How to Recognize Eggs and Larvae in Honey Bees


There are four distinct stages in the development of the honey bee: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Examining the egg and larval stages can give beekeepers a good idea of the health and strength of the entire hive. The egg and larval stages last only about a week. The health of larvae at this stage is important when looking for diseases such as American Foulbrood, which often requires the destruction of the hive. Individuals interested in rearing queen bees for themselves or to sell must also learn to recognize larvae of the correct age for harvesting.

Things You'll Need

  • Frame containing eggs and uncapped brood
  • Magnifying lens
  • Open the hive. Remove honey supers until you reach the brood chamber. Remove one of the outside frames and check for uncapped brood. If the frame only contains empty cells or capped brood, set it aside and check the next frame. Continue moving frames until you locate one with eggs and/or uncapped brood.

  • Examine the frame for freshly laid sausage-shaped eggs, which are are about 1/16 of an inch long. There should only be one egg in the center of a cell. Multiple eggs in the same cell could indicate that the hive is queenless and a worker bee is laying eggs instead.

  • Examine the frame for newly hatched larvae. The larvae hatch approximately four days after the egg is laid by the queen. The pearly white, C-shaped larvae will be floating on beds of royal jelly. Beekeepers interested in rearing queen bees will harvest the larvae at this stage.

  • Examine the frame for older larvae which will now fill the cell. Larvae that is dull or any color other than a glistening, pearly white could indicate a problem. Off-color brood with a foul smell should be examined closer. These symptoms could indicate the presence of a hive-threatening disease.

  • Replace the frames and close the hive once the inspection is complete. If there are any indications of disease in the hive, contact a local bee inspector or your state apiarist.


  • Photo Credit China Photos/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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