When a hive does not have a queen, it is in a weakened state which makes it critical to find and designate a new queen quickly. When the hive is weak, it is more vulnerable to predators, pests, and honey foragers -so, what happens when you kill a queen bee?
The rest of the bee colony will know right away when a queen dies, due to the fact that they will not be able to detect her pheromones any longer. A hive without a queen is vulnerable and weak, so the rest of the hive will make finding a new queen a priority. Select eggs or young larvae become designated as virgin queens that will later fight to the death for the role of the colony’s queen bee.
Keep reading to learn more about the queen bee!
The Queen Bee
Think about how important bees are to the ecosystem, and to mankind. They are the greatest pollinators of the plants and crops that people like to eat- as well as the main food supply for many of the animals that people like to eat, as well.
With this being said, you can see why bees are one of nature’s unsung heroes, such tiny beings doing such huge work.
In the hive, there is one female that lays the eggs and ensures the hive will live another generation. That female is the queen. She is the driving force behind the colony and hive- without her, the hive becomes weak and often dies, so if you have ever wondered what happens when you kill a queen bee, this is the harsh reality.
The role of the queen is so vital to the survival of the colony that the other bees will make it their goal to regain a queen and restore balance to the hive.
When a queen bee becomes old, her pheromones lessen and become weaker over time, which serves as a signal and sign to the other bees in the hive. When a bee is killed unexpectedly, her pheromones immediately stop sending messages to the other bees in the colony; this is their signal that something is awry.
Without a queen bee, the worker bees are stressed out and not at all comfortable.
The workers will select eggs or larvae that are less than three days old to raise as virgin queens of the hive. It takes three days for the egg to hatch, and the adult virgin queen should emerge in about 15 days.
What Is There Is More Than One Virgin Queen?
Virgin queen bees fight each other; the winner mates with drones while the losers die. It is a fight to the death.
It will take another week for the hive to reach the right temperature for her to lay her eggs. This cyclic pattern or reproduction from one queen to the next ensures- barring any unforeseen issues- that there is always a new generation of larvae, brood, and bees to move the hive forward.
Remember that when eggs laid by a virgin queen are unfertilized, they will hatch into drones, not workers- without workers, no work gets done, and the colony will die.
Death of a Queen Bee
So, as mentioned, when a queen bee becomes aged or ill, her pheromones lessen and become weaker over time, which serves to signal the other bees in the hive about the situation.
The bees sense that she is unwell and they hurry to produce cells for the queen to lay the eggs of the next prospective queen succeeding her.
These larvae are treated differently; after all, one of them will be the queen of the entire hive. The workers feed these young bees the royal jelly.
Royal jelly is a secretion from honey bees that are used to nourish and feed the larvae of hive queens. Royal jelly is secreted from a gland in the hypopharynx and fed to the larvae bees in the hive. Royal jelly has a market beyond the hive, however, and is touted for having miraculous anti-ageing properties in beauty formulations.
When more than one queen is hatched, these queens fight to the death to determine the successor and queen of the colony.
When a bee is killed unexpectedly, her pheromones immediately stop sending messages to the other bees in the colony; this lets the rest of the colony know that something is terribly wrong.
No New Queen
Even after all this work and careful selection, there are hives that are unsuccessful in rearing or raising a new queen bee for the colony.
Know that a hive without a queen will not survive for a prolonged period of time. When a hive lacks a queen, it is weak and susceptible to predators and foragers. Plus, when there is no queen at the helm of the hive, it can make the worker bees aggressive and agitated- not conducive to honey production, which is a social activity.
Since the eggs laid by the worker bees are not fertilized, they produce drones not worker bees. Drones are not responsible for foraging or working within the hive, which means the hive will start to falter. The colony may lack the food necessary to sustain itself- which can create a stressed and vulnerable hive.
In situations like this, a beekeeper can rescue the colony by bringing in a new queen. She will need to come from outside the hive, such as from a swarm or split. Time is of the essence when it comes to replacing the queen in a hive.
While all the bees in a colony contribute to the smooth production of honey and function of the hive, it is the queen who perhaps has the biggest responsibility.
Without a queen, the workers are essentially directionless- although they do have a swift and inherent reaction that includes finding a new queen. Hives that go without a queen for any length of time are in a weakened state that can make them more vulnerable to predators and problems.