Queen bees are the adult, reproducing females of a bee colony. They are the mothers of their respective colonies, having laid the eggs that created most of the bees.
The queen bee is known amongst the bees due to the pheromones that she emits. The bees recognize this odor and defer to her for it. As a queen ages, she emits fewer pheromones.
Can a Queen Bee Sting?
Yes, queen bees sting, although their stingers are different from those of the other female bees. Worker bees have barbed stingers — this means that, if they sting, the stinger gets stuck in the mammal’s skin to continue pumping poison.
It also means that the bee is stuck. Due to the barbed stinger, a bee will be unable to pull out her stinger when she stings. In the process of trying, she’ll end up tearing herself apart, leaving behind her stinger and some of her abdomen. This is how bees die after stinging.
A queen bee, however, has a smooth stinger so she can sting multiple times.
Why Do Bees Sting?
For bees, stinging is a defense mechanism. A worker bee will only sting you if you have hurt it, or if you are threatening the hive.
A queen bee does not have any of these defense mechanisms as she is not concerned with the defense of the hive. This means that it is very rare for a queen bee to sting people and other mammals.
Queen bees use their stingers for the purpose of ensuring their position as queen. There are always several larvae chosen to be raised as queens. This means, at the time of maturity, there’ll be several young, virgin queens who’d be fit to be the queen bee.
Due to this, the first queen to hatch as a virgin queen seeks out the other cells holding the rest of her sisters. She then kills them with her stinger before they hatch to ensure her position as queen.
If two queens hatch at the same time, they go around killing off the rest. They then battle each other to the death, once they meet. This ensures that only one queen is left standing.
Where Do Queen Bees Come From?
Queen bees develop from larvae set aside by the worker bees and fed a special secretion of proteins called royal jelly. This secretion allows them to develop reproductive abilities and other abilities, such as their long life span.
Worker bees always set up more than one cell for the chosen “princess” larvae. This is done to ensure that even in the case of a tragedy or attack, not all hope of having a queen will be lost. Out of the several cells created, some will survive.
The contingency plan works, and bees are never left queenless. However, despite having many ‘princesses,’ only one would survive to be the queen.
Is the Queen a Threat?
A queen bee is the biggest bee in the colony, but that doesn’t make her a bigger threat. She’s very much pampered by the workers. A queen bee doesn’t feed herself or groom and clean herself. All of these are done for her by the worker bees.
If she isn’t fed, her health will suffer, as she relies on the workers completely to care for her. A queen’s main duties are in the laying of eggs. A queen can lay up to 1,000 eggs per day.
With bees, eggs are laid in special cells or ‘sections,’ which let workers know what kind of food to feed them, and what kind of bee they’ll develop into. The worker bees will clean and polish the cells for the queen to lay her eggs in. Depending on the type of bee that needs a population boost — such as the drones — the queen will lay those specific eggs.
Being the mother of all the bees in her colony, she doesn’t mate within the colony. If she did, she would be mating with her ‘brothers’ and her ‘sons.’
To avoid this inbreeding, she goes on mating flights, where she leaves the hive to find drones from other hives. She mates with these drones and returns to her hive to lay her eggs.
Queen bees can live for up to five years, but most of the time, they live for roughly two years. Once a queen begins to age and decline in egg production and pheromone levels, the colony will replace her.
Although queen bees do sting, they just don’t sting people or animals very often. Their stingers are to ensure their position in the hive isn’t threatened.
While all female bees can sting, they aren’t prone to stinging without provocation. Queen bees, which are the biggest bees in a hive, are even less likely to turn their stinger on a person since they don’t have the job of defense. Queen bees do, however, use their stingers to kill rival queens and ensure their place on the bee ‘throne.’