The Queen Bee

August 20, 2019
Bee in Fynbos

Extraordinary Queen Bee

Each bee colony consists of one queen bee that rules over her female workers and drones/honey bees (male bees).  The queen bee has a very important role to play. She needs to ensure that her colony builds a hive that is strong and well ventilated. The colony also needs to forage for food, take care of the larvae and defend the hive from possible enemies and threats.

During seasonal mating, the young queen bee will fly with the drone aggregation for a few days at a time where she can mate with several drones.  She will then store the sperm in the hive and start laying eggs within each cell inside a honeycomb. She begins by laying her eggs in the centre of the cell frame, so workers can place honey, royal jelly and other foods for larvae on the outer edges. Laying the eggs can only take a few seconds and each egg can measure between 1 to 1.5 mm. 

The sex of the future bees is determined by the queen herself. If she decides that the egg should contain female worker bees/future queen bees she will fertilize these eggs, and if she wants them to be drones or honeybee males, those eggs will remain unfertilized. The eggs are examined by the queen and are placed in the individual cells. Within a day she can lay up to 2000 eggs. 

The eggs are attached to the cell by a mucous strand and start to hatch within 3 days. The larvae hatch with no wings or legs, eyes or antenna and resemble a small grain of rice with a small mouth. The worker bees in the colony feed the larvae with royal jelly and honey. The larvae grow into adult bees within 3 weeks. 

by Field Guide, Lizaan Claassen