How is a Queen Bee Born? Unraveling the Mysterious Process

A queen bee is born from an egg laid by an existing queen, which hatches into a larva, specially fed by nurse bees to become sexually mature (Busy Beekeeping). The queen bee has a unique role within the colony, as it is the only sexually developed female and is responsible for laying eggs to create the next generation of bees (Sciencing). To fully understand the process of how a queen bee is born, it is essential to explore the developmental stages from egg to larva, and ultimately, to a queen bee.

The journey of a queen bee begins with the selection of larvae by worker bees who are then placed within a special chamber and nourished with extra honey, also known as “Royal Jelly” (APC Management). This diet allows the chosen larvae to rapidly develop, taking about 16 days from egg to queen bee (Penn State Extension). This accelerated development is advantageous not only to beekeepers but also as an impressive evolutionary adaptation within the beehive.

With their fully developed reproductive organs, queen bees serve as the backbone of honey bee colonies, contributing significantly to the continuity and survival of the hive. As the process of birthing a queen bee is complex, understanding the various stages of development and the factors that influence it provide valuable insights into maintaining healthy bee populations and ultimately, the essential role of the queen bee within the colony.

Queen Bee Biology

Understanding the biology of a queen bee can provide valuable insights into the fascinating world of honey bees. Queen bees play a critical role in the life of a colony, as they are responsible for laying eggs and producing chemicals to influence the behavior of other bees. In this section, we will explore the different stages of queen bee development, focusing on egg laying, larval development, and pupal transformation.

Egg Laying

The process of creating a queen bee begins with egg laying. A queen bee is developed from a larva selected by worker bees, in a process involving her being fed with special nutrients to become sexually mature [source]. This larva is housed in a special cell called a queen cell, which is larger and thicker than those used for drones and worker bees, resembling a peanut shell in appearance [source].

The location of queen cells within a honey bee colony depends on the reason behind their creation. If a colony needs a new queen due to the death or weakening of the current queen, they will create an emergency queen cell. Otherwise, queen cells are created in anticipation of swarming, where a section of the colony, including the queen, will split off and establish a new hive [source].

Larval Development

Once the egg is laid, the larval development stage begins. During this phase, the selected larva is fed a unique diet consisting of royal jelly, a nutritious substance produced by the worker bees specifically to support the development of queen bees [source]. Being fed exclusively with royal jelly enables the larva to mature quickly and become reproductively active, which is essential for their future role as a queen bee.

Approximately nine days after being laid as an egg, the developing queen’s cell is capped, signaling the end of the larval stage [source]. Remarkably, the queen bee has the shortest development period of any honey bee caste, totaling around 16 days from egg to queen [source].

Pupal Transformation

Upon reaching the end of the larval stage, the queen bee begins her pupal transformation. During this crucial period, the queen spins a cocoon within her cell and undergoes significant physiological changes that will enable her to become a fully developed, fertile adult bee. This transformation is critical to ensure the survival and continuity of the honey bee colony, as the queen bee is responsible for spawning the next generation of bees.

The queen bee possesses a unique set of traits, capable of laying thousands of eggs per day and producing chemicals that influence the behavior of the other bees in the colony [source]. Furthermore, the queen bee is the longest-living type of bee, with a potential lifespan of up to six years [source].

The life cycle of a queen bee showcases the remarkable adaptability and complexity of honey bee colonies, while also providing a valuable resource for beekeepers who rely on the successful reproduction and maintenance of their hives.

Royal Jelly

In a colony of honeybees, the birth of a queen bee is of great importance as she determines the colony’s productivity and growth. The development of a queen bee is dependent on the diet provided to her during the larval stage. Royal jelly plays a significant role in this process and holds the key to transforming a fertilized egg into a fully-fledged queen bee.


Royal jelly is a gelatinous substance primarily composed of water, proteins, and sugars. It is produced in the head glands of nurse bees, which are sterile female honeybees between 2 and 15 days old. These nurse bees mix the secretion with fresh pollen to create the royal jelly, which appears like white snot, as mentioned in Beekeeping Coach.

Besides the high water content, royal jelly consists of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, making it a nutrient-rich food source ideal for queen bee development. The unique composition of royal jelly sets it apart from the food given to worker bee larvae, making it a deciding factor in the bee’s caste differentiation.

Role in Queen Bee Development

As reported on, during the initial days of a bee larvae’s life, all of them receive royal jelly as their primary food source. However, the larvae chosen to become queen bees continue receiving royal jelly for an extended period, while worker bee larvae are transitioned to a different diet consisting of honey and pollen.

The enrichment of royal jelly enables the chosen larvae to develop into fertile queen bees. They are placed in specialized cells within the hive, where they proceed to make pupae and undergo metamorphosis into adult queen bees. As mentioned on Sciencing, the persistent diet of royal jelly allows the larva to develop reproductive organs and characteristic traits of a queen bee, setting her apart from the sterile worker bees in the colony.

While royal jelly is essential for queen bee development and differentiation from worker bees, it is not a guarantee that every larva will successfully transform into a queen. Factors such as genetics, environmental conditions, and overall health can influence the queen bee’s emergence and reign within the colony.

In conclusion, royal jelly is a crucial component in the development and differentiation of queen bees within a honeybee colony. Its unique composition and role in caste determination underscore its significance in sustaining the hive’s population and productivity.

Factors Affecting Queen Bee Emergence

Several factors play a significant role in the emergence of a queen bee. To understand these factors, it is necessary to evaluate the impact of genetics, environmental factors, and colony behavior on the development and birth of a queen bee. This section will delve into these three aspects to provide a comprehensive understanding of the factors affecting queen bee emergence.


Genetics play a crucial role in the development of queen bees. Queen bees are born from fertilized eggs, which are laid by the existing queen in specially designed queen cells. These cells are larger and thicker than the cells used to raise drones and workers, resembling a peanut shell. The queen bee controls the sex of the eggs she lays based on the width of the cell.

The genetic makeup of a queen bee determines many aspects of her development, including her size, appearance, and reproductive abilities. This genetic information is passed down from both the queen bee and the drone that fertilizes her eggs. The combination of these genetic factors will ultimately affect the success and fate of a queen bee within her colony.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors also play a significant part in the emergence of queen bees. The availability and quality of food resources have a direct effect on the development and growth of queen bees. For instance, queen-destined larvae are exclusively fed with royal jelly, a protein-rich substance produced by worker bees. The quantity and quality of royal jelly available in the colony directly impact the development of a healthy, well-nourished queen.

Other environmental factors, such as temperature, humidity, and climatic conditions, can also influence the emergence and survival of queen bees. Queen bees need stable and favorable conditions to ensure proper growth and development, and extreme weather conditions or rapid environmental changes can have adverse effects on their health and survival.

Colony Behavior

The decision to raise a new queen is primarily driven by the behavior of the colony as a whole. There are several reasons a colony may decide to rear a new queen, including swarming, supersedure, or the death of the existing queen. In each case, the colony collectively makes the decision to produce a new queen.

Swarming is a reproductive strategy in which part of the colony leaves with the old queen to establish a new colony, while the remaining bees stay behind and raise a new queen. In the case of supersedure, the colony decides the existing queen is unfit and needs to be replaced due to age, illness, or declining reproductive capabilities. If the queen is missing or dead, the colony will quickly initiate the process of emergency queen rearing to ensure continuity in their reproductive success.

In conclusion, the emergence of a queen bee is influenced by various factors, such as genetics, environmental conditions, and colony behavior. Understanding these factors can help beekeepers better manage and maintain their honey bee colonies, ensuring the successful development and emergence of healthy queen bees.

Section 5: Queen Bee Mating

A crucial part of the life cycle of a queen bee is the mating process. This section will explore the different aspects of queen bee mating, including mating flights, drone congregation areas, and post-mating changes.

Mating Flights

In order to mate and become a fully-functioning queen, a young queen bee embarks on a series of mating flights. Typically, these mating flights take place 5-7 days after the queen emerges from her cell (Bee Health – Extension). During these flights, the queen bee will travel to specific locations, known as drone congregation areas, to mate with multiple drones.

The queen bee can make multiple flights to ensure she collects enough sperm to fertilize all the eggs she will lay during her lifetime. The process is vital for the queen bee to ensure the survival of the colony, as she is responsible for laying all the eggs.

Drone Congregation Areas

Drone congregation areas are specific locations where male honeybees gather in large numbers, waiting for virgin queen bees to arrive for mating (Bee Health – Extension). These areas can be found at a fixed distance from the hive and are utilized by drones from various colonies.

In these congregation areas, the queen bee will mate with multiple drones, often 10-20 drones during one or two afternoons (Bee Health – Extension). This ensures genetic diversity within the colony, which is crucial for the overall health and survival of the hive.

Post-Mating Changes

After successfully mating in drone congregation areas, the queen bee undergoes significant changes to prepare for her role as the egg-laying mother of the colony. She will return to the hive, rip out her own wings, and begin to lay eggs (Wise Beekeeping).

The queen bee can lay thousands of eggs during her lifetime, which can last several years. Her primary role in the colony is to produce new worker bees and future queens to maintain the hive’s population. The productivity of the queen bee can decline as she ages, sometimes leading to her replacement by a newly-born queen (Sciencing).

In summary, the queen bee mating process involves several critical steps that ensure the survival and growth of the entire colony. From mating flights to drone congregation areas, these intricate behaviors have evolved over time to create a thriving and efficient honeybee society.


In summary, the birth of a queen bee begins with the laying of an egg by an existing queen (Busy Beekeeping). The egg hatches into a larva, and this larva is then fed a special diet by nurse bees in order to become sexually mature. After thirteen days, the new queen bee emerges from its queen cell(Busy Beekeeping). The queen is the only sexually developed female in the colony and plays a significant role in the growth and reproduction of the hive (Sciencing).

The process of nurturing a future queen bee involves worker bees selecting specific larvae to receive special treatment. This entails feeding them a unique substance known as royal jelly, which enables the larvae to mature into queens (Wikipedia). This selective feeding ensures that only chosen larvae develop fully-functional reproductive organs, setting them apart from worker bees in the colony.

Upon her emergence, the new queen bee faces potential competition from other developing queens within the hive. In such cases, queen bees may engage in fights to establish dominance, ensuring the survival of the fittest queen to lead the colony. Once established as the reigning queen, her primary tasks include laying eggs and producing chemicals that influence the behavior of the other colony members (Sciencing).

The queen bee’s lifespan can be quite remarkable, with some living for up to six years (Sciencing). However, if a queen’s productivity declines or if the colony faces certain challenges, the worker bees may initiate the process to raise a new queen. This natural cycle ensures the continuous growth and health of the colony.

Understanding the intricacies of a queen bee’s birth and her role in maintaining the colony sheds light on the fascinating world of honeybees. This knowledge not only deepens our appreciation for these essential pollinators but also helps guide our beekeeping practices and efforts to protect their habitats.