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 It is a normal order of things for older queens to be replaced (superseded) by the workers when her productivity lags.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.
Worker bees are the smallest bee in the hive but are the most numerous. All workers are female and do all of the necessary tasks within a colony.
WORKER BEE CHORES
They secrete the wax used to form the honeycombs, forage for all of the nectar and pollen brought into the hive, and transform the nectar into honey. They feed and tend to the needs of the larvae and queen. They cap the cells of mature larvae for pupation and remove debris and dead bees from the hive and defend the hive against intruders and maintain optimal conditions by heating, cooling and ventilating the hive.
WORKER BEE LIFESPAN
Workers reared in the spring and early summer tend to live for five to six weeks. The first two weeks of their lives are spent as house bees, doing tasks in the hive. The remainder of their time is spent as field bees, foraging for food outside the hive.
Worker bees that reach maturity in the late fall may live well into the following spring. It is their job to maintain a cluster of bodies around the queen bee, keeping her warm through the winter months. Later, when egg-laying resumes, it is they who raise the first generation of young bees for the new year. Drone bees are the male honey bees and are visibly larger than the workers. Drones are developed from unfertilized eggs and their cells are visibly larger than those of workers.
Drones do not tend the brood, produce wax, or collect pollen or nectar. They will feed themselves directly from honey cells in the hive, or beg food from worker bees. The only function of a drone is to fertilize a young queen bee.
DRONE BEE PURPOSE
They are reared chiefly in the spring and summer, beginning about four weeks before new queens are produced, thus ensuring that ample drones will be available to mate with emerging queens. Their day is typically divided between periods of eating and resting and patrolling mating sites. Drone production ceases in the late summer, as the quantity of available food declines. and before winter sets in, they are driven out of the hive by workers, who guard against their return.