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How Quickly Can a Colony Grow?


I’ve been doing a few sums based on what I recently read. Apparently about 1% of a colony dies each day. They say that a queen can lay up to 3,000 eggs per day.

What if we work on a colony of 40,000 bees. That means that 400 bees die each day. Say if we assume that the queen will lay 1,000 eggs each day. That is an increase of 600 bees each day. That means that in one month the population will swell to 58,000. In 2 months, it will swell to 76,000.

No wonder colonies buildup to swarming strength, a mere 2 months after swarming.


Yes. That is of course without taking into account that nurse bees eat eggs. Frequently… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Hi Dawn, I never thought of that :slight_smile: Lets say that she lays 1500. 500 get eaten, therefore 1000 survive. Anyway it goes to show how quickly a colony can grow, given the right conditions.

My figures didn’t take into account for the numbers increasing as the colony numbers increase. Plus 1,000 eggs per day is conservative.


:hushed: mumma mia I didn’t know that before (or forgot)


Cannibalism :astonished:
Dawn, does this occur when bees are not getting enough protein/pollen?


That too, but also if the queen just lays too many. The nurse bees can only raise so many babies, so they, uh, “abort” the ones which they can’t take care of. They must be Democrats. That is perhaps why Tom Seeley’s book is called Honey Bee Democracy… :smiling_imp:

OK, sorry, I will go back to my corner now.


Hi Dawn, I read once that an egg wont hatch unless it’s been covered with larval food. I’m guessing that if the conditions take a turn for the worse, not placing larval food on some of the eggs & eating them instead is a good backup plan. Nothing wasted.

Also, according to the video “City of Bees”, the queen will only lay the quantity of eggs in accordance to the measured amount of food that she is fed. Also the number of cells that are prepared for her to lay in is also regulated.

In my view, it would only be a change in the weather or some other turn of events that would determine if the queen has laid too many eggs.


I took a deep frame from the brood area of a hive the other day which was fully drawn but totally empty, apart from a dozen or so cells of pollen and another dozen with a little uncapped nectar. I was manipulating frames so left it out of the hives and was a little disturbed by the fact that the queen had ignored it. Some hours later I looked at it in better light, and discovered almost every cell on each side of the frame had an egg in it. No grubs at all at any stage of development. It appeared she didn’t lay any eggs at all in that frame, and then the whole lot almost at once.


Intriguing. I decided to dig a little and found this Bee Culture article on nursing behavior (but no cannibilism mentioned) :woman_health_worker::honeybee: it includes a nice image of larvae floating in their food, and also describes how often nurses check in on their charges.


Hi Tracey, the info that I got was out of the ABC & XYZ of Bee Culture. Plus the video “City of Bees”. I don’t recall reading anything about bees eating eggs or larvae. I got that from Dawn & others on this forum.

This sounds a bit gruesome, however when I find drone brood in worker comb, I’ll damage all of the drone brood before putting it back in between brood of a strong nuc. The bees will quickly tear all of the damaged drone brood out while repairing the comb ready for the queen to lay workers in the comb. I’m sure that after reading what I read on this forum that a lot of the damaged brood would be used in some way instead of getting dumped onto the ground to feed the ants.


Is that the 1962 movie? Movie :movie_camera: :popcorn: for tomorrow.

Did your bees eat the drone brood, or just clean them out?


Yes, that is the one, by the Moody Institute of Science. The preaching at the end is optional. :). My daughter gave me the DVD of it for Christmas about 15 years ago. I reckoned that it was the best gift I ever got.

In relation to the drone brood, I have no idea. I just thought that after what I read on this forum that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the milky substance got consumed. Other creatures like it for it’s high amino acid & protein, so I can’t see why bees wouldn’t consume it.

I made an observation one day that some ants completely ignored some honey in favor of some brood.


There is even some experimental data on this:

I can only read the abstract (not the full article), but it does indeed say that when short of pollen, bees cannabalize eggs and young larvae. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Isn’t nature wonderful? :purple_heart::honeybee::bread:


Nature IS wonderful. Just look at the human species for example. Wilma is shaking her head :slight_smile:

It’s incredible, when you think about the ability of some humans to have the ability to invent the system that we’re communicating with now. It’s easy to take it for grated, however mind blowing in reality.


Let alone bitcoin and Cryptocurrencies or Block Chain encryption. My brain hurts now… :smile:


I vote for complete metamorphosis topping all those (though impressive) human inventions :star_struck::bug::butterfly:


Metallic car paint…or this Christmas beetle I just photographed?


Some scarabs are very pretty. I found a brilliant metallic green one dead in a hive last year. They are not very intelligent… :wink:


It’ll be more than that…
If we only consider workers, and the summer period when the colony will be expanding…

Workers live for 5 to 6 weeks (let’s say 40 days).
That means if their ages are normally distributed, that 1/40 of the workers will die every day.
that’s 2.5% of them every day.