You might associate the title of the queen with a royal life; however, that's not the case when it comes to bees. Believe it or not, being the queen doesn't make her the ruler or decision-maker. The queen is responsible for maintaining the colony's population, and she's the most important bee in the hive. Dive into what you need to know about queen bees to understand daily life within the beehive.
There's Only One
There's only one queen in every hive, and she's the most essential member of the colony. You might be wondering how to distinguish the queen from the other bees, and the good news is that she has distinct features.
- The largest in size
- Shiny, hairless back
- Long, light-colored legs
Aside from these features, many beekeepers have their own system to differentiate the queen from the workers. An easy way to make her stand out is to mark her with bright-colored paint.
She Lays up to 2,000 Eggs Each Day
As previously mentioned, the queen is responsible for keeping the colony's population afloat. She maintains population growth by laying up to 2,000 eggs each day! This equates to roughly one egg every 43 seconds, which keeps her very busy. Her eggs are about half the size of one rice grain, and they're all equal in size.
Although queens are the only females that can mate to create fertilized eggs, the worker bees can also lay eggs. These eggs are unfertilized; as a result, they become drones, which are male bees. On the other hand, fertilized eggs are similar, but they can become workers or queens based on their diet.
The Royal Diet and Fight
When the colony gets too large, the bees prepare to split into two groups. One group will leave the hive and find a new place to live. With that in mind, they need a new queen to stay with the existing hive. While the workers feed all larvae the royal jelly for the first few days, they choose a few to continue eating the royal diet and switch the rest to traditional honey and pollen.
Those that eat the royal jelly during their entire development become queens. Even though only one will become the queen of the hive, they choose more than one larva to ensure at least one is solid and viable. Consequently, the newly hatched queen will sting her unhatched rivals to kill them and become the one and only queen, or they will fight to the death if two queens hatch at once.
She Can Fly, But…
Although the queen doesn't leave the hive as much as the worker bees, she can fly. However, since her primary role in the colony is to lay eggs, she's usually too heavy and swollen to fly. She doesn't need to leave the hive or fly often, as her attendants take care of her every need. In spite of that, she does leave the beehive a total of two times in her lifetime.
The new queen will only be able to lay unfertilized eggs, which will become drone bees unless she becomes fertile. She will leave the hive starting 3-5 days after emerging from her cell to mate with drone bees from other colonies and become fruitful and productive.
The other instance in which the queen will leave the hive is swarming. During a swarm, about half the workers will stay in the existing beehive, and the other half will take the queen and find a new place to live. Ultimately, swarming is how the colony reproduces.
To prepare for this phenomenon, the workers will start developing a new queen and prepare the current queen for flight. As previously mentioned, the queen is usually too heavy to fly; therefore, her attendants start feeding her a reduced diet to thin her out and slow her egg production for the move.
Queens Don't Make Decisions
In most cases, being the queen makes you all-powerful; on the other hand, being the queen bee isn't as glamorous as it sounds. In fact, the queen doesn't make any decisions for the hive, and she simply lays fertilized eggs. In all reality, the worker bees make the decisions for the colony and take good care of their queen so she can continue producing eggs.
One and Done
That's right! The queen bee is the only one who can mate, but she only mates for a certain period of her life. While she couples with more than one drone during this time, she has one chance to collect as much sperm as possible.
A queen's lifespan depends on the amount of genetic material she collects during her mating flights, and she stores the sperm in a particular organ that she pulls from to lay eggs for the remainder of her life. She can't mate again once she runs out of material; unfortunately, the colony must then replace her.
The Colony Can't Survive Without Her
The main thing you should understand about queen bees is that the colony can't survive without her. Without her, the population within the hive drops because she isn't there to replenish it. In fact, there is an immediate lull in the colony's health if the queen is sick, dies, or runs out of genetic material to produce fertilized eggs.
If something does happen to the queen, the workers immediately begin their plan to replace her to avoid the colony's demise. As a beekeeper, you can assist in protecting your hive's safety and livelihood by purchasing VSH queen bees for sale and replacing the queen as soon as possible.
Understanding the world of bees is incredibly fascinating. What you need to know about queen bees is that they are the key to keeping their colonies afloat, and their lives consist of eating a royal diet and laying eggs to boost the bee population.
While you might've thought the queen was a ruthless ruler before, it should be clear to you now that she's the mother of the hive rather than the leader. Put simply: the colony can't survive without their mother.
If you’re interested in beekeeping, The B Farm is here to help with information, advice, and more. Contact us at (978) 384-0356 to buy queen bees, bee nucs, and mite-resistant bees today!