, the queen is the largest bee!

The are many bee species like bumblebees, carpenter bees, honey bees, and many more unique species too. Bees live together in a colony or a hive and each bee plays a specific role in the hive.

It is the same in a honey bee colony or a bumblebee colony or any other bee colony for that matter.

A beehive will consist of a worker bee, a drone bee that is a male, and a queen bee who is the reproductive leader. Although worker bees are females and they and the queen bee have the same genetics, they do not breed as the role of egg-laying belongs to the queen bee.

This might make you wonder what is so different about the queen bee that means the queen only has the ability to produce.

The answer to this question is the queen's diet and dietary habits! The queen bee is a very fascinating creature and is considered to be like a mother to the hive.

A queen's lifespan is largely dependent on the type of bee it is. Any female bee larva has the potential and ability to become the queen bee.

The choosing of the queen bee is done by other members of the colony or worker bees.

The queen performs two essential roles. One is to produce or give out chemical scents which direct the bees as to what they should do while the other is to lay lots of eggs that will later develop to become drones, worker bees, and potential queen bees.

Producing over 1,500 eggs a day, a queen can easily produce over 1 million offspring in its lifespan and this ability reduces as it grows older with age.

When a colony of bees senses that the hive needs a new queen, they will begin the procedure of raising potential new queens. When the queen gives out low levels of pheromone, this process is initiated.

The nurse bees in the hive, which are usually the youngest bees, then find and select about 10-20 female bee larvae that are newly hatched.

They start feeding these larvae a strict diet of what is called 'royal jelly'. This so-called royal jelly is a white substance that is secreted from the top of the bees' heads and totally transforms the reproductive system of the female, thereby turning her into a queen!

The queens have their own quarters too where they develop queen cells. The cell has a cup-like shape and resembles a peanut.

As the larva is transforming into a full-fledged queen bee, the worker bees will cap or seal the cell as fully develops inside it. After 15 days have passed, the queen will chew its way out of this cell as an adult with help of a few worker bees.

Once its out, its next job is to kill its sister or the rest of the potential queens! The queen's stinger is used solely for the purpose of killing its competitors.

Once this battle is completed, it will then fly to mate for the first time. This mating flight happens in the air with many male drones and this mating period occurs only once throughout its life.

After mating, the queen will then return back to the hive as the mating has now given it the ability to lay fertilized eggs for the next three to five years.

If the old queen is still present in the hive when the new queen returns, the new queen will kill the old queen and look after the new eggs if there are any.

However, this is mostly not the case as the old queen leaves the nest with a few of the worker bees before the new queen is born.

Therefore, the new queen bee lives for three to five years, laying eggs throughout the hive and reviving the population.

If you enjoyed this article on how long do bees live, check out our European honey bee fun facts for kids and dragonfly vs damselfly articles that you are sure to love!

What is the maximum life of the queen bee?

Many insects are known to live short lives and the queen bee falls in this category too! Its lifespan depends upon the number of males or drones it mates with. In the life cycle that it lives, it only mates once and with many drones as possible in the air.

All the males that have mated with the queen die soon after or leave the colony and die in the cold of winter or out of starvation. Apart from being an egg-laying machine, a queen also gives out distinct chemical scents that direct the workers and drones in the colony or bee nest.

Colonies with well-mated queens have been observed to thrive the best. As soon as the workers detect a reduced production of pheromones and eggs in the colony, they will raise a new queen.

Even beekeepers replace the queens in the colonies every first or second year to keep the nest thriving.

As a result, domesticated queens have a very short lifespan and die early. A bee tends to live a solitary life without any mate!

When queens lay eggs, they can either be fertilized eggs or unfertilized eggs. Unfertilized eggs become male bees or drones.

The lifespan of a queen depends on what bee breed it belongs to. For example, the queen honeybee lives for up to five years, bumblebee queens live for only one year, and there is no concept of a queen bee when it comes to carpenter bees!

Therefore, it varies across species. Even if the worker bees are females and have the same genetics as the queen, it's only the queen who has the reproducing ability because of its diet.

When it is in the larvae stage, the queen is fed with royal jelly which is a white substance that is secreted from the heads of the worker bees. This royal jelly improves the reproductive systems of the queens!

How long is the life cycle of a queen bee?

The queen bee lifecycle is quite interesting. The lifespan of a queen is generally two to three years while some queen bees live for up to five or seven years. New queens are raised by young worker bees that are called nurse bees who feed them royal jelly, a milky white substance that develops their reproductive systems.

As soon as the adult queen emerges from the cell in which it develops, it will fly for the first time and mate with as many males as it can. This will determine how long the queen bee lives too!

In bumblebees, the queen survives mostly for just a year in the nest. A queen honey bee can live up to five years.

The workers or the worker bee lives has a lifespan of only six weeks in total while the males or drones die as soon as they mate with the new queen. It is the same in both bumblebees and honey bees.

Worker honey bees become most active during the honey-producing seasons where they look for food, feed the larvae, and produce honey!

They are very efficient workers. If by any chance the nest gets overpopulated, the queen will take a good number of the workers and live in a new nest in another place.

The workers are also endowed with the duty of raising new queens if the old queen is starting to lose its ability to lay eggs. Bee queens and male drones are bigger in size compared to the workers.

Once the old queen dies, it is up to its offspring to continue the life cycle. Several of the old queen's female offspring become potential new queens.

Bees can chase you if they are attracted to the scent you give off or if you have threatened their hive!

How long do honey bees live without a queen?

The bees that live the longest in the colony are none other than the queen bee. The queen honey bee's life period can be different from the queen bumblebee's life.

Honey bee colonies can survive without a queen.

Honey bees is the species that provides us with honey and have been doing the same job for over 150 million years. A honey bee colony can live without an adult queen for up to four to six weeks.

However, honey bee colonies will soon begin to collapse if they go without a queen bee for so long.

An adult queen honey bee will mostly live for a period of five years. Domesticated honey bees do not live for long and will live for two to three years as the beekeeper keeps changing them every one or two years to keep the nest healthy and thriving.

What makes a colony of honey bees different from that of a bumblebee colony is that a honey bee colony will make it through the winter while a bumblebee queen bee will not survive in the winter months.

Hence, with the birth and arrival of the new queen bumblebee, the old queen doesn't live for long and dies in the winter along with a few of her workers. The old queen bee leaves the beehive even before the new queen is born.

What does a queen bee do?

Although there are many bees that live in the colony, it is the queen bee that plays the most important and vital role. In a colony of about 80,000 workers and 25,000 drones, there is only one queen bee!

Therefore, there is definitely something special about the queen.

Once a male drone and the queen bee mate, the male will die quickly after. Therefore, the males don't live long once the mating is done.

A queen bee is the reproductive leader of the bee nest and it is because of its ability to produce certain chemical scents and lay eggs that the bee colonies live and thrive well.

The queen honey bee is so occupied with laying eggs that it has certain attendants to help feed and clean it. As the queen bee grows older, its egg-laying capabilities also reduce.

These attendants are a separate group of workers who also help in relieving this bee!

Once the new queen bee is born, the old queen leaves the beehive to a new nest with a few of its workers where it will eventually die in the winter. Hence, the winter season is a significant one for bee queens as it marks the arrival of the new queen and the departure of the old queen!

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for How long do queen bees live?

Interesting insect facts for kids then why not take a look at bugs that look like Termites: explore cool insects around your home or can rabbits eat watermelon rind? It's a yes, to this juicy sweet treat.

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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