The queen bee is the only one in her caste, and she is the most important bee in the entire colony. Her job is to lay all of the eggs in the hive, and she lays a lot of them.
While her name implies that she’s the ruler of the colony, that isn’t quite true. They have more of a democratic system, where worker bees actually vote on certain things, such as the swarm’s next nesting location.
Read on to learn 8 more interesting facts about the queen bee.
1. The queen bee lays up to 2,000 eggs per day.
That amounts to 1 egg every 43 seconds. She is responsible for laying all of the eggs in the colony. Each egg is 1 – 1.5mm long, about half the size of a grain of rice.
2. Any fertilized egg can become the queen.
The queen can lay either an unfertilized or fertilized egg. Unfertilized eggs become drones, or male bees. Fertilized eggs become workers or a queen.
Queen bee larvae are exclusively fed royal jelly, while worker larvae consume a diet of honey and pollen. So, it is diet that determines whether a fertilized egg will become a queen.
3.The queen mates once in her life.
The queen bee spends 1-2 days mating with as many drones as possible. The sperm is collected and stored in a special organ which she uses to lay eggs for the rest of her life. Once the queen runs out of genetic material, she will be replaced by the colony.
4. New queens must kill their competitors.
When a colony needs a new queen, worker bees will make more than one. This gives them a better chance of having a strong queen. However, only one queen can stay in a hive.
When a new queen hatches, she uses her stinger to kill the unhatched queens. If 2 new Queens hatch at the same time, they fight to the death, with the winner becoming queen.
5. The queen is the largest bee in the colony.
Her abdomen sticks out much further than the tips of her wings. She also has a hairless, shiny, black back and long, light colored legs. This is in comparison to worker bees, who have hairy backs and shorter, dark legs. Some beekeepers mark their queens with a dab of colored paint to make them easier to find.
6. A colony cannot survive without a queen.
The queen bee is the only bee in the entire colony that is needed for the colony’s survival. The queen’s 2 main purposes are to lay eggs and to produce chemical scents, called pheromones, to send signals to the rest of the colony.
Workers spread the pheromones throughout the hive using their antennae. When workers notice there is no pheromone, they know they are queenless. They will then construct queen cells to create a new queen.
7. The queen bee has a reusable stinger.
Unilke worker bees who typically die after stinging once, the queen bee can sting multiple times. This is because she has a smooth stinger. Worker bees have barbed stingers, so when they sting, they cannot pull their stinger out. This causes massive abdominal rupture to the bee.
The queen’s stinger has another important use – laying eggs. Her stinger is a modified ovipostor, which is used to lay and position eggs.
8. The queen has attendants.
The queen would die if she did not receive constant care from her attendants. These bees groom her, feed her, and carry away her waste. They even have to digest her food for her. She lacks the glands that worker bees use to digest their food, so they pre digest the queen’s food before feeding it to her.
These facts about the queen bee has made one thing clear, the queen bee is extremely fascinating. From the way she is born, to the way she expands her colony, the queen is the most important bee in the colony.