Beehives last a lot longer than the individual bees in the hive. In beehives, each bee is assigned a specific role. Beehives consist of a majority of worker bees. In a large colony, around 50,000 to 60,000 members are worker bees, the rest are drones, except for the queen. Several conditions determine how long bees in the hive live. Worker bees who are born in the spring and summer live about 6 to 8 weeks, whereas worker bees born in the fall live 4 to 6 months. The difference lies in the fact that spring and summer are much more active seasons for honey bees than the cooler months.
After staying in the hive for the first few weeks of their lives, warm weather worker bees are tasked with going outside the hive to collect pollen and nectar to feed the rest of the hive. Outside the hive, bees are more exposed to predators and disease. Worker bees take care of the brood, as well. Job intensity takes its toll on spring and summer worker bees, causing burn out within 6 to 8 weeks. On the other hand, fall worker bees stay in the hive for the winter and are tasked with merely keeping the queen warm, with no brood to care for, and no pollen and nectar to collect. In the spring, worker bees will leave the colony to forage for food. Drones live a shorter time than worker bees, with a life span of 3 weeks to 3 months. Their only duties are eating and more importantly, mating with the queen. Drones die after mating with the queen because their reproductive organs are torn from their bodies in the mating process. Drones that did not mate in the spring and summer remain in the hive until winter. At the onset of winter, worker bees throw the remaining drones out of the hive to reduce the number of mouths to feed. Unprepared for life outside the hive, the drones die. Queens have one task in the hive, to reproduce. Queens live from 3 to 5 years. Once the queen begins to produce fewer eggs, her pheromone levels drop and weaken her control of the hive. Sensing this change, workers kill the queen and begin the cycle of raising a new queen. These chosen larvae are fed a diet of royal jelly until a new queen is chosen. Honey beehives can last indefinitely if conditions are right for them to continue to grow in the spring and summer and hibernate in the winter, intact.
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