What Happens When the Queen Bee Dies? Intriguing Facts

What happens when the queen bee dies? This question may have been lingering on your mind for a long. In this article, we provide a comprehensive guide for you to learn more about this intriguing fact.

In a beehive, typically, there is only one queen present at any given time, see what a bee hive looks like. The entire functioning of the hive centers around the queen bee. The colony must prioritize the safety and well-being of its queen. 

Without a queen, a hive cannot sustain itself for an extended period, nor can it operate effectively. So, let’s discover what happens when the queen bee dies.

What Happens When the Queen Bee Dies?

When the queen bee dies in a honey bee colony, the consequences depend on the circumstances and the stage of development of the colony. Here’s what happens when the queen bee dies:

1. Emergency Queen Cells

In a healthy honey bee colony, worker bees are capable of raising a new queen if the need arises. 

When the queen bee dies or starts to decline in health, the worker bees recognize the absence of a queen pheromone and respond by selecting a few young worker larvae and feeding them royal jelly. These larvae are then nurtured in special cells called queen cups, which are larger than regular worker cells.

2. Queen Rearing

The selected larvae receive an exclusive diet of royal jelly, a nutritious substance produced by worker bees, which triggers their development into queen bees. After around 16 days, the first emerging queen bee will kill any other developing queens in their cells, ensuring her dominance.

3. Swarming

If the queen bee dies unexpectedly or prematurely, the colony may not have a developed replacement queen. In this case, the worker bees may respond by preparing to swarm. 

Swarming is a natural reproductive process where a large group of bees, along with the old queen, leave the hive to establish a new colony. The existing colony raises new queens before swarming to ensure the continuation of their genetic lineage.

4. Decline of a Colony

In certain instances, when the queen bee dies and the colony is unable to produce a new queen or the attempt is unsuccessful, the colony may experience a decline over time. 

Without a queen to lay eggs, the number of worker bees will slowly decrease, leading to a weakened colony that will ultimately cease to exist.

What is the Role of a Queen Bee within the Colony?

The primary role of queen bees is to guarantee the survival and growth of the colony by continuously laying eggs throughout their lifespan.

A queen bee has the incredible ability to lay up to 2000 eggs each day, and she continues doing so until she either passes away from natural causes or is killed.

Beyond the vital task of laying eggs, the queen serves as the central figure within the colony. Her presence is crucial for coordinating the various activities that keep everything running smoothly. 

Worker bees can carry out their duties such as foraging for nectar and pollen, hive cleaning, guarding, and honey production because they have confidence that the colony is well-organized with the queen at its core. If the queen dies, this delicate balance is disrupted, leading to chaos.

A queen bee also plays a significant role in maintaining order by releasing pheromones that inhibit other female bees from laying eggs. 

This prevents competition among females and ensures the system remains functional. Without this control, the entire colony would lose its purpose and eventually collapse.

How Does A Bee Colony Replace Its Queen?

In the absence of a queen bee, worker bees take action to raise a new one. They select 10 to 20 young female larvae and prepare chambers for potential queen bees. 

This emergency process is similar to replacing an aging queen, where the worker bees respond to low pheromone levels. The difference is that an aging queen lays the queen eggs herself. 

Specialized cells, resembling large peanuts, are used to raise the new queens. The ideal candidates are 1-day-old larvae, which are fed royal jelly in large quantities to develop into fertile queens. Once mature, the queen’s ovaries are ready for fertilization by drones.

After 16 days, the new queen emerges and eliminates competition by stinging other developing queens. If multiple queens emerge simultaneously, they fight until only the strongest survive. 

The victorious queen mates with drones while flying, sometimes at great heights, for several days. On average, she mates with 12 to 20 drones until her spermathecal is saturated. 

After mating, she never mates again until her death. Within 3 to 5 days, she begins laying eggs. The entire process, from losing a queen to raising a new one, takes approximately 29 days.

What Happens When A Bee Colony is Unable to Rear a New Queen?

If a bee colony is unable to rear a new queen bee, it can lead to the eventual decline or collapse of the colony. Queen bees are crucial to the survival and functioning of a bee colony as they are responsible for laying eggs and maintaining the population.

When a queen bee becomes old or weak, or if the colony loses its queen due to death or other reasons, the bees in the colony typically initiate the process of rearing a new queen. 

They select a few female worker larvae and feed them a special diet called royal jelly, which triggers their development into queen bees. The first queen to emerge will usually kill any other developing queens still in their cells, establishing herself as the new queen of the colony.

However, if the colony is unable to rear a new queen, several scenarios can occur:

1. Decline in population

Without a queen to lay eggs, the bee population in the colony will dwindle over time. The worker bees have a limited lifespan, and without new members being born, the population will naturally decrease until the colony eventually dies out.

2. Absconding

In some cases, the worker bees may decide to abandon the hive altogether and seek a new location. 

This behavior, known as absconding, typically occurs when the colony senses that it is not viable or cannot sustain itself without a queen. The bees will leave in search of a new hive or may join another nearby colony.

3. Supersedure

In certain situations, worker bees may attempt to supersede the queen by replacing her. They might select a few larvae and feed them royal jelly to raise a new queen. 

If successful, the new queen will take over and the colony will continue to thrive. However, the success of this process depends on various factors and may not always be successful.

How Many Eggs Does a Honey Queen Bee Lay?

Healthy and fertile queen bees have the proficiency to lay eggs almost continuously. In fact, during the peak season, a high-quality queen bee can lay an astonishing number of eggs—over 3,000 per day. 

To put this into perspective, that’s more than the queen bee’s body weight in eggs in just a single day!

While queen bees have the potential to live for seven years or even longer, their egg-laying productivity usually decreases after the first year or two. This decline in productivity is a natural occurrence and is commonly observed in queen bees as they age.

How Long Does it Take A Colony to Discover Their Queen is Dead or Missing?

Pheromones play a crucial role within a bee colony as they serve as signals that assure the worker bees that everything is functioning smoothly and life should continue as usual. 

In the absence of these pheromones, the worker bees can sense within 15 minutes that their queen is no longer present. When an old queen dies, there may be a temporary period of confusion within the colony. 

However, the worker bees quickly regain their focus and begin working towards raising a new queen. The worker bees waste no time in seeking out a replacement queen following the loss of their previous one. 

As a result, beekeepers need to prioritize the health of their bees by ensuring that the colony is never without a queen for an extended period. Failure to do so could put the bees at risk of swarming, potentially leading to the loss of the entire colony.

Conclusion

In conclusion, when a queen bee dies, the hive faces significant challenges. As the heart and driving force of the colony, the queen’s absence disrupts the hive’s functioning. 

The survival and efficiency of the hive are greatly compromised without a queen. Therefore, it becomes crucial for the colony to take swift action to replace the queen to ensure the hive’s long-term viability.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why Do Queen Bees Get Killed?

When the queen bee is responsible for producing unproductive, inactive male bees, eliminating her provides an opportunity for one of her daughters to assume the role of a new queen.

Do Bees Eat Honey?

Bees have a diet consisting of honey and bee bread, each serving a specific purpose. Both pollen and honey are rich sources of minerals, vitamins, and enzymes, offering a well-rounded nutritional composition for the bees’ overall health and well-being.

Can Bees Detect Illness?

Bees possess the ability to detect and react to over 60 distinct odors, such as methamphetamine, uranium, and tuberculosis. They have been employed in detecting various medical conditions like lung and skin cancers, and diabetes, and also in confirming pregnancy.

What Duty Do Male Bees Perform in the Colony?

Male bees, known as drones, do not engage in any work within the hive. Comprising about ten percent of the colony’s population, their primary role is to consume honey and patiently await the chance to mate with a queen bee during their lifespan.

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