The Queen Bee’s Importance To The Colony

Photo of queen bee surrounded by workers

For those unfamiliar, the phrase “Queen Bee” refers to an adult, mated female who lives in a honey bee colony or hive and is usually the mother of the majority, if not all, of the bees in the hive. A beekeeper/bee removal expert must understand the queen’s role and how she interacts with workers and drones—understanding the role of the queen and how the hive will react to her movement aids in the removal of a honey bee infestation.

The honey bee queen is the largest of the bees in a honey bee colony, measuring around 2cm in length (almost twice the length of a worker), with drones being somewhat larger. Because she is the only female in the hive with fully developed ovaries, the Queen Bee is extremely important. The queen’s two principal functions are to create chemical smells that aid in colony unity and to lay a large number of eggs. 1Go To Source cals.arizona.edu -“Honey Bee Biology”

Responsibilities Of The Queen Bee

Image of queen bee with servantIn actuality, a queen honey bee’s responsibilities are limited. Her responsibilities, on the other hand, are critical to the colony’s survival. None of the other females are capable of filling her shoes. Her most important responsibilities are:

  • Creating pheromones to assist colony communication
  • Depositing fertilized eggs that will eventually mature into workers

The queen is the mother of the colony’s other members. Only she can lay fertile eggs because she is the only female in the hive capable of mating. Throughout her brief existence, this has been her primary function.

The fertilized eggs grow into workers who help the colony survive. Drone honey bees originate from unfertilized eggs (males). They are crucial to colony life as well, although thousands of workers maintain the hive.

Queen Honey Bee Pheromones

Bees are social insects, and the honey bee waggle dance and honeybee pheromones are two advanced modes of communication that they excel at. The queen of a honeybee colony emits a fragrance called Queen Mandibular Pheromone (QMP), which governs the hive. Each hive has its own distinct aroma, a natural chemical scent secreted by the beehive queen through exocrine glands. All of the worker bees rely on their queen to set the fragrance in a hive, which sets the hive’s tone.

The queen’s unique blend of “perfume,” made up of numerous natural substances, is hidden in her mandibles. This aroma pervades the hive and becomes the dominant odor for all of the bees who live there. The worker bees can tell if the queen is changing if the aroma changes. The stronger a queen’s fragrance is, the more powerful she is thought to be by her hive mates. The more potent she is, the healthier the hive is assumed to be by all the bees in the hive.

The queen’s pheromones make her sexually appealing to the drones she meets on her nuptial flight for mating. Her pheromone aroma changes when she mates, letting the worker bees know she is no longer a virgin queen. To guarantee that the queen bee remains the only reproducing female in the hive, this potent pheromone fragrance prevents the ovaries of the female worker bees in the hive from maturing. 2Go To Source uaex.edu -“Beekeeping Basics”

Honey Queen Bee Reproduction

Honey bee queen being fed royal jellyRight after the queen bee is born, she chews her way out of her birthing cell and begins to kill the other queen bees being born. She’ll ‘pipe’ them, which means she’ll call out again in a high-pitched chirp. The other new queens will respond, and they will discover each other and fight to the death. Even queens still in their queen cells will pipe back, allowing the queen to sting them to death before they hatch.

The queen will then make a mating flight, a one-time trip from the hive to mate with male drones once the battle is over. For the next 3-5 years, she will lay fertile eggs thanks to this flight.

She will return to the hive after mating. If her mother (the old queen) is still alive and reaching the end of her life in the hive, the new queen will murder her. The new queen will take over laying eggs if the previous queen has left with a swarm. 3Go To Source extension.psu.edu -“An Introduction to Queen Honey Bee Development”

Male & Female Bees

The queen bee produces fertilized and non-fertilized eggs. The fertilized eggs will grow into female bees, while the non-fertilized eggs will develop as drones. Gender determination is the word for this process. After that, depending on their diet throughout the female stage, the females can develop into queens or workers.

During the whole nutrition period, larvae that develop into queen bees are fed only royal jelly, pollen, and honey. In contrast, larvae that develop into workers are fed minimal amounts of royal jelly during the first three days and royal jelly, pollen, and honey the rest of the days. Caste determination is the name given to this process.

Life Span Of The Queen Bee

Image of honey bee queen surround by worker beesWorker bees have a six-week lifespan on average, and drones die shortly after mating. Queen bees, on the other hand, live much longer than other insects or even other bees. A queen bee has a two-to-three-year productive lifespan, during which she can produce up to 2,000 eggs every day. She has the potential to create over 1 million offspring throughout her lifetime. The honey bee queen can live up to five years, though her output will diminish as she gets older.

Worker bees will prepare to replace the queen as she aged, and her productivity diminishes by giving royal jelly to numerous young larvae. When a new queen is ready to replace the existing queen, the workers normally smother and sting the old queen to death. Although this sounds callous and nasty, it is crucial for the colony’s existence.

A Final Look At The Queen Bees Duties

The queen bee is generally thought to run the hive like a monarch, commanding worker bees around. While the queen controls the worker bees’ actions, the beehive is closer to a democratic structure. Pheromones and other chemical signals appear to regulate a significant portion of the hive’s daily tasks and functions. Lastly, the most crucial role the queen bee has is reproduction. Without her, the hive wouldn’t be able to survive long because the life span of worker bees is much shorter than that of the queen.

 

 

Sources:

  1. Anton, Kate, and Christina Grozinger PhD. “An Introduction to Queen Honey Bee Development.” Penn State Extension, 19 July 2021, extension.psu.edu/an-introduction-to-queen-honey-bee-development. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  2. “Information Sheet 3, Honey Bee Biology.” Arizona.Edu, cals.arizona.edu/pubs/insects/ahb/inf3.html. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  3. Zawislak, Jon. “Beekeeping Basics.” Uaex.Edu, University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, www.uaex.edu/farm-ranch/special-programs/beekeeping/documents/Basic%20Beekeeping%20-%205%20-%20Bee%20Communication.pdf. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  4. Butler, Charles. “The ‘piping’ and ‘quacking’ of queen bees”. The Moir Rare Book Collection. National Library of Scotland. Archived from the original on 2007-06-29. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  5. “Drone-laying queen or laying workers?”. Honey Bee Suite. 2014-04-21. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  6. “Queen Rearing – Glenn Apiaries”. www.glenn-apiaries.com. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  7. “Queen Cells”. Wildflower Meadows. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.
  8. “International Queen Bee Marking Colors”. Piedmont Beekeepers Association. Accessed 3 Aug. 2021.