Bees, Beekeeping and Honey

The Queen Bee

The queen has a long tapered abdomen and is developed this way so she can serve her purpose through out her 2 or 3 year life span. Her job is to lay eggs and will lay up to 600,000 eggs during this time. She is the only female in the colony that is able to produce female or male bees.

From the beginning of her life as a larvae she was feed large amounts of royal jelly for an extended period of time. She develops in her special cell that hangs downwards and is larger than the other types.

A week or two after emerging from her cell and on a sunny warm day she will leave the hive and mate with 12 to 15 drones. She will store all of the collected semen in her abdomen for the duration of her life as mating only occurs once. If she runs out of semen she will lay unfertilised eggs which will hatch to become drones (male).

The name originated from Elizabeth I of England as the Virgin Queen, but she as no control over her hive, her sole job is to maintain the population of the colony by laying eggs. A good queen can lay up to 2000 eggs a day laying her body weight every few hours. Surrounded by young worker bee attendants who provide her every need, giving food and removing waste, they lick her body to obtain pheromones that prevents them from raising another one. As she ages her pheromone level reduces, this causes the worker bee to replace her.

The social structure is so complex and fixed, the colony could be thought of as a single organism. The pheromone that the queen releases controls the reproduction of the organism and this takes place through swarming. Swarming occurs in spring and early summer.

The Queen bee.