A single honeybee may seem small and insignificant, but there is only one queen for every hive. Interestingly, every bee in the hive plays an important role; queen bees have many duties and responsibilities, making them the most essential part of colony survival. Whether you’re an avid beekeeper or an advocate, here’s what you should know about the life cycle of a queen bee.
The Queen’s Birth
Believe it or not, queen bee larvae have the same genetics as worker bee larvae; therefore, any female larva has the potential to become a queen bee. However, the distinction occurs when the nurse bees feed a special diet to the larvae they choose to become potential queens. Queens continue to eat a strict diet of royal jelly after hatching, which turns on the reproductive system.
The potential queens develop inside queen cells, and they stay there for about 15 days. Once fully developed, they chew their way out of the cell. After all the bees are out, the potential queens fight to the death until only one remains and becomes queen.
Her Life and Responsibilities
Once the queen takes her “throne,” her lifetime of reproduction begins. One of the first things she’ll do is go for mating flights, when she mates with male drone bees to collect enough genetic material to lay fertilized eggs for the next three to five years. After the mating flights, the queen may never leave the hive again—she has attendants to take care of her every need.
While you may think she controls the happenings of the hive, it’s the worker bees that actually keep the hive running. In fact, the queen’s sole responsibilities are to keep the hive populated by laying fertilized eggs and releasing queen hormones to signal the colony.
A queen bee can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day in the summer months. However, when her ability to lay eggs and produce pheromones decreases, the workers will begin preparing to replace her with a new queen.
The Queen’s Death
Whether the queen dies, leaves with a swarm, or experiences slowed reproduction, the workers must replace her. As a result, they start the process of cultivating new queens for the hive. When the new queen hatches, she will begin her duties if there is no existing queen in the hive. On the other hand, the new queen will sting the old queen to death if she’s still in the hive.
As you can see, what you should know about the life cycle of a queen bee is relatively extensive. If your colony needs a new queen, they will likely develop one on their own terms. Alternatively, a weaker colony may need a queen immediately. Consider mated queen bees for sale if you need to introduce a new queen to your colony as soon as possible.