How long do honey bees live?
You’d think the answer was a simple one, but it’s not so straightforward!
There are a number of factors that determine how long a honey bee lives:
- which species is the honey bee (bee species)
- what is its role in the hive (bee type)
- time of year/season
It’s a bit like humans in a way.
Different people living under different conditions have different lifespans!
Honey Bee Lifespan
In this article, we’ll be considering the Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera).
This is the most common species of honey bee and can be found all around the world.
There are 3 types of honey bees in a hive and each has a different life expectancy.
The types are:
- Queen bee (one per hive)
- Worker bees (around 50,000 – 60,000 per hive)
- Drones (approx. 500 per hive)
Let’s look at the life expectancy for each.
1. Queen Bee Lifespan
The queen bee has it better than most human queens, and live a lot longer than other bees because of it!
Naturally, a queen bee will live between 3 and 5 years.
However, beekeepers will sometimes replace the queen earlier to improve laying capacity.
The queen bee develops from an egg to an adult in the shortest amount of time.
She only takes 16 days, compared with 21 days for a worker bee, or 24 days for a drone.
You can see the Queen Bee in the image above. She is the larger bee whom all the other bees are facing.
The Queen is protected, fed, and warmed by the rest of the hive, and does not want for anything.
If the queen did die, either naturally or otherwise, the workers will raise up another queen by feeding a chosen larvae royal jelly.
2. Worker Bee Lifespan
Worker bees have a much shorter lifespan than queen bees, and their lifespan depends on when they are born.
Worker bees that are born in the summer will only live 6 to 8 weeks.
They work themselves to exhaustion – know anyone like that?
However, worker bees that are born before winter will live for 4 to 6 months.
Their main job over winter is to keep the queen warm.
They take turns being on the outer edge of the cluster where it is cooler and circulate back towards the center where it is warmer.
There are many different roles the worker bees play, including being a nurse, a guard, a forager, or a scout.
This too can play a part in how long a worker be will live.
3. Drone Lifespan
Drones average the shortest lifespan of all types of honey bees.
However, they have a lot less to accomplish in their time, so it makes sense!
Drones will live from 3 weeks to 3 months, but they will also die after mating with the queen.
This opportunity could arise at any point in a drone’s short life.
Drones are also kicked out of the hive before winter.
Because the only things they are good at is eating and mating, they are not invited to drain the honey resources through winter.
They will leave the hive and die as they cannot support themselves.
How Long Does A Bee Live [FAQs]
How old do bees get?
- Queen bee – 3 to 5 years
- Worker bee – 1 – 6 months
- Drone bee – 3 – 16 weeks
What is the maximum lifespan of a honey bee?
The queen bee has the maximum expected lifespan of up to 5 years.
However, she is often changed out by beekeepers before she reaches this age.
Why do bees have such a short lifespan?
Worker bees work very hard during their short lives and it is said that they work themselves to death.
New bees are able to be raised up quickly to replace those bees that die.
Do bees work themselves to death?
Worker bees can make over 35 trips out of the hive to collect nectar and pollen every day.
Often, the bee will be flying large distances as well.
Because of the strain of this effort, they will usually die within 6 months.
The more you learn about bees, the more you’ll want to learn about bees:
And let us know if you have any questions in the comment section below.