Educational Guide

Bee Development

All three types of adult honey bees pass through three developmental stages before emerging as adults: egg, larva, and pupa. The three stages are collectively labeled brood. While the developmental stages are similar, they do differ in duration (see Table 1). Unfertilized eggs become drones, while fertilized eggs become either workers or queens. Nutrition plays an important part in caste development of female bees; larvae destined to become workers receive less royal jelly and more a mixture of honey and pollen compared to the copious amounts of royal jelly that a queen larva receives.

Development Stages [Brood] Queen Drone Worker
Egg 3 3 3
Larval stage 5.5 6.5 6
Pupal stage 7.5 14.5 12
Total developmental time 16 24 21


Three stages of honey bee development collectively called as Brood. Following are the three stages of development

1. Egg

Honey bee eggs are normally laid one per cell by the queen. Each egg is attached to the cell bottom and looks like a tiny grain of rice. When first laid, the egg stands straight up on end. However, during the 3-day development period the egg begins to bend over. On the third day, the egg develops into a tiny grub and the larval stage begins.

2. Larvae

Healthy larvae are pearly white in color with a glistening appearance. They are curled in a “C” shape on the bottom of the cell. Worker, queen, and drone cells are capped after larvae are approximately 6, 51⁄2, and 61⁄2 days old, respectively. During the larval stage, they are fed by adult worker (nurse) bees while still inside their beeswax cells. The period just after the cell is capped is called the prepupal stage. During this stage the larva is still grub-like in appearance but stretches itself out lengthwise in the cell and spins a thin silken cocoon. Larvae remain pearly white, plump, and glistening during the prepupal stage.

3. Pupae

Within the individual cells capped with a beeswax cover constructed by adult worker bees, the prepupae begin to change from their larval form to adult bees. Healthy pupae remain white and glistening during the initial stages of development, even though their bodies begin to take on adult forms. Compound eyes are the first feature that begin to take on color; changing from white to brownish-purple. Soon after this, the rest of the body begins to take on the color of an adult bee. New workers, queens, and drones emerge approximately 12, 71⁄2, and 141⁄2 days, respectively, after their cells are capped.