What makes a Queen bee so Royal? The Buzz on Bees with Bee Butler Michael King ~ July 29th
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In every colony there are 3 types of bee, the Queen , the worker and the drone. The Queen is a unique bee in her hive as she is different in one major way from every other bee in the hive in that she is the only bee that can create new life as she is the only fertile bee in the entire colony. She alone is responsible for every other bees life in her colony as she lays the eggs that will become either a female worker bee or a male drone bee. She is also capable of stinging repeatedly like a wasp as she has no hooked barb on her stinger so she does not die after stinging like all other bees do. She is also fed something her entire life that no other bee gets to feed on for more than 3 days, a special source of food called Royal Jelly.
An egg that will turn out to a Queen bee is born in a special cell in the hive called a Queen cell which is a large peanut shell sized cell with an opening of 5 mm’s which hangs vertically in the hive from a frame. The resident Queen in the hive will lay an egg in this cell and fertilize it as she would do any other cell that is 5mm’s in diameter. A queen cell receives special attention as it becomes a V.I.P. bee and is given a special substance from the moment the egg is placed in the Queen cell. This special substance comes from the glands of very young worker bees less than 2 weeks old who are the only bees capable of producing this source of protein as it remains an active substance in the young bees for only this approximate period of time. This substance is Royal Jelly and each young bee who tends to the Queen cell feeds and literally bathes this egg in Royal Jelly not just for the first 3 days which every other bee receives also, but on and on and on until the larva turns into a pupa and spins a cocoon around itself and even after it is born as Queen it is fed Royal Jelly. All other bee larva are fed Royal Jelly but are not bathed in it within the cell as the Queen larva is.
There may be more than one Queen cell in a hive to ensure the successful rearing of at least one new Queen as it is the first Queen to emerge from her cell that will make sure she is the only Queen to emerge from her cell by locating all other Queen cells and stinging them to death with her stinger .
Royal jelly contains water, active protein, amino acids and simple sugars and literally kickstarts the metabolism in the egg to begin the journey to becoming a bee, and in the case of a Queen cell, a Queen bee !
If you are not already overwhelmed by this point let me add another element that is sure to do the job ! A queen cell can be created from one of two situations, firstly the need to create a 2nd queen to help ‘split’ the colony due to over population and secondly, to create a new queen to take over from the resident queen due to either ill health or aging. The first scenario is called a “Swarm cell” and the 2nd scenario is called a “ supercedure cell”.
But the bottom line is that a Queen is most definitely from a “Royal” lineage, it’s just that that lineage is not blood but a substance called Royal Jelly.
In the Human world we cannot choose who our Royalty are but in the bee world the workers do exactly that! How’s that for the power of the people?!