Honeybees are social bees. They form colonies and live there together. Each colony has a queen bee, around 20,000-80,000 female workers, and numerous male drones. Along with adult bees, the colonies of bees also contain numerous pupae, larvae, and eggs that further develop into adult bees. Each member in the colony has pre-identified roles. However, the main goal is to protect the queen bee and nectar and produce honey and wax. But have you ever wonder about the role of a queen bee? Why is it so important in the hives? So, before moving further, let’s first educate ourselves with some brief information about queen bees.
The Queen Bee
The word queen bee is used to denote an adult bee whose reproductive organs have been fully developed. A queen bee is responsible for the birth of the majority of bees in a hive or colony. Generally, the queen bee means the bee with the highest reproductive capability. She is considered the dominating bee and a sort of rule in a colony or hive. On average, a queen bee has a life span of 1-2 years. She is the largest living bee in the hive.
The queen bees are capable of continuously laying eggs all day long. She can spawn few generations of bees. Moreover, the queen bees also have specific chemicals that can influence other bees’ behavior in the hive. The productivity of queen bees declines with time as they get old. However, they remain fertile throughout their life.
How is a Queen Bee Developed?
Queen bees are not like ordinary bees. These are the specially developed bees. The worker bees select a larva from the hive and start feeding it, especially with a portion of royal jelly. The special food makes queen bees sexually mature to be able to produce more bees. Additionally, for keeping the larva safe, the worker bees enclose it using a cell inside the hive. Afterward, the larva transforms into pupae and, ultimately, a queen.
How Many are Queen Bees in Each Hive?
Ideally, the kingdom throughout the world is ruled by one king and queen. You may find numerous princes and princesses; however, you will always find one king and queen. The same rule applies to the bees too. Each hive is ruled by a single bee which is called a queen bee. The single queen is responsible for producing eggs while the worker bees and guards work for the queen and protect her.
However, you may also find two or more than two queens in a single hive in some rare cases. This is not a very common situation. It can be experienced once in a blue moon. But this scenario surely exists. But you might wonder what happens if more than one ruler starts ruling a single kingdom. The chances of disturbance may arise in such situations. But does it apply to the queen bees too? In the following paragraphs, we will discuss situations where more than one queen bee rules the hive and the circumstances in such scenarios.
How Do Bees Raise a New Queen Bee?
The need to raise a new queen bee arises under two circumstances. First, when the existing queen bee dies, and second when the queen bee is not productive anymore or has some disability. When this happens, they start raising the new queen bees.
For placing the new queen bee, worker bees follow the same steps from selecting the larva, feeding her, and developing her until her ability of fertility increases. Afterward, the new queen bee takes the place of an existing bee. In this process, the lifestyle of existing bees, including their roles, remains constant.
But what happens when the new queen bee is born? When the new queen bee is born, the workers allow the old queen to stay alongside the new queen for a few days. However, the results may vary based on the circumstances and season of the year. Moreover, the queen bee may swarm with other bees leaving the hive for the new ruler, or could also happen that the queen bees fight each other until the death of one.
Are Queen Bees Actually Rulers?
People often associate queen bees with rulers. It is right to some extent, but in the case of bees, ruling the hive does not mean having a monarch system or ordering the worker bees and other bees to get the things done according to the queen or even to influence their behavior. The queen bees are rulers in the sense that they rule the production of bees.
As stated above, the queen bees are responsible for producing bees in the hive; that’s why they are treated with special food to have higher fertility. This unique characteristic makes the queen bees a ruler.
Does the Queen Bee Control the Activities in a Hive?
Various factors control the activities in a hive, and the queen bees are not responsible for this role. However, the queen bees do have some special chemicals that influence other bees’ behavior to some extent, but that’s it.
A hive itself contains various chemical signals and pheromones. These signals mainly control and direct the activities in a hive. The signals are developed instructively. Moreover, in some circumstances, the bees also vote among themselves to decide something. For example, the nesting site’s decision, the worker bees decide this by making a vote.
So, in a hive, it is not a single factor that dictates and controls worker bees’ activities. Various signals, chemicals, and even voting are used for deciding what to do and how to get things done in the hive.
Before you leave, it is important to understand the importance of queen bees. Queen bees work as a mother in a hive. Without their ability to produce bees, the hive will have a lower number of bees or even no bees at all. That’s why all the bees, especially worker bees, work so hard to form the queen bee and increase her fertility.
Moreover, the higher the number of bees in a hive, the higher the production of honey. That’s why all the bees work together for the wellness of a queen bee. Sometimes when required, there might be even more than one queen bees in a hive. However, in such scenarios, the formation of various colonies is used to protect the peace of the hive and save bees from any potential disturbance.