The Queen Bee

The Queen Bee

Who is the Queen Bee?

The queen bee is considered the mother bee of the hive. She’s followed and fiercely protected by the entire colony. The queen bee is much larger than all the other bees in the colony. Her body is longer and normally darker than the other hive members.

How Often Will She Mate?

The queen bee’s only duty is to lay eggs. A queen mates at an early age and only once in her life. During her mating flight, she stores enough sperm from the 10-15 drones who mate with her, allowing her to lay millions of eggs throughout her lifetime.

Although a queen can produce up to 2,000 eggs per day during active seasons, the pace and amount of which a queen lays her eggs is greatly controlled by weather, and food availability. The queen’s fertilized eggs develop into female workers or future honey bee queens. The queen’s unfertilized eggs develop into male honeybees, also known as drones. All bees attend to her needs.

Home Sweet Home

The hive is the home of the colony and the colony lives in the hive. A colony consists of the queen bee (female), the worker bees (female) and the drones (male).

Each one of these bee types plays a specific role. Member who don’t pull their own weight are cast out of the hive. While honey bees are focused and simple, they live in a complex society with each member playing a specific role. Here are the various roles performed by the different types of bees.

The following video shows the queen bee ceremoniously emerging from the queen cell. Hail to the queen!

How Many Queen Bees Are in a Hive?

A single honey bee colony consists of anywhere from 10,000 to well over 60,000 bees. The hive largely functions as a single organism. The majority of members being female worker bees who are all often offspring of the same queen bee. Although several queen bees will hatch at one time, only one queen bee can rule the colony. Hive and Colony are synonymous. The only eggs that hatch as queens are those eggs that have been fed royal jelly, a protein-rich secretion from glands on the heads of young bees. The newly hatched queens “fight ’til death” until only one queen remains.

When Is a New Queen Bee Needed?

The queen bee produces pheromones to delegate. She sends signals via the pheromones to the worker bees who do her bidding to keep the hive running efficiently. The pheromone signals to the colony that they have a healthy queen. Everything works fine as long as the queen is performing well.

There are three scenarios, however, when a new queen bee is needed, however:

1) As a queen honey bee ages, her egg-laying abilities decline and become less organized. The worker bees innately sense her decline and begin the methodical process of finding her replacement. Female worker bees instinctively groom a new queen by feeding royal jelly to a select number of larva. The first larvae to emerge is crowned the new queen bee. Once the older queen’s replacement is in place, the worker bees kill the queen bee. 

2) When a queen dies unexpectedly, the worker bees immediately identify and begin feeding royal jelly to numerous age-appropriate larvae of prospective queens. 

3) Since the queen bee is capable of laying up to 2,000 eggs a day, and because a hive typically has between 20,000 and 80,000 bees, honey bees can outgrow their hive resulting in a swarm. In a swarm, the mature queen bee will leave the colony with half of her workers to establish a new colony. The other half of the workers remain in the original hive performing their tasks and a new queen is crowned.

What is the Life Span of a Queen Bee?

Queen bees historically live between 3-4 years. Today, however, many of our beekeeper sources share a queens life’s expectancy is closer to half that, oftentimes between 12 and 18 months. The primary reason given for the life expectancy decline was due to indiscriminate pesticide spraying.

Does a Queen Bee have a Stinger?

Yes, a queen bee has a long, smooth-shafted stinger and a large poison sac. But the queen won’t sting a person since she doesn’t have the job of defense and because she stays in the hive. A queen bee will use her stinger to kill rival queens, ensuring her place in the hive.

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