Bees are fascinating creatures with a complex social order. There is one bee that stands out from the rest – the queen. She is the head of the colony and plays a vital role in its survival.
In this article, we’ll explore the role of the queen bee in detail, answering common questions such as “how does she lay eggs?” and delve into drones and their role in the hive. Let’s get stuck into it!
What’s the queen bee’s role in a colony?
The queen bee is the head of the colony and is responsible for laying eggs, feeding larvae, and regulating the hive’s activities. She can lay up to 2000 eggs a day during peak season! Her primary function is to produce new bees, so she must remain healthy and productive.
Does the queen control the colony?
The colony has a life of its own and the queen bee is just one small part of it. While her presence is important, it is the worker bees who really take charge. Think of them as the ‘power behind the throne’.
Worker bees can raise a new queen or kill an existing one, whenever they wish. It sounds like a cruel game of chess! The queen is somewhat expendable, so she must work hard to keep the workers happy.
Are you interested in learning how bees communicate? Check out this article on what a bee’s antennae do.
How to identify the queen bee
The queen bee is the largest in her colony, and she’ll be easily identified by size. One would typically find her at around 20mm in size, surrounded by drones (male bees) at the center of their hive.
Her stinger, unlike those on other bees, is smooth. But don’t let it scare you off. She won’t sting unless necessary – this has been tested by countless beekeepers who have never been stung.
If you’d like to learn more, check out our article on what a queen bee looks like.
Why are queen bees replaced?
The hive will inevitably become crowded, and it will come the time to ‘swarm’. The queen bee leaves the hive to find a new home, but not without first making some ‘extra’ queens. The queen’s attendants stop feeding her and prepare for flight-time by creating queen cups ready to produce new females.
To learn more about this topic, check out our article on what is a queen cup?
What are the queen bee’s attendants called?
The queen bee’s attendants, or ‘retinue’, are young worker bees who attend to the queen’s every need. Often seen in a circle facing her, the retinue is very important to the health of the hive, acting as a link between the queen and the workers.
By constantly grooming and feeding her, the Retinue ensure the queen stays healthy and productive. The queen bee’s attendants are also responsible for passing along new information from the workers back to the queen. This communication is crucial for keeping the hive running smoothly.
Can queen bees fly?
After her reigning time has concluded in the hive, a swarm of drones follow behind as she leaves. Called “swarm founding”, the bees take off as a colony begins reproducing. This is the rare moment you will see a queen bee in flight. The only other instance is when she is mating within the hive.
How does one become a queen bee?
The life of a honey bee queen is not an easy one. After her swarm leaves, the first queen to hatch makes up the next generation. She may either be chosen as a replacement for retiring queens or become a founder herself, swarming away to another home.
Most queens decide to stay put and take up the legacy of royalty. The yet-to-be sister queens are often killed by the firstborn queen, through a stinger in their cell. Even more brutal, if two queens hatch at once they will fight to the death.
To learn more, check out our article on how a bee becomes a queen bee.
How does the queen bee lay eggs?
A busy bee is an understatement when describing the queen bee’s egg-laying life. She can produce more than 2000 eggs per day. It’s an impressive feat when you consider that a worker bee will only lay around 120-200 eggs in her lifetime. The queen bee deposits her eggs into specially made wax cells and then caps the cells with more wax.
Do queen bees mate with drones in the hive?
A drone is a male bee that cannot sting because it doesn’t have a functional ovipositor. Drones are haploid, meaning they have one set of chromosomes instead of two like other bees. Their sole purpose is to mate with the queen bee. Once they’ve mated, they die soon after, having their appendage ripped out.
How long does a queen bee live?
Queen bees can last up to five years; however, the average lifespan is around two years. Their life expectancy depends on several factors such as their health, diet, and environment.
One unique thing about queen bees is they can delay their aging process by hibernating if food becomes scarce or the weather turns cold.
Do queen bees make decisions about hive build-up?
The queen bee is like a general in the colony. She cannot make decisions about how many bees there should be or what they do with their time. Instead, she relies on her army of workers to handle these tasks.
Queens can only lay eggs when workers have built up enough honeycomb and cleaned out cells. Even then, it’s the worker who makes most decisions about population density.
What happens to a queen without workers?
A colony without workers is like a restaurant without a chef. The colony will soon meet its demise, as the queen’s only purpose is laying eggs.
The queen will become dependent on other bees to macerate food and feed her. Her survival is solely in the hands of the colony.