European honey bees are social insects with a hive typically consisting of a single queen, between 6,000 and 60,000 workers, and a few hundred to a few thousand drones. Upon hatching in the spring, the queen bee destroys all unhatched queens, kills any hatched queens, and takes a mating flight where she mates with several males. The queen stores the sperm and uses it throughout her life to fertilize eggs. After returning from her mating flight, the queen begins to lay eggs and continues to do so throughout the summer. Three days after being laid, an egg hatches into a worm-like larva. The larva then molts each day for four days into a pupa. The pupa goes into a resting stage for a few days and emerges as an adult honey bee.
New European honey bee hives are created by swarming - the original queen and several thousand workers will leave the nest, typically in May or June but sometimes in September or October, and seek a new location in which to build a wax comb hive. The swarm will cluster on a branch near the original nest while scouts locate a suitable nesting site. This process can take a few hours or days. A honey bee colony can survive for up to several years.
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