What determines if a queen bee produces another queen bee or just drone/worker bees? When a queen produces a queen, is there some kind of turf war until one of them leaves?


What determines if a queen bee produces another queen bee or just drone/worker bees? When a queen produces a queen, is there some kind of turf war until one of them leaves?

In: Biology

The workers feed a special food to the larvae and it turns into a queen. The new queen then takes her mating flight, and then finds a place to live. If she’s a replacement, she comes back to the hive, otherwise she (and some of the colony) swarms (flies as a group) to found a new colony.

As far as I know, in the domesticated/feral honeybee hive, the queen doesn’t dictate when to make a new queen, the workers do. They make a queen cell in which the queen will lay an egg. Or if the queen has died, they can use an egg in a regular cell to make a new queen. Any egg the queen lays could become a queen, it’s that a future queen is only fed royal jelly, and not the fermented pollen called “bee bread.” Being fed bee bread causes the ovaries to shrink and die, making a sterile worker. Being fed exclusively royal jelly makes the bee develop into a queen.

I think the only thing the queen has a choice in, is to lay male drones or not, but hopefully someone else knows how that’s done. Because unfortunately I don’t.

As for queens, there can only be one queen, so either the old queen and a majority of the workers will leave in a swarm if the old hive is over crowded. Leaving the new queen with the old hive. Or they will fight and the survivor will stay. Or sometimes the workers will mob the queen they don’t like and kill her.

Love bees, any advice on how to attract them to my garden as pollinators? Humming birds are great and butterflies are pretty good about making rounds, but bees are the #1 pollinators.

Additional interesting fact:

If a drone manages to mate with a queen, he leaves his back end in the queen mid-flight, falls off and dies in act of love-making.

If he survives, the worker bees will kick him out of the hive in the winter because he does no work and takes up precious food.

It’s a tough life for a drone!

Most of the comments are pretty much spot on, but I’ll clarify a couple of things…

First, what determines a worker bee or drone is male or female… The queen can “choose” which sex to lay via fertilization… If the egg is fertilized then it’s female… If not, then it’s a drone. Interestingly enough, when a new queen mates, the male’s entire reproductive organ is essentially “ripped off” and stays inside the queen… Several males can mate with a queen during her mating flight, and all of the sperm stays inside her. When she lays an egg she can control rather it gets fertilized or not.

As for worker bee or queen be. There are special “cells” that are much larger than normal. These are usually produced either as swarm cells (the colony’s way of reproducing) or as supercedure cells (a replacement queen because the existing one is either sick, old and unable to continue producing much longer, or sometimes just in case something happens to her. A fertilized egg (within the first 3 days I think, but don’t quote me on that) can be moved by the nurse bees into a supercedure cell to make a new queen if the old one dies… It’s basically the “disaster recovery” process of the bees.

When an egg is placed into a queen cell it is filled with royal jelly and sealed off. Unlike the normal workers where the cell is left open, and the larvae can be fed mostly bee bread (ferminted pollen) and some royal jelly. The queen larvae ONLY eats the royal jelly, and grows to to adulthood staying contained within it’s cell.

If this is done to do a swarm, then several queen cells are prepped and loaded, and then about half the workers fly off with the queen and they go find a new place to colonize. Back in the old colony, once a queen emerges from a cell, it’s very first duty is to go kill all the other queens or queens that have not emerged yet. She’ll chew open the cells and kill them. If other queens have emerged they will “pipe” (making a loud screaming noise) that allow them to locate each other. They will then fight to the death until only one remains… Last woman standing becomes the new queen. Once that’s finished, she will THEN go fly on her mating flight… Mating with other drones from other colonies. Then she’ll come back to the hive, and unless there is a swarm, that’s the last time she’ll ever leave the colony, from that moment on she’ll live there and die there. Yes, that even means to relieve herself… Unlike other workers and drones who take “cleansing” flights where they relieve themselves, the queen has her own attendants that take the mess away for her. She spends her entire life laying one egg after another…

A little further note… Bees don’t “hibernate” during the winter. The first thing they do is kick out all the drones… Which then die in the cold… They aren’t allowed in the hive during the winter because frankly, they do nothing. They eat resources and fly on mating flights… That’s it… And since they don’t even need a fertile queen to be produced (even a normal worker can lay eggs that can become drones) they are quite expendable.

Instead, during the winter, usually any time the temperature is below about 55 degrees F, the bees will “cluster”. The queen gets surrounded by all the worker, and the entire cluester just moves through the hive (over the comb) eating honey for energy and “shivering” their wings to generate heat. This keeps them alive through the winter until the temperature comes back up to where they can fly again.