Honey bees are super-important pollinators for flowers, fruits, and vegetables. This means that they help other plants grow! Bees transfer pollen between the male and female parts, allowing plants to grow seeds and fruit.
Honey bees live in hives (or colonies). The members of the hive are divided into three types:
A Queen bee can be recognized by the length of her abdomen, which extends well beyond her folded wings making her the largest bee in the hive. Her function is a reproduction and she is the only reproductive female in the colony.
She is an egg-laying machine and she begins in early spring when the first fresh pollen is brought into the hive by the forger bees. Egg production will continue until fall, or longer if pollen is available. At the height of her productivity, the queen could lay as many as 2000 eggs per day and she can live up to five years, however, her productive period of rarely exceeds two to three years as older Queens produce excessive numbers of drones which is undesirable.
Professional beekeepers re-queen their colonies every year or two to maintain productivity. It is a normal order of things for older queens to be replaced (superseded) by the workers when her productivity lags. Workers also evaluate their queen based on the quantity of the pheromones she produces. If workers begin to receive an insufficient dose each day, they may perceive her as poor quality, and begin making preparations to supersede her.
When the beekeeper decides to re-queen a hive, quality queens can be reared by an experienced beekeeper, however, a beginning beekeeper will have to buy good queens from a reputable producer.
Queen bees produce a pheromone that is unique to her and her alone. Her pheromone is passed individually from bee to bee throughout the entire hive as they go about their business. The presence of this pheromone also inhibits the development of the ovaries in the other bees. If a queen bee is removed from the colony or something happens to her, all the other bees will notice her absence within several hours because of the drop in the level of her pheromone.
This is known as a queenless state and quickly initiates the urge to rear a new queen from the 1 to 3-day old larvae available. The workers will feed this larvae royal jelly in order to create a new Queen. If for some reason there are no suitable larvae available during a state of queenless, some of the worker bees may start laying eggs which only develop into drones.
Beekeepers often mark the queen’s thorax with a dot of paint to make her easy to find and to determine if she has been replaced.