Amazing Queen Bee Facts – What You Need to Know
Okay, you know lots of honey bee facts? What about the most popular honey bee in the hive. Everything involving hive life evolves around her. Let’s explore some amazing queen bee facts .
We still do not know everything about honey bee life, but we have learned a lot about bees. The importance of the queen bee is obvious in many aspects of colony life.
From egg laying to bee colony communication, the queen honey bee fills a role that no other bee can.
What Does the Queen Bee Look Like?
A queen honey bee is an insect. And we know from bee anatomy that all insects have 3 major body sections. In this way she is no different from the other bees in the hive.
A quick glance and you will notice a major visible difference in the shape of the honey bee queen. She has a large, long abdomen.
This anatomical difference allows her to lay eggs for the colony. Her ovaries will produce a lifetime’s quantity of eggs.
Are Queen Bees Bigger?
The largest bee in the colony, a mature mated queen is about twice the size of the worker bees.
This is due primarily to her long abdomen. However, her middle section or “thorax” is slightly larger than the worker bees.
Her size can vary a bit due to the type of bee (or race) she belongs to.
A virgin queen bee will have a shorter abdomen until she begins to lay eggs. Sometimes, it is difficult to tell a virgin queen from a larger worker bee.
It is common for new beekeepers to confuse Drone Bees as queens. Drones are larger than worker bees but lack the long abdomen of a queen.
What Does the Queen Bee Do?
The queen actually has a couple of functions in the hive – that we know of. Who knows what we have not yet discovered?
She is the mother of all the other bees in the colony. Eggs laid by the queen become the work forces of the hive. Without her no new worker bees can be raised.
In addition to laying eggs, a queen honey bee produces pheromones. These pheromones are chemical messengers that aid in colony communication.
How is a Queen Made?
The queen bee is not the only female in the colony. Thousands of female worker bees take care of tasks in the hive.
The one task that worker bees can not perform is laying fertilized eggs. If something happens to the queen, a new queen bee must be made.
When the colony needs a new queen, worker bees select very young female larvae. These larvae were from fertilized eggs.
They are fed a special diet that causes them to develop into reproductive queen bees instead of ordinary female worker bees.
For years, it was believed that a substance called royal jelly was responsible for queen development.
Today, researchers believe that other food substances are involved in making a queen.
Explore the Queen Bee Life Cycle for more information on the development and duties of a queen bee.
Because a queen is larger than normal worker brood, she requires a larger cell for development. Workers create several queen cells at one time.
But, only one of the newly hatched virgin queens will survive to become the new matriarch of the colony.
Seeing queen cells in a colony is a sure sign that something big is happening. They are a sign of queen production but this can happen for various reasons.
Read this post on Queen Cells – What Do They Mean– to understand what your colony is telling you.
In addition to listening to the needs of the colony, there are also some things to consider before taking any action in regards to these cells – What do Do With Queen Cells?
How is the Queen Bee Chosen?
So, how is the queen bee chosen among several contenders? If a hive normally has one 1 queen, somebody has got to go!
The first virgin queen to emerge from her cell searches out the other queen cells to destroy them. In theory, the strongest most fit bee will win the fight.
Queen Honey Bee Stinger
The queen’s function in the hive is highly specialized. Her stinger is not barbed, it is smooth.
The smooth singer is only used to kill rival virgin queens. Queen bees rarely sting humans. This is a good thing because is promotes genetic diversity.
Do Queens Leave the Hive?
These girls just don’t get out a lot.They might be described as home-bodies, or rather, hive-bodies?
Workers take care of her every need. Royal jelly consumed by the queen bee results in little waste products.
Fed and cleaned by her daughters, she has few reasons to leave the hive.
There are only 2 occasions for Her Royal Majesty to leave the hive
- the virgin queen leaves the hive to mate
- a queen leaves with a swarm
Both activities relate to a honey bee reproduction cycle. The first involves honey bee queen mating and prepares the queen to lay fertilized eggs.
Leaving with a swarm is honey bee reproduction on a colony level. Both of these situations result in more bees.
How Honey Bees Recognize Their Queen
Queen Bees Smell Funny. Okay, let me phrase it another way. Each queen has a unique smell.
A queen constantly emits pheromones. (These are like our hormones but on the outside.)
These pheromones are passed throughout the colony and tell the colony that all is well. Workers spread them by antenna touching and other grooming activities.
As the queen ages, she emits less pheromones. As egg laying and pheromone levels drop, her time is growing short.
She may have the ability to live up to 2 years. But most colonies replace their queen much sooner.
How Beekeepers Introduce A New Queen
Sometimes, a beekeeper will want to give the colony a new queen. This can be for a variety of reasons. Often an older queen is replaced with a young healthy queen bee.
The beekeeper who keeps marked queens in their hives will be one step ahead when it comes time for requeening. This is why you should consider learning how to do it yourself – How to Mark Your Queen Bee
Buying a Queen Bee
Buying a queen bee for a hive is a very common beekeeper task. You can even buy a honey bee queen online and have her shipped through the mail.
This is sometimes necessary and queen breeders commonly ship bees across the country.
It can be very stressful for the bees. Hopefully, you can find a local honey bee queen to purchase.
Requeening Your Beehives
Providing a honey bee colony with a different queen is called “re-queening”. A beekeeper can not simply drop a new queen in a colony.
Because of her pheromones, the new queen will smell different than all the other occupants. Workers of the colony view her as a threat and usually kill her.
Beekeepers have developed several different techniques to overcome the pheromone challenges. Learn more in my post about Requeening a Hive.
How to Spot the Queen Bee?
Chances are that you will never see a queen honey bee unless you are a beekeeper. The vast majority of her life is spent inside the beehive.
For new beekeepers, this task is one that is learned through time and practice. Learn more about – How to find the queen bee .
The world of the honey bee is full of never ending surprises. Learn more about some of the misconceptions about bees – 5 Amazing Myths About Queen Bees.
We know so many bee facts in general. But, we have a long way to go to unlock all the mysteries of the honey bee.