What Does A Queen Bee Look Like? Why Is She Un'bee'lievably Important?li

Martha Martins
Oct 16, 2023 By Martha Martins
Originally Published on Nov 24, 2021
The queen in bee colony.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 9.1 Min

Bees are insects with wings that are well-known for their extraordinary role in pollination.

A honeybee, sometimes called a honey bee, is a member of a group of insects in the Apidae family that comprises all bees that produce honey. Honey and beeswax are produced by honeybee colonies.

Although many species still exist in the wild, the many commercial applications of honey have fostered a substantial beekeeping sector. Honey bees are social insects that dwell in huge, well-organized family groups.

Honeybees are highly developed insects that perform a number of complicated functions that solitary insects are unable to perform.

Honey bees have developed a variety of behaviors to help them survive in social colonies, including communication, complex nest construction, environmental management, defense, and division of labor. These insects, the queen honey bee in particular, are among the most intriguing organisms on the planet because of their unique activities.

After reading about the role of a queen bee in the field of beekeeping and the appearance of a queen honey bee, also check out our fun facts articles about do bees have lungs and do bees hibernate?

Does the queen bee look different from the others?

Honey bees have a critical role in pollinating flowers, fruits, and vegetables. This means they aid in the growth of other plants. Pollen is transferred between the male and female portions of plants by bees, allowing seeds and fruit to grow.

Honey bees are excellent flyers. They go at roughly 16 mph (25 kph) and beat their wings 200 times per second. A bee possesses 170 odorant receptors, indicating that bees have a keen sense of smell.

When seeking food, they use these to communicate amongst the hive and to recognize different sorts of flowers. A worker bee's lifespan is only five to six weeks.

She'll make around one-eighth of a teaspoon of honey during this time. The queen has a five-year lifespan. Summer is her busiest season, when she may lay up to 2,500 eggs each day.

Honey bees are fantastic boogers, too! They do their waggle dance to communicate information about the finest food sources. When a worker returns to the hive, it waggles its body in a figure-eight pattern to signal the direction of the food supply. Quite cool, right?

Sadly, bee colonies have been declining for the past 15 years, and the cause is unknown. Billions of honey bees around the world are fleeing their hives, never to return, due to a condition known as 'colony collapse disorder'. Up to 90% of bees have vanished in some areas. 

Honey bees reside with other members of the species, in colonies. The different bees in the hive can be categorized into three categories, namely workers, drones, and queens.

Queen Bees: The hive is governed by a single queen. Her role is to lay the eggs that will become the next generation of bees for the hive.

Chemicals produced by the queen also direct the behavior of other bees. Different queen bee types present in the colony population are normal queens, egg-laying queens, emergency queens, and older queen bees. The queen's stinger is extremely smooth as compared to that of worker bees.

Worker Bees: All of these bees are females, and their jobs include foraging (pollen and nectar from flowers), constructing and protecting the hive, and cleaning and circulating the air by beating their wings. The bees most people see flying around outside the hive are workers.

Drone Bees: Drones are male bees whose job is to mate with the new queen. During the spring and summer, each hive can house several hundred bees. However, when the hive enters into survival mode in the winter, the drones are expelled. 

The queen bees look a bit different from the other bees, although she isn't as noticeable as you may think. The size of a queen bee varies. She is usually a little bigger than a worker bee. It's her shape that makes her stand out.

Her abdomen and legs are both long. The queen’s wings are short and do not extend past the end of her belly. Her back is bare, dark, and gleaming. New queen bees are found in large honeycomb cells known as queen cells.

The queen bee appears to be moving with purpose. Worker bees move aside when the queen walks. She walks majestically, leaving a trail of empty combs in her path. This motion causes a visible disruption in the hive's pattern.

When she is motionless, the pattern changes as well. A group of worker bees will surround the queen when she is resting around the eggs. Each worker is a petal facing the queen in the center, forming a flower-like shape.

Queens are in the business of producing eggs. The nursery of eggs is the most probable spot to discover a queen. If the colony feels exposed or disturbed, the queen will hide. The longer your hive is exposed, the more likely she will retreat around a corner.

What is so special about the queen bee?

It's critical for a beekeeper to understand the queen's role and how she interacts with workers and drones.

This will allow you to monitor the colony's health on a regular basis and troubleshoot problems as they arise.

The queen bee is the only female in the hive with fully developed ovaries, making her extremely important. The queen's two principal functions are to create chemical smells that aid in unity in the honey bee colony and to lay a large number of eggs.

If a queen bee dies suddenly, nurse bees will raise an emergency queen from the female larva until a normal egg-laying queen is growing in the honeycomb cell.

Bee queen amidst honeybees

Does the queen control the colony?

The queen bee is the hive's beating heart. She is the mother of the colony's other members and the glue that keeps them together. The hive will perish without a queen, and the bees will scatter.

But what distinguishes the queen? She's chosen before birth, and her larval stage is treated with a unique egg cell and a specific diet, just like human royalty. When the queen reaches maturity, she mates numerous times, spending her remaining life laying eggs and never leaving the hive.

A queen bee's existence begins with a particular egg cell that hangs vertically, commonly known as a 'queen cup'. When the previous queen becomes weakened or the colony grows too large for the hive and is about to swarm, worker bees construct these cells.

They will normally construct numerous queen cells, each of which will contain an egg laid by the existing queen. If the previous queen dies or leaves the hive unexpectedly, workers will find a new egg or young larva and place it in a queen cell.

The larvae are fed a particular diet until they reach maturity when the eggs in the queen cells hatch. They are initially fed royal jelly, which is a fluid secreted by nurse bee glands.

Although all larval bees are fed some of it, prospective queens are fed a large amount of royal jelly, which causes their body shape and ovaries to grow. The queens are also fed honey in the final two days of the larval stage, which contains hormones that aid in the body's development.

The new queen, about a week after emerging from her confinement, takes the first nuptial flights. She flies around a specified area in the air, attracting drones (male bees) from neighboring colonies. She mates with 10-20 of these drones while in flight. Most drones fail to mate and return to the hive, where they die a few months later.

How do honey bees recognize their queen?

Bees recognize each other by their sense of smell. It is certain that queen bees give off a unique odor. This odor varies in different queen bees, but the smell of queen bees stands out from worker bees certainly. All the offspring of the queen bee inherit that particular odor.

This is called the family odor. Drones emit an odor peculiar to their sex. Each worker has an individual odor. The hive has an odor that is a mixture of all the odors of bees in the hive.

Honeybees can use a sophisticated version of the telephone game to find their way back to their queen. They can detect the pheromones of the bees between them and their queen once they are within a few meters of the packed hive, even after foraging for hours.

These pheromones send and receive messages, forming a 'global map' that directs them where they should go.

Rather than yelling information, the queen extrudes her pheromones to the bees nearest to her, which magnify the queen's fragrance and flap it to the bees behind them. Bees signal odor to other bees by lifting their abdomens to reveal their pheromone glands, releasing their pheromones, and then fanning their wings to guide the smell toward other bees.

The information is finally distributed far and wide, just like an army's fringes. This is effective up to a few meters away from the hive.

On the body surface of a worker bee, there is a distinct odor that is shared by other bees in the same hive. This chemical signature, which resembles an identification card, alerts guard bees to the bee's origin before it enters the hive. The guard bees utilize a unique scent to screen a prospective intruder in this situation.

Honey bees employ pheromones to find their queen and build a cohesive swarm in which each group member must keep track of what the others are doing. The queen first emits her pheromones to signal her whereabouts.

However, because pheromones can only go a certain distance, the chemicals can't reach bees further away. The bees nearest to the queen display scenting behavior to magnify the signal.

How are new queens made?

The new queen bee can live for a period of two to three years, or even more. Replacing the queen bee after two seasons ensures that you maximize the output of your hive.

 You might wonder why you should replace the queen if she's still alive. The ability to lay eggs reduces as the queen bee ages, resulting in fewer and fewer broods each season.

The small size of the colony means less brood, which means less honey. As a beekeeper, you will have the ability to predict issues before they occur.

You will have to analyze the hive to determine if the egg-laying capacity of the queen has been reduced as she gets older. If this is the case, simply introduce a new queen in order to ensure a thriving hive.

If the queen bee dies, workers will choose a young larva (a freshly hatched baby insect) and feed it a special food called 'royal jelly' to make a new queen. This makes it possible for the larva to mature into a reproductive queen.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what does a queen bee look like, then why not take a look at do all bees sting or honey bee facts?


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Written by Martha Martins

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha Martins picture

Martha MartinsBachelor of Arts specializing in Linguistics

Martha is a full-time creative writer, content strategist, and aspiring screenwriter who communicates complex thoughts and ideas effectively. She has completed her Bachelor's in Linguistics from Nasarawa State University. As an enthusiast of public relations and communication, Martha is well-prepared to substantially impact your organization as your next content writer and strategist. Her dedication to her craft and commitment to delivering high-quality work enables her to create compelling content that resonates with audiences.

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