For non-beekeepers: What’s this honeybee queen thing about, anyway?

Each honeybee colony has (nominally) one queen that is the mother of the other bees in the colony.  The chemicals she emits, pheromones, regulate the behavior of the other bees in the hive.  The health of the colony depends on the health of the queen.

Photo Courtesy USDA-ARS
USDA-ARS Photo

 

A healthy colony will,  if the season and environment permit, requeen itself, that is, replace a queen that is failing or missing.  There are several situations in which the beekeeper will buy a new queen rather than depending on the colony’s ability to requeen itself.

 

A beekeeper will buy a new queen if–

A healthy colony is queenless.  It takes about a month for a queenless but otherwise healthy colony to rear a new queen, then for her to be mated, and then to begin to lay eggs.  By buying a new mated and laying queen the beekeeper can insure the continuity of the colony, which will not lose a month’s population.

A failing colony is queenless.  A colony could be unable on its own to requeen itself and a new introduced queen would be needed.

A queen is insufficient or unsuitable.  There are many measures of queen productivity and suitability.  If the beekeeper the queen needs to be replaced, a queen can be purchased to replace her.

A portion of the bees in a populated healthy colony is removed to other equipment.  A purchased queen can be introduced to that colony to make that population into a complete working colony.  This is called “splitting”a colony.

 

See About Queens, and We have queens for you.
The web is full of information about these topics.  Search the web or YouTube for “honeybee queens”  “requeening”  “beehive” and the like, and look on the Resources  page for links to valuable sites.

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