See the larva inside the indoor bee hive

bee life cycle

Graphic from


When looking at the indoor honeybee hive at the Dickinson County Nature Center, take a step back and look from different angles.

The honeycomb is shiny with lots of nectar that the forager bees have begun to bring in this spring, most likely from the plethora of dandelions that are in bloom throughout northwest Iowa.

My favorite though, is when you find just the right light and angle and can see the honeybee larva growing inside some of the honeycomb cells.bee larva in a hive

Like little white worms, these larva are just the beginning of the honeybee life cycle, and it's neat to be able to see it up close.

(Read more about what's going on with bee populations here.)

We call reproduction "the birds and the bees," but the bee life cycle differs just a touch from the human life cycle --- OK, quite a lot.

The queen honeybee is in charge of all egg-laying. She can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day, and she chooses whether the egg will be a sterile female worker, a male drone bee or a replacement queen for when she reaches the end of her two- to five-year life span.

queen honeybee amidst worker bees

The egg hatches on day four, and the nurse workers will feed the larva pollen, a protein source for bees. It will begin to grow into a pupa. By the tenth day, the worker bees cap the cell, and the pupa continues to grow until it emerges as an adult bee on approximately day 22.

Its first duty as an adult bee is to clean out its own cell, and then about every week it changes jobs --- nurse, architect, guard and forager --- until it dies after about six weeks.

Toddler activity

kids making a bee craft

During this month's Nature Tots program, which had a focus on bees, we made a fun bee craft that you can try at home too! You will need:

Yellow paper plate (or white paper plate painted yellow and dry)

Black acrylic paint

Cotton balls

Two clothespins

Two black pom poms

Two googly eyes

Squirt black acrylic paint onto a separate paper plate or washable tin. Dip cotton ball into the paint and use it to make stripes across the yellow paper plate.

Glue two googly eyes at the top of the paper plate.

child gluing eyes on a bee craft

Glue a pom pom to the top of each clothespin --- you may paint the clothespin black if you would like. Clip the clothespins on the top of the yellow paper plate as antenna.

Voila! A bee!

bees made from paper plates

If you would like to read more about our fun exhibits and get activity and craft ideas, make sure to follow our weekly blogs.