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The Life Cycle of a Queen Honey Bee

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One of the topics beginner beekeepers find helpful and educational is the life cycle of the queen honey bee. Each bee’s role is very important to the survival of a hive, from the nurses, workers, and drones, but there’s just something about the queen. So here’s her story.

A fertilized egg is laid by either a queen or a laying worker (will make a post later on laying workers). The egg is laid vertical in the cell, parallel to the cell walls. The cell that the queen’s egg is laid in is special and is called; yep you guess it, a queen cell. These cells are shaped different from any other cell. The bees draw this cell out and down so it’s shaped like a long upside-down cup.

On day 2 the egg begins to move and is now at a 45 degree angle in the cell. Day 3 the egg is horizontal, lying on the bottom of the cell. The queen is an egg for 3 days, then it hatches and becomes a larvae From day 4 through 8 the queen larva is fed royal jelly by the workers. Only the queen larva is fed royal jelly. Each day the larva molts and by day 8 the size has expanded to fill the cell. Then the cell is sealed. The larva is now pro-pupa for 2 days, spins a cocoon, and molts one time 3 days after the cell is sealed. Now the queen is a pupa for 6 days and her color changes from white to her golden brown and black colors. The pupa molts one more time just before the queen emerges from the cell on day 16.

So, the day that the queen emerges from her cell she then goes hunting for other possible queens still inside their cells. She calls out to them by making an interesting sound. They reply to her so she can find them and kill them. She wants to make sure she’s the only queen in this hive! After that she takes her orientation flights from days 3 through 5. In her first three week she takes her mating flight(s) It may take more than one for her to become completely inseminated. When she is mated she will begin laying eggs 2 to 4 days after that.

The queen honey bee also produces pheromones to inform the colony of her presence so they will stop trying to raise a new queen.

A new queen will be reared if the current queen is old, dies, or is removed from the hive.

I was able to find a helpful timeline at britishbee.org.

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