Who Is the Queen Bee?
The queen bee of the hive — or of the office — often gets a bad rap for doing the least amount of work while getting the most credit.
That’s a little unfair. After all, someone has to be in charge.
When it comes to real bees, female workers have made the queen bee the way she is because it’s in their best interest. The queen’s role in the beehive is so critical to its survival that her loyal attendants cater to her every whim.
The Young Queen
In the egg and larva stages, queen and worker bees are of equal rank. The caste system goes into effect when adult worker bees secrete food to the developing cells.
Based on hormone levels, they identify the cells of potential queens and feed them royal jelly, a substance rich in nutrients. While the future monarch is wined and dined, worker and drone larvae subsist on leftovers of pollen and nectar.
The queen is to be envied, for she can eat all she wants in the developmental stages. She will fatten to 1,500 times her original size in less than a week.
When she emerges in around 16 days, the queen will be sexually reproductive and have a long, graceful body despite her overindulgence.
She rarely uses her stinger on humans, but it becomes a lethal weapon when rival virgin queens begin to emerge. She calmly kills off each bee one by one.
Within a few days, the queen takes a couple of exploratory flights to assess mating conditions. A calm, sunny afternoon is ideal for romantic encounters.
She releases pheromones to attract male drones, whose sole function it is to mate. The queen is nothing if not promiscuous; over the next two to four days, she will seduce anywhere from seven to 17 drones. This diversity reduces brood disease and increases the chances of colony survival.
Mating takes place in the air and lasts just a few seconds. The poor drones will die within minutes or hours.
The queen bee has been so pampered that she can’t find her way back to the beehive. Worker bees release pheromones to guide her.
She returns to the hive carrying around seven million sperm for fertilizing her eggs. A prolific queen lays 1,500 or more eggs per day, and the sperm will last two to four years.
When the aging queen ceases to produce fertilized eggs, workers will find a replacement before unceremoniously killing her.
Long Live the Queen
When a queen dies prematurely because of predators, disease or beekeeper error, worker bees panic and declare a state of emergency. The absence of a queen is a severe setback to the colony’s growth and productivity.
The beehive can’t survive without someone on the throne. Agitated workers frantically begin feeding eggs and larvae to produce a new queen, and the cycle begins again.
Beescause wants to save the queen and all her bees as a group effort to replenish the declining bee population around the globe. Purchase your beescause bracelet or foster a hive and be part of the solution.