A queen bee (marked in yellow), which is the only fertile female in a colony, reproduces by participating in a mating ritual while in-flight to collect sperm from male bees called drones. Approximately 100 million sperm are collected in a queen bee’s oviducts, although only five or six million are deposited within the reproductive tracts known as spermatheca. The queen periodically uses the stored sperm to fertilize her eggs and start laying.
A queen bee only engages in one mating flight throughout the duration of her life. Once a queen lays her eggs, those that are unfertilized turn into drones while fertilized eggs become worker bees or new queen bees. The maturity period between members vary. Drones take up to 24 days to reach adulthood, while workers and queen bees require 21 and 16 days, respectively, before they are fully developed.