1) New queens must eliminate their foes (think Game of Thrones for bees)
A queen bee is the heart and soul of a beehive, and she is the most important of all the bees.
She has two principal functions:
- to lay a large number of eggs to increase population
- and to create chemical smells that aid in colony unity
It is important to understand that there always needs to be a queen with every hive. No queen = no hive. When the hive needs a queen, worker bees produce multiple queens to increase their chances of having a strong queen. Although multiple queens are produced, only one can take the throne.
When a new queen hatches, she uses her strength to kill the other unhatched queens by destroying the remaining larvae. If by chance two hatch at the same time, they will fight to death until only one is left to survive.
When a queen bee is not laying an acceptable amount of eggs anymore, she is considered useless to her hive. The worker bees kill her, and the cycle continues.
What a harsh life!
2) The queen mates once in her life
Queen bees only have a lifespan of about five years, during which time she lays as many eggs as she possibly can (and eventually her own heir to the throne). To lay all these eggs, she gets one day in her whole life to mate with as many drones (male bees) as possible during a single mating flight. The mating process allows her to store sperm from many different males into her ‘sperm sac’ that she will draw from during her entire life.
Think the queen’s lifespan is short? The average worker bee (female bee) will live only between six and 20 weeks.
3) She has a Super Stinger!
The queen bee can use her stinger multiple times. This is because her stinger is smooth, allowing her to easily retract her stinger after each poke.
Worker bees, on the other hand, have a jagged stinger with a barbed end. When a worker bee uses its stinger, it hooks into its target and pulls out both a venom sac and it’s own abdomen. The rumours you have heard are true; the worker bee will die after it stings just once!
However, even though a queen can sting multiple times, you need not be scared of her! She spends most of her days in the hive laying eggs, so she very rarely needs to defend herself.
4) She has many ‘servants’
Like any royal, the queen has servants who are also called ‘her attendants’. Because she is busy most of the time laying eggs, her servants clean, feed, and follow her all day long. Without her attendants, she would die very quickly.
5) Queen bees do not eat honey
Are you surprised by this one? So are most people!
You would think that because she is a bee and has access to raw and unpasteurized honey 24/7, honey is something that she would eat. Not true! Instead, the queen has a royal diet that consists mostly of ‘royal jelly’, a protein-rich food that is created for her by the worker bees. Royal jelly is traditionally a food just for baby bees (larvae), but the queen will eat it her whole life.