Queen Bee is the most important bee in the hive and for every new beekeeper it is important to know as much he/she can. It was the same with me when I started with beekeeping so I read a lot and here is, in short, all important and interesting things you need to know about queen B:
- Queen Bees eats different food then the rest of the colony
- Give birth to almost all working bees in colony / Lays up to 2000 eggs a day
- Queen lives in specially built queen cells
- The smell of the Queen B is different than the other bees
- Mating takes place outside the hive
- They do not die if they sting a human
- She does not rule the hive
- They live longer than other bees
- The queen bee is the largest bee in the honey bee colony
Now when you have read the list we can go over all interesting facts in detail, first…
1. Queen Bees Eats Different Food Than the Rest of the Colony
All Queen Bees have a special diet because they are important to the hive. That special food is called Royal Jelly a milky secretion that is produced by young workers.
The glands on their heads make protein-rich secretion specially for the Queen. Royal Jelly is given to all working bees and drones during the first few days of larval development but after that, they switch to pollen and nectar as the main source of food and main ingredients of honey.
2. Lays Up to 2000 Eggs a Day
The newly hatched queen starts to mate within 2 or 3 days. After mating, she will start laying eggs after 6-8 days. So in the period 2 or 3-week queen b should start laying up to 2000 eggs a day. For the newly introduced queen to the hive usually takes up to a week to get cozy into the new home and to start laying eggs.
An interesting fact is that honeybee queens control the sex of their offspring. Depending on if the eggs are fertilized it means that it will become a female worker or queen, and non-fertilised eggs become drones. Female workers lay infertile eggs that become male honey bees.
3. The Smell of the Queen B is Different Than the Other Bees
Queen B use pheromones as a way of communication with the colony. It is transmitted through the colony by working bees with their antennas and while grooming. It is very important when it comes to swarming it tells if the queen mated and gives information to working bees to form a retinue to take care of Queen. Each Queen has a unique perfume (smell) that becomes weaker as the queen ages and it is usually a sign for the colony to replace the Queen.
4. Mating Takes Place Outside the Hive and Once in a Lifetime
Queen B mates during a flight outside the hive. During the flight, she mates with 10 to 15 different drones(male bees). Drones release semen during 5-second contact and usually his endophallus get ripped off that means certain death for the drone.
The semen Queen B collects can be stored and she can use it for fertilizing the eggs up to 7 years. She is able to store up to 100 million sperm and she uses stored sperm wisely to last. When she runs out of the semen colony will start raising new queens in the same colony or starts a new colony because the old queen is not able to mate again.
5. Queen Bees do Not Die if They Sting
Queen bees are able to sting and usually used it to kill the other virgin queens in the hive.’’As there can be only one’’. Besides queens, females working bees are able to sting too because one of their jobs is to protect the hive. The difference is that when they sting their stinger stays lodged in the skin of the victim.
In the process, part of the body is ripped and they die in a few minutes. When queen sting she is able to retract stinger and use it several times because the surface is smooth and it doesn’t stick in the skin but the effect on the victim is less effective than working bees. Queen B rarely sting humans because it stays inside the hive all of her life.
6. Queens Does Not Rule the Hives
Even though she is the queen she does not rule the hive. Even though she is not bossing everybody she is crucial for the hive, all bees know what is their job in the hierarchy and she is after all mother to the most of them so they have to take care of her as good children would.
For example, the main job of the queen is to lays eggs and she decides about the gender (to fertilize the egg or not) but she will make a decision when she inspects the cells of the comb. Size is crucial because cells for drones are bigger than for working bees (females).
The decision about the size of the cell that is going to be built is made by the needs of the colony so working bees are making bigger or smaller cells accordingly and that way instructing Queen which egg to lay.
Also, they have to polish and clean each cell for the queen to lay an egg. So you can read between the lines that the colony has a lot of influence in decision making but of course, no colony would exist without its Queen.
7. They Live Longer than Other Bees
Queen b is able to live 2-5 years but the colony will allow her to live only as long as she does 2 main roles. Laying eggs and producing pheromones. For laying eggs she has a limited number of semen and eggs she can lay.
Pheromones also start to weaken as the queen gets older and that is the sign for the colony that it is the time. In average Queen, bees live for about 2 years and after that colony replace her.
The main reason for long life is special nutrition with Royal Jelly a milky liquid made of proteins and sugars that only queens eat entire life.
Queen bee can die earlier due to natural causes infections viruses or parasites that attack the colony
8. The Queen Bee is the Largest Bee in the Honey Bee Colony
Queen bee is the largest bee in the colony around 0.8 inches (2 cm) in length. Young queens are much smaller and it is hard to tell them a part from working bees but as the time pass and queen gets older she develops and gets bigger. She is longer and with a more narrow body the rest of the bees.
Comparing to the working bees she can be twice the size of working bees and just slightly larger than drones (male bees ). Her long abdomen contains fully developed ovaries crucial for delivering eggs. Wings of working bees and drones cover an entire body but queen wing cover just a half of it and it is one of the reasons why queens are poor fliers.
An additional reason for the Queen size is Royal Jelly nutrition, prepared specially for the queen by young workers. She does not have the time to digest food so working bees do it for her. A real royal treatment. This nutrition also affects the ability to flight but no worries she spends most of her life inside the hive.
9. Queen B Have a Specially Built Queen Cell Just for Her
Specially designed cells for the future queens are called queen cells. It is a cell where the queens are hatched. Usually it can be found inside the hive during spring or summer and there can be around 10 – 15 of them.
The main purpose is back up, to be prepared if something happens to the existing queen. The shape and size of the cell are suitable for the body of the queen that is longer than the other bees in the colony.
At the beginning of the construction, it is called the queen cup where the queen lays the fertile egg then workers start enlarging the cup to get the peanut-like shape. So queen from the first day has a special treatment in presidential suite for bees : )