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Fascinating Facts About the Queen Bee and Her Role In the Hive

Aug 05, 2020

Did you know that the queen bee can live up to seven years?

Most people think she is the ruler of the hive, but she is just the mother of all the bees. 

Here’s some interesting facts about the queen bee.

In a hive of 30,000-60,000 bees, there is usually only one queen bee.

The queen is the mother of all the bees in the hive. However, she is not the decision maker. The worker bees, collectively, make most of the decisions for the hive.

open queen bee cell with larva in royal jelly

The queen leaves the hive only once in her life by herself. When she is a few days old, she leaves the hive to mate. She will mate with up to 50 males in that one or two day mating period. She will never mate again. She stores the sperm in a sac in her body and uses it for the rest of her life to fertilize eggs.

A queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day.

Her lifespan is on average 3-5 years. The oldest recorded queen bee was 7. The average lifespan for a worker bee is 6-8 weeks.

The queen bee’s primary diet is royal jelly. She is fed royal jelly by the worker bees. It is secreted out of a gland in their head. The worker bees and drones only eat royal jelly when they are an egg. They do not eat royal jelly as an adult.

queen bee on frame of honeycombCan you spot the queen? Answer at the bottom of the page.

How to spot the queen

It’s not easy to spot a queen bee. She is about 50% larger than the worker bees. She has a long, narrow body and often darker in color than the rest of the bees. You will often see a circle of bees around the queen.

Since the queen is busy laying eggs all day, she has attendants that follow her around feeding and cleaning her. These attendants are the worker bees.

After the queen lays an egg, she immediately looks for another cell to lay her next egg in. She does not care for the eggs. It is the worker bees’ job to feed, protect and keep the eggs and larvae warm.

The queen bee’s body is slightly different than the worker bee’s. Not only is she longer, but her stinger is not barbed, so she can sting multiple times and not die. She also cannot carry pollen or produce wax or royal jelly. Check out our article all about spotting the queen bee. It includes the #1 trick to spotting her that works for me almost every time.

When a queen is no longer fertile enough to sustain the beehive, her daughters, the worker bees, will kill her.

They do this by collectively surrounding her and stinging her or vibrating their flight muscles to produce enough heat to cook her. A new queen is made by taking a larvae that recently hatched and feeding it royal jelly as well as building the cell it is growing in to be much larger. This larvae that would have otherwise been a worker bee, will now hatch to be a queen.

Scientists do not know what is in royal jelly that makes a bee turn into a queen instead of a worker bee. However, they are now theorizing  that it isn't what's in royal jelly at all that makes a queen a queen. Instead, it may be what's in bee bread that makes a worker bee infertile and not want to mate. Bee bread is made by the bees in the hive. They mix together nectar with pollen and feed it to the worker bee and drone larvae. It is very rick in protein and some beekeepers say it is better for you to eat bee bread than the raw pollen collected at the entrance to a bee hive.

When a beehive makes a new queen, they usually make 5 or more. The first queen to hatch searches the hive for the unborn queens and kills them with her stinger. If more than one queen hatches at once, they will eventually find each other in the hive and battle it out with their stingers until one kills the other. Unlike the worker bee, their stingers are not barbed. Other than killing their sisters, I have never, personally, seen a queen sting a person. In the end, the hive will end up with just one only queen bee.

 

Watch a queen bee on her mating flight in the bee documentary, More Than Honey!

 

 Listen to our podcast episode about the queen! You can find The Buzz About Bees on any app that streams podcasts.

Answer: The queen is in section 9.

Learn more about bees and their role in the hive:

 

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