The Birth of a Queen

Learn about the fascinating process behind what happens when worker bees decide their colony is due for a new queen.

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The worker bees are the ones that determine whether their colony needs a new queen. They relay this message to their current queen by forming a larger cell in the honeycomb, in which she will lay a queen egg. A queen cell looks vastly different than any other cell in the brood. It is shaped more like a peanut and can be found in the middle of the frame, or on the edge.

There are two different types of queen cells, supersedure cells and swarm cells. A supersedure cell is made when the existing queen needs to be replaced for health reasons. The queen produces a pheromone that helps guide the workers in their activities. As this pheromone grows weaker due to sickness, disease, or age, the worker bees will know it’s time to replace the queen. The workers then develop supersedure cells in the comb, so a new queen can be born. Once the new queen emerges, she searches for her rival, the old queen; they will fight to the death and the victor will take her rightful place at the throne.

Swarm cells are made when the colony has expanded, and they are ready to swarm (half the bees leave the colony to start a new one) to make room in their hive. The workers will develop swarm cells and when the new queen emerges, a portion of the colony will leave with the old queen.

The queen larvae are fed nothing but royal jelly (of course!) and are fully developed in 16 days. The queen is the longest-living bee of the colony. A queen bee can live up to four years!

PHEROMONES: Bee pheromones are chemical messengers produced by bees that they use to communicate with one another.

More from Beekeeping for Beginners:

Wouldn’t it be great to raise your own bees, have a fresh supply of honey, and bring thousands of healthy pollinators into your yard? Beekeeping for Beginners is a simple, step-by-step guide that helps you learn the fundamentals of modern beekeeping. You (and your bees) will be buzzing with delight. From picking the right hive and bringing your bees home to surviving winter and collecting honey, experienced beekeeper Amber Bradshaw takes you on an easy-to-follow journey through your first year of beekeeping and beyond. Beekeeping for Beginners includes: Just the essentials ? Learn everything you need to know to begin your first colony ? written with brand new beekeepers in mind; Modern beekeeping ? Start your colony off right with guides that feature the newest practices and current, natural approaches; and Learn to speak bee ? Clearly defined terms and a complete glossary will have you talking like a pro beekeeper in no time. Begin your beekeeping the right way ? and avoid getting stung by mistakes ? with Beekeeping for Beginners.

Excerpt from Beekeeping for Beginners: How to Raise Your First Bee Colonies, by Amber Bradshaw, published by Rockridge Press. Copyright © 2019 by Callisto Media. All rights reserved.

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