Brood development - worker, drone and queen

 

Queen bee laying an egg
Queen is laying an egg 🤗

 

Queen lays eggs in honey comb cells and after three days larvae will hatch from them. The bees nurture, feed and keep the larvae warm. When the larvae are old enough the bees will cover the cells with a thin wax layer. In this covered cell, the larvae transforms into a pupa and continues her development through few more days. When the young bee is fully developed, she chews through the wax capping and emerges from the cell.

 

 

Honey bee egg on the bottom of the honeycomb cell
Zoomed in honey bee egg at the bottom of the comb cell. Healthy mated queen will lay one egg per cell. 🥚

 

 

Open brood

 

Uncapped brood
Here we can see some bee larvae - open (uncapped) brood. There is some pollen as well - arrow points to the cell with pollen 🐝

 

An open brood isn't covered with wax cappings – both eggs and larvae are open brood. 

 

 

In order to notice the eggs and quite young larvae, you will need a bit of practise, but the older larvae are easily noticed in honeycomb cells.

 

 

Eggs

 

Eggs in honeycomb cells
Eggs look like tiny grains of rice at the bottom of honeycomb cells. These eggs are about three days old. How do we know? Because they are horizontal. First day they are standing vertically. 🥚🐝

 

Queen bee and eggs
Look how small and hard to see those eggs actually are. And this photo is still zoomed in. Green arrows point at two eggs visible on this photo 👀

 

The queen can lay up to 2000 eggs in a day.

 

 

She lays one egg in one cell.

 

 

The queen lays eggs in the center of the bottom of the cell that the worker bees previously cleaned and prepared. Eggs are white and look like tiny grains of rice.

 

 

Day 1 – egg is standing vertically in the center of the cell

Day 2  – egg is leaning to the one side

Day 3 – egg is placed vertically on the bottom of the cell

 

 

After 3 days a larva hatches from the egg.

 

 

Fertilized and unfertilized eggs

 

The queen lays fertilized and unfertilized eggs. 

 

 

Worker bees hatch from fertilized eggs and drones hatch from unfertilized eggs.

 

 

Honeycomb cells aren't the same size. There are worker and drone cells.

 

 

Different sizes of honeycomb cells
Notice how some of the cells are smaller and some are bigger! Smaller ones are for worker brood and big ones are for drone brood. White staff in cells are larvae (smaller ones are swimming in royal jelly) 🐝

 

 

Worker cells are smaller and queen lays fertilized eggs in them.

 

Drone cells are bigger and the queen lays unfertilized eggs in them.

 

 

Larvae

 

Young bee larvae
Here you can see some young larvae and an egg in the cell on the left. Larva in the middle cell is so small, you can barely see it. You can see a drop of royal jelly around it. All those larvae can become either worker bees or queens 🐝

 

Young brood
Young brood can be hard to see. You need to hold the frame in such a way that sunlight goes all the way to the bottom of the cells 👀

 

 

After 3 days an egg becomes a larva. The bees nurture, feed and keep the larvae warm. 

 

Larva is bend in the cell in a shape of letter C. 

 

Healthy larvae are pearl white – if this isn't the case there is a problem.

 

 

Honey bee larvae
Honey bee larvae in comb cells. Notice that letter C shape 🐝

 

Honey bee larva
This is an older bee larva (still in shape C) 🐝

 

 

Larva hatched from fertilized egg can develop into worker bee or queen depending on the food bees are feeding it. Drones, on the other hand, develop from unfertilized eggs.

 

 

All of the larvae are fed with royal jelly in their first 3 days.

After that, if the larvae hatched from a fertilzed egg is fed with a mixture of honey and pollen, she will develop into a worker bee.

If the larvae that hatched from a fertilized egg is fed exclusively with royal jelly even after her first three days, she will become the queen.

 

 

The number of days that is needed for the larvae to develop differs for worker bee, drone or the queen.

 

The queen is 5.5 days in the stage of a larvae, worker bee 6 days and drone 6.5 days.

 

 

Closed brood

 

Uncapped and capped worker brood
Here we can see some older worker larvae (open brood) and some capped cells. Those capped cells are capped worker brood. There is pupa inside each of them. Those larvae will soon be capped as well. They can not become queens anymore - they are too old 🐝

 

 

After a certain number of days the bees cover the cells with larvae in them with a thin layer of wax (cappings) – closed brood.

 

 

Pupa

 

When the bees cover the cell with wax, the larvae straightens to a vertical position, makes a cacoon and enter the pupa stage.

 

Number of days in pupa stage differs between queen, worker bee and drone.

 

The queen is at the pupa stage for 7.5 days, worker bee 12 and drone 14.5 days.

 

 

Difference between worker and drone brood and the queen cells

 

Capped worker brood
Worker brood. See how those cappings are flat 🐝

 

Capped drone brood
Drone brood. See how those cappings are sticking out like small bubbles 🐝

 

Capped queen cell
Queen cell. It looks like peanut in a shell attached to the comb 🥜

 

 

Worker brood

 

Worker brood has smaller cells than drone brood.

 

Closed worker brood is flatter – it isn't arched like drone brood.

 

 

Young bee will soon emerge from her cell
Young bee will soon emerge from her cell. She already has started chewing the capping 🐝

 

Worker bee starts to emerge from her cell
Here is another one. This worker bee has already opened her capping. She is almost out 😊

 

Emerging worker bee
End finally…🥳

 

Young worker bee just emerged from her cell
Here she is! Just emerged! Isn’t she beautiful?! 🤗

 

 

21 days need to pass for a full development from laying of the egg to emerging of a young worker bee from the cell – 3 days egg stage, 6 days larvae and 12 days pupa aka closed cell.

 

 

Drone brood

 

Drone brood
Drone brood. And there is a drone on the right - see those big eyes 👀

 

 

Drone brood is recognizable by larger cells. 

 

Closed drone brood is recognizable by its arched, rounded caps.

 

 

Usually, but not always, the drone brood is located on the edges of the frames while the worker brood is usually in the middle.

 

It takes 24 days for the drone to develop – 3 days egg stage, 6.5 larvae and 14.5 pupa aka closed cell.

 

 

Queen cells

 

Open queen cell
Uncapped queen cell - view from below. There is queen larva inside. You can see some capped drone brood in the background 👑🐝

 

 

Drone and worker brood and the queen cell
On this frame we can see both worker and drone brood and a closed queen cell. Pink arrow points to the queen cell, blue to drone brood, and orange to the worker brood. Notice how bigger is that queen cell from all other cells. Top of the queen cell is always turned down 🐝

 

 

Because of the great quantity of royal jelly with which she is being fed and the colony's need to get a queen as soon as possible, the queen is the quickest one to develop.

 

 

If you want to learn more about queen cells, go to: Queen Cells and Three Kinds Of Queen Cells

If you want to learn more about queen development, go to: Queen Development.

 

 

Practice

 

Brood frame
By now you should be able to distinguish queen cells, worker and drone brood. We are giving you this brood frame to check yourself. Find queen cells, worker and drone brood. If you have any difficulties just carefully look the above photos and read the text one more time 👀