The world of bees is a fascinating place run by one essential bee: the queen. A monarch bee plays a pivotal role in the survival and growth of the colony. Even though her part in the hive is immeasurable, what is the role of a queen in a beehive? Buzz on in as we explore the intriguing life of a bee queen, unravel her duties and discover how this tiny creature’s remarkable contribution keeps the beehive buzzing with life.
What Is a Queen Bee and What Is Her Role?
Queen bees are the mother of most of the bees in the hive. Being the only fertile female in a hive, she focuses on laying eggs. Sometimes, she lays as many as 2000 in a single day! With a long, pointed abdomen containing her extraordinary egg-laying abilities, the queen bee is larger than the rest. Being constantly surrounded by worker bees that meet all their needs, the queen can concentrate solely on her egg-laying duties, ensuring the colony’s growth and prosperity.
However, reproduction duties aren’t the only thing the queen bee is responsible for. Her function also focuses on maintaining unity and stability. Through her distinctive scent, known as the “queen’s pheromone,” she suppresses worker bee’s reproduction systems by directing their activities. Additionally, the queen bee influences hive activities through “egg policing” by destroying unfertilized eggs. Policing eggs helps control the colony’s size. The health and productivity of the queen impact the entire colony’s morale and vibrancy. A strong queen leads to an active hive, while a weak queen results in a sluggish one.
Hierarchy Within a Bee Colony
The hierarchy system within a hive is what helps the colony survive. The hive has three principal roles: the queen, worker, and drone bees.
What To Know About the Queen and Her Workers
As we’ve already explored, the queen is the primary breeder and mother of the hive. She is the most crucial bee, given her responsibility for reproduction. Following the queen in the hierarchy are the worker bees, most being female. They perform many tasks, including gathering nectar, guarding the hive, cleaning, and even tending to the queen herself.
What To Know About the Drone Bees
The drones are male bees with a sole purpose: to mate with the queen. They live a life of relative leisure compared to the worker bees, but once they have fulfilled their purpose, the hive no longer needs them, and so, ejects them from the hive.
With each bee knowing its role and purpose, this well-defined hierarchy allows the beehive to function efficiently and effectively, ensuring the colony’s growth, survival, and prosperity.
The Life Cycle of a Queen Bee
Sound the trumpets! The queen has been born and is ready to reign!
A queen bee has vastly different life cycles than the other bees. It begins in the “queen cell,” where the queen bee is born. This cell distinguishes her from the regular worker bees and drones right from the start.
In the first life stages, worker bees feed the queen royal jelly, a protein-rich secretion produced by worker bees. This exclusive diet enables her to develop her reproductive organs fully, setting her apart from the rest of the bees.
The Maturation Stage
The young queen embarks on nuptial flights after maturing. She mates with multiple drones in mid-air. After mating, drones pass away. The queen returns to the hive with sperm cells ready to fertilize her eggs. However, the queen can fail to fertilize her eggs and only produce drones if she doesn’t mate soon.
Does a Queen Bee Remain Fertile as She Ages?
Like a human woman’s reproductive system, the queen bee’s fertility declines with age, and she produces fewer pheromones. The worker bees prepare for a process known as “supersedure,” or the replacement of the old queen by a new queen, when the old queen’s effectiveness dwindles. The emerging new queen then kills the old queen, thus continuing the hive’s life cycle.
The Supersedure Process Explained
So, what exactly happens in the supersedure process, aside from the new queen murdering the old monarch? Worker bees commence construction of new queen cells, each containing a larva that they copiously feed royal jelly, the nutrient-rich substance that fosters the queen’s development. As a result, worker bees rear handfuls of queens continuously, sealing a fate based on timing and survival.
What Happens to the Other Queen Bees?
Once queens emerge, their first instinct is to survive. Survival in the hive among other queen bees is complex. The strongest queen among the handfuls raised also engages the old queen in a deadly duel, a stark yet essential aspect of the supersedure process. The new queen takes over the colony upon victory, ensuring continuity and survival.
However, a brawl between progeny and parent can ensue if the old queen is still vigorous and capable of resistance, culminating in the death of one queen. In rare cases, the old and new queen can coexist briefly until the new queen is ready to mate and take over the responsibilities. This intricate and ruthless process underscores the harsh realities of survival in a bee colony, wherein the fittest reign supreme and perpetuate their lineage.
Caring for a Queen Bee: The Beekeeper’s Role and Tips
Beekeepers ensure the queen bee’s health, guaranteeing a thriving beehive. They monitor the queen’s egg-laying patterns, verifying that she’s laying a healthy number of eggs and inspecting the brood pattern for uniformity. Regular hive inspection allows beekeepers to detect early signs of a failing queen, such as a spotty brood pattern or diminished egg-laying.
As a beekeeper, you must check that the queen bee isn’t stressed or disturbed as her mental and emotional state could impact her productivity. Disturbances such as over-checking hives too often at night in the cold can hurt reproductive patterns.
Additionally, beekeepers must maintain a plentiful food supply for the hive, especially during winter or periods of nectar shortage. Providing supplemental feed, like sugar syrup or pollen patties, can help sustain the colony and support the queen in her egg-laying duties.
Replacing the Queen
Finally, a beekeeper must prepare for queen replacement, a natural occurrence in a beehive. A plan for introducing a new queen is part of a beekeeper’s essential toolbox, whether the replacement is due to a queen’s declining performance or an unexpected loss.
Understanding the role of a queen in a beehive is crucial for successful beekeeping. The B Farm offers VSH queen bees for sale. We breed these bees for their superior traits, ensuring thriving colonies and maximum honey yields. Support the essential role of bees in our ecosystem by visiting our website today! Give your bees the royal treatment they deserve.