See the larva inside the indoor bee hive

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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.

Photo of the queen honeybee amidst worker beesopens IMAGE file

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

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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.

Photo of a child gluing eyes on a bee craftopens IMAGE file

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!

Photo of bees made from paper platesopens IMAGE file

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


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Bees have so many issues to deal with. There’s a lack of nectar and pollen sources as wildflower populations diminish. Pesticides like neonictinoids are harming their nervous systems (read about that here). There’s unexplained colony collapse disorder. And then there are varroa mites. So many invasive species have caused catastrophic effects on different parts of Read More »

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Thumbprint bees

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Where is the queen is probably the No. 1 question that we are asked about the indoor bee hive. You can read a little bit about that here, but the next question often comes up as “What makes a queen bee?” The short answer is, queens are fed royal jelly which makes them different from Read More »

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A few years ago, we saw a mass of bees collected around the hole that led outside from the indoor bee hive. We thought the bees might be swarming — leaving the hive, which usually occurs when there are two queens raised and one leaves with half the hive — and were nervous that there Read More »

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What’s happening in the hive? Festooning bees

A few years ago, we saw a clump of bees in the indoor beehive inside Pollinator Paradise at the Dickinson County Nature Center. They were linked together like a chain, hanging on to each other by their feet. Since then, we have seen this happen quite often, and visitors ask us what the crazy honeybees Read More »

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Make your own bee hotel

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