Sweet Spotlight: The Worker Bee

Updated: Jun 16

These days it doesn't take much of a search to find crafts, clothes, and even home decor, dedicated to the Queen Bee. The term has become synonymous with a woman in charge, the one at the top of the pyramid. And we'll talk about her later, because she is incredibly important. But I want to take this opportunity to sing the praises of the humble worker bee. These gals are born, live, and die nourishing, protecting, and feeding the hive. The queen bee may lay the eggs, but without these amazing multi-talented bees by her side, she wouldn't get very far!

Let's start with how the worker bee is different. For starters, she is the smallest of the honey bees. She sports two incredibly important body parts, the hypopharyngeal gland and the proboscis. The hypopharyngeal gland is located in her head and is used to aid her in feeding other members of the hive, such as larva, drones and the queen. The proboscis is a long tongue she will use to suck nectar from flowers. And while both the queen and the worker bee have the ability to lay eggs, a worker bee is unable to fertilize them. Her unfertilized eggs produce drone (male) bees that may eventually mate with the queen.

The Worker Bee Life Cycle

A worker bees life starts out as a fertilized egg laid by the queen, where she will remain for about 3 days.

Around day three, the egg will begin to transition into a larva. For the next three or so days, a type of worker bee called a "Nurse Bee" will feed the larva royal jelly (a milky-white secretion produced by worker bees to nurture both larva and the queen). Then, for the next 6 days or so, the nurse bees will feed the larva honey and pollen.

Around day 9 the larva's cell is capped with honey and they baby bee is left to grow. An adult worker bee will typically emerge from the cell around day 21 and begin her journey as a caretaker.

Swiss Army Bees