queen-bee

15 Interesting Facts And Myths About Queen Bees

Bees are truly a fascinating insect. They are the only insect in the world that produces something that humans can readily consume. Their organizational structure is also something that should be admired. Not only because of how hardworking the bees are but because of how they are able to effectively communicate and cooperate with each other.

The Queen Bee is the center of a beehive, she is responsible for the birth of future bees. There are many unknown facts about queen bees, their diet, how they take the throne, how long they live and their mating practice.

In the center of the bees’ organization is a female bee called the “Queen Bee”. She is the most important of the bee in the hive. Worker’s strive to keep their queen warm during winter, feed her, clean her and protect her at all times. Here are some facts and myths that most of you might have heard about the queen bee.

The Hierarchy Of the Bees

Firdtly, before we jump into the facts and myths about the queen bee, you must first understand the ranking system of bees. It is divided into three; the queen, the workers and then the drones.

Drones are male bees that are larger than the worker bees but smaller than the queen bee. Their sole purpose is to mate with the new queen. Shortly after mating this drone bees die and are the new queen will have to produce more for the next queen.

Worker bees are female bees. They are the ones responsible for collecting resources (nectar, pollen, and water) and other hard manual labor. They are small in size and are sexually undeveloped to not lay eggs. They are the bees that you see flying outside of the hive and is tasked to protect and maintain the nest.

The Queen bee is the largest of the bees. Her main purpose is to mate, store the sperm in her spermatheca and lay eggs all day. She is responsible for spawning the next generation bees, therefore, lives a life of royalty. She is fed by worker bees and her waste are also taken care off by them. Her only job is to lay eggs.

Our Top 15 Interesting Facts and Myths About Queen Bees

Let us move on to talking and briefly discussing 15 facts and myths about queen bees.

1. Queen Bee is ‘Made’ not Born

Some believed that a queen in a beehive is born, this is incorrect. Queen bees are nurtured and made by the nurse bees inside a cell called queen cups. Depending on the quality of the larvae, the worker bees will determine which of them have the makings of becoming a queen. These larvae are then given a special diet that is only for future queens.

In case of the sudden death of the queen, the workers have the ability to produce an emergency queen by switching the diet of current larvae. This will save the colony but the emergency queen might not be as reproductive as the previous one due to the diet it had as a larva.

2. New Queen Bees Needs to Eliminate Other Potential Queens

The future queen emerges through the queen cups by gnawing through the wax cap that was used to close her cell on the ninth day. Depending on the time frame, the other queen cups that hold potential queens might still be intact.

The newly emerged queen will then use her sting to kill her sisters so that she will be the only remaining queen bee. In the event that more than one queen bee hatched at the same time, they will battle to the death to determine which queen will reign supreme.

3. New Queen Bees Sometime Battle Old Queen Bees

Usually, the old queen would have already flown away from the hive together with other bees to look for new pastures. This old queen will lay eggs and live for a few more weeks before dying.

There are instances when the old queen is still in the hive when a new queen emerges. When this happens a battle to death will take place and the victor will be the queen.

4. A Very Special Diet

In the past, it was believed that the feeding of royal jelly is what makes the queen bee a queen bee. In a way, this is true. But the whole truth about the royal jelly diet of the future queen bee is that future queens are solely fed with royal jelly. The exclusion of pollen and honey in their diet is what truly separates the future queen bee form the rest.

Unfertilized larvae fed with pollen and honey develop into worker bees. They are given royal jelly for the first few days but then are switched into the bee bread that is composed of pollen and honey. This then shrinks the reproductive system of these worker bees making them sexually undeveloped.

5. The Mating Ritual

The moment a new queen emerges and if the weather is conducive, the mating ritual will begin. The queen flies to a site called a “drone congregating area” where drone bees swarm around the queen bee during flight and mate with her.

The queen bee can mate with 12- 15 drones. If the weather permits her, she might return to the same spot again until she is fully mated. The queen bee has the ability to hold up to six million sperms in her spermatheca where she will then use to fertilize her eggs for the next two to seven years of her queenhood.

6. How Many Eggs A Queen Lays

A queen bee lays an average of 1,500 to 2,000 eggs per day.  She has the ability to select the gender of her offspring by fertilizing or not fertilizing the eggs. Fertilized eggs are female bees which can be workers or future queen while unfertilized eggs are male bees which are drones.

7. Queen Bee can Sting Repeatedly

You read it right. Most of you might have heard that bees lose their stingers once they use it. The queen can use her stinger repeatedly because it does not possess barbs as her soldier bees do. This is especially useful during the first few moments she emerges from her cell. She uses her stinger to destroy and kill other potential queens.

8. The lifespan of  a Queen Bee

A life span of a queen bee depends on her species. A queen bumble bee can live for about a year while a honey bee queen can live up to seven years.

If you are looking to start a beehive, honey bees are a great species to get. The queen lives long enough for you to determine if you really want to enter beekeeping.

9. How Many Bees can A Queen Have in one Hive?

In a given time, a queen bee can have as many as 60,000 maybe even more bees in her hive. There are reports of beehives containing 80,000 bees. This will include all drones and worker bees she has under her.

10. Spotting a Queen Bee

A queen bee can be hard to spot. But if you will be looking for her, she is the largest bee in the hive. Her abdomen is significantly longer than the others. And because she is hard to spot in a hive of 60,000 to 80,000 bees, most beekeepers would mark their queen with a daub of paint on her thorax. This makes it easier for them to spot the queen and the paint does not hurt the queen in any way.

11. Old Queen Swarming

There will be a time when the hive becomes too crowded. This may prompt the whole colony will opt to swarm. This process will involve the queen still laying eggs while worker bees prepare the queen cups. The workers will also starve the queen so that she will become lighter and will be able to fly.

The moment she is ready, she will then swarm taking along about half of the bee population in the hive with her to a temporary location before they can establish their new home. They are called the prime swarm. The subsequent swarm will then be called after swarm.

12. After Swarm

Sometimes, the newly emerged queen will decide to swarm too. This after swarm will further diminish the number of bees in the colony and this will only stop when the newly emerged queen decides to stay with the hive.

13. The Scent for a New Queen

Once the queen starts to lay eggs after 2 or 3 days right after the mating ritual, she will give off a scent that signals that she is healthy and capable of her job as queen. This pheromone helps the worker bees decide when a new queen needs to be made. This pheromone or scent marker will diminish as the queen ages.

The worker bees that have contact with the queen transports these pheromones around the hive. If the pheromone level decreases, the worker bees then start to prepare for a new queen.

14. Replacement of a Queen

There will be instances when worker bees need to replace a queen in a hurry. Sometimes queens die due to sickness or there are cases when the queen ceases to produce quality eggs. Workers will then need to replace their queen so that their hive continues to thrive.

There are cases when the queen is injured, the worker bees will prepare the queen cups to replace the current queen. Once the new queen hatches, the worker bees will kill the current queen by huddling close to the queen and vibrating their bodies to raise her body temperature until she dies.

But there are cases when the old queen is left to live with the hive and dies a natural death eventually.

15. The Queen Bees Do Not Control the Hive

Contrary to what many believe, it is not the queen that controls the hive. Yes, she lives a life of royalty but she is subjected to the colony’s rules as well. The moment she exhibits behavior that deems her unfit to reproduce, she will be replaced.

She relies heavily on worker bees for her to live her daily life. She does not even have the ability to digest her own food. Worker bees have to digest it for her.

Conclusion

A quick abstract of the whole article is that bees are among the many insects that form a social organization. They are ranked into three, namely the drones, workers and then the queen. Each one has specific roles to play. The queen bee is the most important bee in the colony because her role is to lay eggs for the future generation of the colony, this does not, however, make her in charge of the whole hive. She can be replaced anytime by the worker bees if they see that she is not fit enough to be queen.

Related Questions

Why do humans eat royal jelly?

Humans consume royal jelly because of the many health benefits it is believed to have. Some of these health benefits are the following:

  • Rich in nutrients
  • Has antioxidants and is also  
  • Lowers heart disease by lowering body cholesterol
  • Wound healing effects
  • Skin renewal
  • Blood pressure reduction
  • Blood Sugar regulation
  • Healthy brain function
  • Anti-aging effects
  • Immune system booster
  • Help in dealing with menopause symptoms

Are queen bees aggressive?

In general, queen bees are not aggressive. But just like any bees or insect, when provoked or scared they retaliate. Queen bees have the ability to sting multiple times so if you don’t know how to handle bees it is best to leave them alone.

Why do queen bees live longer?

Queen bees live longer because she is the only bee in the hive that can lay fertilized eggs, Without her, the whole colony and hive will slowly die. Look for signs of a queenless hive and hope that you catch the problem just in time so you can save your hive.

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