Day 8: Queen larva capping

The Twelve Days of Honey Bees, Day 8. A honey bee queen larva is capped around day 8 of her lifecycle.

We leave the world of bee anatomy to talk about the lifecycle of a honey bee. A queen lays an egg in a honeycomb cell, which hatches around day 3 or 4. The rest of the lifecycle depends on the type of bee. A growing queen larva is typically capped on day 8, while workers and drones are capped on day 9 and 10, respectively. There is some variation, of course.

You can read a detailed discussion of the honey bee lifecycle on Wikipedia if you wish. I learned the mnemonic 3-5-8-5-3 during my first year of beekeeping. While not exact, it represents the lifecycle fairly well. An egg hatches in 3 days and is capped around 5 days later (day 8). A queen emerges 8 days later (day 16), a worker emerges after another 5 days (day 21), and a drone emerges after another 3 days (day 24). So if you can remember 3-5-8-5-3, you can remember the overall honey bee lifecycle.

The first picture here shows three queen cells, two on the face on one on the back side of the comb. This was taken April 29, 2018 when I placed a top bar frame with queen cells into this medium frame to recover a queenless colony. Given the smaller top bar frame, this was likely from my hive Venus, though I’m not sure what hive it went into. Clearly after day 8, since the queen cells are capped.

When all goes well, the hive ends up with a nice mated queen, as in the next picture. Not the same hive, as this was taken over a year later on May 18, 2019.

If you zoom in, can can see the rounded marginal cell in the wing of both the queen and the worker to her right. As we discussed in Day 4, this is an identifying trait in honey bees.

May you prosper and find honey.

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