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Queen of the Hive

The sun has been shining, the birds have been chirping, and the bees have been busy at work. As we opened up the hives to inspect them, we witnessed the bees hard work. Sadly, this work is not being done in the honey super, rather all of the building of honey comb is only happening in the brood box. Ralph suspects the cause of this may be due to the plastic queen separators he is using on two of his boxes. On one of the hives he has a metal queen separator that seems to work much better. Although the bees in that hive are not building in the super yet, we did notice a significantly larger number of bees in the super than the other two hives. That same hive, also appears to be the healthiest. It has normal laying pattern, and lots of nectar and honey stored. We also found the queen of that hive during our hive check.

Unfortunately, we did not find a queen in the other two hives. In fact, one of the other hives appeared to be without a queen. We could not find any eggs, but we did find about 8-10 capped queen cells. Noticing that the hive was queenless, the worker bees fed several larvae royal jelly to produce multiple potential queens. These potential queens will soon hatch and then fight to death for ruler of the hive, controlling her workers by releasing pheromones known as the queen scent. The new queen will then leave the hive to mate, coming back with the ability to lay up to 2,000 eggs per day. Depending on what the eggs are fed, her fertilized eggs will become worker bees, or future queen bees. Queen bees are fed royal jelly for their whole life, while worker bees are fed royal jelly only for the first two days of their larva state. Her unfertilized eggs will become drones–male bees. As the queen ages, her ability to produce eggs and a normal laying pattern decreases, and soon the worker bees will work at raising up a new queen. Most bee keepers say that a honey bee queen is in her prime for about three years, and then it is time to replace her.

IMG_0134 (1) The queen bee in the third hive.