For a lot years it was believed there was a King in the hive and that he was in charge of everything. And then it all changed when it was discovered that the colony actually has a queen.
But she's not the boss!
And her children can turn on her ...
Read on ....
She is without doubt, the most beloved of all of the bees in a colony!
Her influence effects all of her children and she keeps the cohesion of the colony in check all through her pheromones.
Wherever she walks, she leaves behind a hint of pheromone from glands on the bottom of her feet that reassures her children that she is around. Whilst she is young and strong, her pheromones reach into every part of the hive - even parts she has never visited!
But as she gets older ... things start to change!
The queen and her retinue of workers (daughters)
It takes just 16 days for the bees to create a new queen and they are very fussy about which larvae to use - they like to choose larvae that are about 36 hours old from hatching but in an emergency will use anything available.
So what is it that makes a bee into a queen?
The answer is - ROYAL JELLY and it even gives her a long life span of up to 5 years!
In fact, all bees get some of this magic stuff to eat in the first few days of their life as a larvae but worker bees then start to get fed a mixture of honey and pollen - it's called "bee bread".
But the queen only ever eats Royal Jelly!
Larvae in Royal Jelly destined to become queens.
When a new queen is born, she becomes sexually mature 4 days later and must leave the hive to find her local Drone Congregation Area. Having found the drones, she will mate with up to a dozen or more of them and then return back to her hive. When she returns, she has enough sperm to last her for 5 years and may only ever leave the hive again to establish a new home.
A queen on her mating flight
Every day, the queen will lay up to 2000 eggs in the hive and this is all she lives for. She is the only bee who can lay eggs and produce daughters as workers. She has to eat at least her own body weight every day to do this!
Queens do not have the same glands as her daughters and so her food is predigested by them and then fed to her.
Apart from feeding her, the workers also keep her clean and carry away her waste.
Feeding and grooming the queen
But as we get older, things do start to wrong! The workers are very clever and if the queen is starting to lose her pheromones, or isn't doing her job as well, they will take steps to ensure the survival of the colony.
For the queen, the end of her reign may be in sight as she is superceded - but not before a new queen has been established.
Supercedure queen cells
When the bees decide to create new queens, they will often create several queen cells to give them the best chance of producing a viable queen. As the new virgin queens emerge from their cells, they will fight each other to the death in order to establish themselves as the queen of the colony.
This is the only time a queen will use her stinger and ...
unlike her daughters, she can use it more than once !
The queens smooth stinger
A queen cell slashed open by another queen to kill the occupant