"How long do bees live? "
This is a question I am occasionally asked when I am giving talks about bees.
The answer to this question depends on the types of bees we are referring to, and the role of the bee within the colony!
So...on this page, I provide information about
and this information is largely based on the UK species.
There may be some similarities with bees in other countries and climates, but there may also be differences.
There are around 25,000 species of bees in the world - with more to be discovered, and its impossible to write about all of them on this site!
Click on one of these links or scroll down to read about:
HOW LONG DO BEES LIVE
- A COMPARISON OF THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF BEES
How long do Honey Bees live?
The life span of honey bees varies, depending on the role of an individual bee within the colony. Honey bees live in sophisticated, well organised societies. A honey bee colony could comprise between 50,000 and 60,000 bees, performing different roles in order to help ensure the smooth running and success of the colony. The role of a bee, as well as the time of year in which it was born (spring/summer or autumn), will also play a role for worker bees in the colony. Worker bees born in spring/summer have shorter, busier lives, whilst those born in autumn may live longer, but they must survive the harsher winter conditions to emerge from the hive the following spring. In summary:
Queen Honey Bees:
All being well, a honey bee queen could live for 3 to 4 years, as long as she is free from disease. This is much longer than bumblebee queens or the solitary bee species.
However, a queen that produces few eggs may not be favoured by the colony. In such a case, a new queen will be produced, and the old queen replaced. This is called ‘supersedure’. In some beekeeping practices, the queen is replaced by the beekeeper after one or two years. To learn more, see my page about the Honey Bee Queen.
Workers raised during the spring or summer months may live for 6 or 7 weeks. Their lives are especially busy, with lots of hungry larvae to feed, and honeycomb to be produced. This is when the colony is at its most productive, with workers busy collecting nectar and pollen for feeding the colony. Workers raised in the autumn have no brood to care for, since the queen stops producing eggs. These workers, together with the queen, comprise the remains of the colony for the year (part of the colony may have left in a swarm, in order to form a new colony elsewhere), and they must huddle together around the queen in order to keep warm during the winter, ready to emerge the following year to begin foraging again in the early spring. They may live 4 to 6 months.
At the most, drones may live for up to 4 months, however, they may survive for just a few weeks. Note, that upon mating with the queen, drones die immediately.
How Long do Bumblebees Live?
Information about the lifespan of bumblebees tends to vary between different studies. Additionally, this information is based on British bumblebees, however, the lifecycles of bumblebees in the tropics, where colonies may thrive for longer, may be quite different. Additionally, even in the UK, climate is believed to be having an impact on bumblebees, with colonies continuing to be active during the winter in the south of England. However, typically…
New queens emerge during the late summer or early autumn. After mating and feeding to store fat reserves on their bodies for the winter, they will then hibernate. During early spring the following year, the new queens emerge to establish new colonies of their own. However, towards the end of summer or early autumn, again, new queens emerge from the colony she has founded. The rest of the colony, however, including the workers and the original queen, will not survive. All in all then, providing a queen is successful and is not killed by disease, pesticide or predators, she may live for about a year - part of this time being spent in hibernation.
Accounts of how long bumblebees live, do vary between species and studies.For example, Bombus terricola workers were observed to be 13.2 days on average – around 2 weeks. But in other studies, workers were observed to live for up to 41.3 days – about 6 weeks. It is believed that workers engaged in nest duties live longer than bumblebee workers whose main duty is foraging. These bumblebees are of course more prone to predator attack, and are also exposed to varying weather conditions. It is not unusual to find a bedraggled looking bumblebee needing to rest and revive itself having been caught in a shower. For advice about what to do if you find such a bumblebees, read my page advising what to do if you have found a bee.
I have not read any information giving the lifespan of bumblebee males. However, they, along with the new queens are the last to emerge from the colony, but they do not hibernate. Therefore, it is likely that they live only for a few weeks.
You may wish to read more on my page about bumblebees.
How long do solitary bees live?
To get an idea about the answer to this question, take a look at my pages about the different solitary bees, where their lifecycles are explained: carpenter bees, mason bees, leafcutter bees and mining bees.
'How long do bees live?' and the life cycle of bees:
The bee life cycle has 4 key stages, but even the length of time between those stages varies, depending on species and role within the colony. To read more, see may page about the bee life cycle.
Go from 'How long do bees live?' to these fun honey bee facts.
A page all about cuckoo bumblebees - read how cuckoo bumblebees behave in similar ways to the cuckoo bird.
Bees belong to the insect order 'hymenoptera', along with wasps, ants and sawflies. Go from 'How long do bees live?' to this link, and take a look at my fun drawings!
Go from 'How long do bees live?' to these lists of great bee plants, including garden plants, herbs, wildflowers, shrubs, trees and more.
Go from 'How long do bees live?' to these links about bee pollination. Find out how different bees pollinate and why they are such amazing pollinators.
Save the Bees!
Bees are having a hard time. Go from 'How long do bees live?' to my 10 tips for saving the bees!
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