Did you know that a bee’s lifespan varies from one species to another, and their role in the colony affects how long they can live?
Yes, their lifespan has been decided since birth, which brings us to the question, “How long do bees live?”
Well, these hardworking pollinators go through 4 different stages to fully develop into adulthood, and their life expectancy can range from two weeks to a few years.
That’s such a massive range, right?
So, to give more insight into bees’ life, we’ll discuss:
- bees’ life expectancy depending on their species, lifestyle, and role
- and what factors affect bee’s lifespan
If you’re a newbie navigating the world of bee-keeping and you want to know how long can these pollinators and honey makers live, this is for you.
So, let’s get back to the big question, how long is a bee’s lifespan when humans are not a catalyst in their death and disappearance?
How Long Do Bees Live?
Bees’ lifespan varies greatly from 2 weeks to six weeks to 6 months or even years.
Most of the time, queen bees live longer than the worker and drone bees.
Let’s dissect and discuss each one of them to see which of them can live longer.
The Lifespan of Different Bee Species
So, How Long Do Honey Bees Live?
As their name suggests, honey bees are the types of bees that make honey out of nectar and pollen from flowers.
They are labeled as superorganisms due to their complex, well-structured colonies and huge number.
Yes, we mean it when we say huge because each colony has around 50,000 to 60,000 bees.
There are three adult castes in a honey bee colony, namely the:
Each plays a role in the colony and varies in lifespan. Let’s start with the famous queen bees.
How long does a queen honey bee live?
Queen bees can live for 3 to 4 years if they are healthy and disease-free.
These queen bees are the ones who produce and lay eggs to produce the next generation of pollinators and honey producers.
In some unique cases, queen honey bees can live up to 6 years, which is a huge feat for these pollinators.
But in domesticated bee hives, beekeepers “re-queen” or replace their queen frequently, so their old queens die earlier than usual.
How long do worker bees live?
The worker bees have a shorter lifespan than the queen bees because they can only live for 6 to 7 weeks in summer or spring.
In these seasons, they’re more active in foraging and storing nectar to feed their larvae and produce honey which they will use or consume during the cold season.
But the worker bees born and raised in the autumn have no brood to care for and forage for because the queen stop producing eggs at this point.
So their only mission is to huddle together around their queen to keep her and themselves warm during winter.
This allows them to preserve energy and prepare to emerge the following year to forage again in early spring.
How long do drone bees live?
Drone bees are male bees that hatched from unfertilized eggs, and their lifespan depends on whether they get to mate with the queen, which is their main purpose.
Their average lifespan is 55 days.
If they manage to mate with the queen, they will die after the mating flight because their endophalus (or the bee penis) gets ripped from their body after the mating and ejaculation.
And the endophalus remains in the fertilized queen bee’s body.
Those who didn’t get to mate with the queen honey bee will be ejected from the hive at the end of the summer.
And most of the time, they die due to freezing temperatures and starvation.
Even those who survived the mating flight will be ejected by the worker bees because they already served their only purpose.
How Long Do Bumble Bees Live?
Like honeybees, this kind of bee lives in colonies.
But their sting is more painful and can sting more than once.
Bumble bees’ lifespans vary depending on the climate, location, and studies.
If you want to get to know more about how long these pollinators can live, let’s dig deeper into their biological nature.
Worker Bumble Bee
Some studies have observed that worker bumble bees can live up to 13.2 days or 2 weeks.
But others reported that the bumble bee’s lifespan could reach 41.3 days or around 6 weeks.
Generally, worker bees who stay in the hive to tend to nest duties live longer than those who forage for food.
Because foraging bumble bee workers are more susceptible to predator attacks and different weather conditions, those in the bee hives are sheltered and protected by the hive they themselves have built.
How about their queens?
Queen Bumble Bee
A queen bumble bee has an average lifespan of one year, but this includes the time being spent in hibernation during winter.
Diseases, predators, and pesticides can affect their lifespan, though, so it may vary depending on the queen’s environment.
During the late summer or early autumn, new bumble bee queens emerge, then they mate and feed on pollen and nectar to store fat reserves for the winter.
They will then turn into hibernate mode in winter.
And another batch of queens will then be born to build and establish their own colonies in the early spring of the following year.
And the cycle goes on and on.
Male or Drone Bumble Bee
Male bumblebees, which are also called drone bees, can live up to 2 weeks on average.
Since they’re born and raised to mate with the virgin queens, their life ends as soon as they fulfill their roles.
They hatch simultaneously as the queen bee but don’t hibernate like the queens.
How Long Do Carpenter Bees Live?
Carpenter bees are solitary, meaning they don’t reside in a colony.
They’re sometimes called “wood bees,” but they don’t eat wood.
Instead, they nestle on it by drilling a hole into the wood to create tunnels.
But the good news is male carpenter bees do not sting, so you don’t have to worry if they’re living in close proximity to your home.
Although you need to be cautious about the females because they might attack when they’re provoked.
So, how long do carpenter bees live?
Worker Carpenter Bee
Unlike honeybees, carpenter bees can live for a year, and these workers don’t support a huge colony or hive.
But they also perform important jobs in the hive, such as nest-building.
After determining where to establish the nest, the female carpenter bees work on digging a tunnel where they can lay their eggs.
Queen Carpenter Bee
The queen bees of this species have an average lifespan of one year, but it can vary depending on their environment and predator susceptibility.
Most of these female bees lay their eggs during the summer.
But mother and daughter carpenter bees can live together in another species’ nest, unlike honeybee queens.
Male Carpenter Bees
Contrary to drone honeybees, male carpenter bees don’t die after mating flight, but they still have a shorter lifespan than females.
They can only live for one season and ultimately die.
How Long Do Solitary Bees Live?
There are different types of solitary bees; they could vary from species to species.
Their lifespan can range from a few weeks to a few months.
And just like the previous species mentioned earlier, the female workers are tasked to build a nest and feed their young while the male solitary bees’ mission is to mate and reproduce.
However, some bees can’t live to their fullest potential due to various factors that have a huge impact on their lives.
Factors That Influence Bees’ Lifespan
There are many variables that affect bees’ average lifespan.
Aside from genetics and their species, other factors influence how long bees can live.
One of the most important factors that influence their lifespan is their diet.
The higher their pollen and the better the protein quality they consume, the healthier they get and live longer.
Some species live longer than others; this is where genetics comes into play.
For example, among the bees above, honeybees have the highest average life expectancy.
And usually, those who stay in the hive live longer than those who forage for food outside their home.
Another reason why bees don’t get to meet their potential lifespan is diseases such as:
Many of these diseases are common among honeybees but can also affect other species.
Pests and Predators
Predators such as bears, skunks, and spiders threaten bees.
So, it’s not shocking when a queen isn’t able to live for 3 to 4 years even if they’re capable of doing so.
Even tiny creatures like varroa mites can infest them and shorten their lives.
Weather and climate change have altered seasonal plants’ growing seasons and confused bees that depend on them for survival.
It also causes flowers to bloom earlier than usual or not bloom at all.
And whenever that happens, bees experience food scarcity.
Furthermore, extreme weather conditions and calamities such as droughts, wildfires, floods, and heavy snow have eradicated lots of bees that weren’t able to escape.
Many bees have nowhere to go because of our increasing carbon footprints and pesticide use that destroys their natural habitat.
So, if you want to attract bees into your garden, you need to stop using pesticides and insecticides.
This way, you can help contribute to their lifespan too!
Another reason why some bees can’t reach their full life potential is because of colony collapse disorder (CCD).
As its name suggests, it happens when the harmony in a colony is gone, thus causing the beehive not to function properly and the bees to leave.
In 2008, 60% of winter bees died due to CCD.
Although this figure dropped to 15%, this disease is still a threat that can influence bees’ lives.
The cause of this condition can be one or a combination of the following:
- Varroa destructor
- Insufficient forage or habitat changes
- Pesticide poisoning
- Poor management by beekeepers
- Inadequate genetic diversity
- Diseases that infect the colony
Loss of Habitat
While industrialization has elevated the lives of the human race in many ways, our interventions have messed up nature.
CO2 emissions are at an all-time high and are expected to increase by over 2%.
Furthermore, studies show that CO2 emissions are wiping out pollen for North American Bees.
FAQs About Bee’s Lifespan
How long do queen bees live?
Queens whose main responsibility is to produce and lay eggs have an average lifespan of 2 to 3 years, although some species can live up to 5 years.
How long do worker bees live?
Worker bees’ lifespan may vary depending on the species and environment, but it usually ranges from five to six weeks.
However, overwintering worker bees can live for around four to six months.
Why do bees live so short?
Bees’ lifespans are influenced by their pollen consumption, protein abundance, level of activity, and environment.
Their queens tend to live longer than the worker bees that forage for food and drone bees.
Why do bees start dying?
Bees die due to diseases, predator attacks, extreme weather, and other environmental factors.
Human activities also have a significant impact on the lives of these hardworking pollinators because our use of pesticides can annihilate them.
What happens when a bee queen dies?
When the queen honeybee suddenly dies, the worker bees will identify several larvae that fall within the proper age range and start to condition them to become queens.
How long do bees live without a queen?
Honeybees can live for about 4 to 6 weeks and complete their adult lifespan even without the queen.
However, the colony will not survive over a few months if the queen won’t be replaced.
How long does a bee live after it stings you?
Honey bee workers, which are the only bees that die after stinging, can live for 5 to 24 hours after attacking you.
But why do these bees die?
Well, their sting becomes lodged into the human skin, so they get injured when they try to fly away after stinging.
How Long Do Bees Live: The Final Recap
To sum it up, queen honeybees can live for 3 to 4 years while their workers only have a lifespan of 6 to 7 weeks, and the drone bees can only live up to 55 days.
Bumble bee queens, on the other hand, have a life expectancy of 1 year, while their worker and male counterparts can live for only 2 to 6 weeks.
As for the carpenter bees’ case, both the workers and queen have longevity of one year, but their male drone bees can only last one season.
Unfortunately, their lives are further shortened by environmental factors and human interventions, and their population is gradually declining.
In fact, more than 10 million bees in the US have died in less than a decade.
But you can help save these pollinators.
By creating a simple yet safe home for them in your area, you can contribute to the worldwide effort to preserve these hardworking creatures.
But the question is, how can you make a bee-friendly space or garden?
Well, worry no more because we got you covered.