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The Incredible Honey Bee...The Queen Bee

Updated on October 2, 2015

In the hierarchy of the honey bee world there are really three classes: the queen, the worker, and the drone. A trained eye can tell the difference in the three by body structure. The queen is larger and longer than the general population with an extended abdomen. The drone, the male is stubbier and has larger wings. The worker is the common bee that does all the work.

Being the queen is not as glamorous as it sounds. She is constantly at work producing eggs. She is basically an egg laying machine. At the peak of the egg laying season for her (spring time) she can lay several hundred eggs a day. At her start she was a typical egg. For some reason in the hive it was determined that a new queen was needed. Either the present queen (momma) was failing in her duties or the hive was about to swarm; this would be the most common reasons.

Anyway, the worker bees began to feed her royal jelly (a secretion from worker bees). She will receive this royal jelly for her entire lifetime. Her body developed ovaries and she developed into a queen. She was not the only one who received this royal jelly. There were about three or four more would be contenders to the throne in the hive. She was the first one out (hatched) and to thwart any attempts by fellow queens to take over, she went to their cells and stung the remainder in the sides. Yes, she assassinated any queens that had not made it out before her, effectively eliminating any contention for her throne.

What about momma? Well, either momma will be or has been killed by the workers (yes, another assassination) or she is about to leave the hive with some of the workers and honey to start another hive. If momma is about to leave she will excrete a pheromone that tells the hive that she is leaving. This signals the workers that are going with her to gorge themselves on honey. They will need it to build a new hive. The honey is digested by the workers and in return they secrete bees wax for building.

If for some reason momma decided not to leave or was too weak to leave, her and her daughter would battle it out for the throne. More than not if momma was weak or wounded, the workers would converge on her (ball her up) and basically suffocate her. Usually though momma leaves without confrontation. Occasionally, mother and daughter will co-rule. However, this is rare.

While the new queens (the survivor and contenders) were growing in their cells, the worker bees were also growing out drones. The drones are the males. These males will contend to mate with the new queen. This is a onetime occurrence. The new queen will fly out of the hive straight up into the air. Only the fastest drones will catch up with her and mate with her. The faster males will be also the strongest and a more desirable blood line.

When the new queen returns to the hive she will set up shop and begin laying eggs at an amazing rate. Now her abdomen is extended and in time her wings will not be used and will atrophy. She will be eventually become so big that she will not even be able to feed herself. Her attendants will have to do it for her. She will be a viable egg producer for about years depending on her breed.

It would be a misnomer to say that the queen is fat and happy. She is large, however this, like all the other duties is designed to keep the hive from being extinct. She, like her working counter parts is expendable if that means keeping the hive alive.

Queen Bee
Queen Bee

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