During hive inspections, one might think that each colony would have the same feeling tone, but this is so not the case. I currently have over 30 colonies and each one has a different temperament. In my opinion, raising honey bees can be a bit like raising teenagers…their moods can change with the weather! I look forward to spending time with my little ladies on a beautiful sunny afternoon. But, you could not pay me to open a hive on a rainy day. Rain = cranky bees! But, over the years, I have discovered that some of my colonies are more predictable than others…
Queen Louise II made a royal appearance this week during hive inspections. Her colony is one of my favorites, due to the fact that they are huge, yet so docile. A strong queen bee will give off pheromones (chemical messages) that encourage the strength and stability of the colony. The assumption is often made that the queen bee is completely in charge, but this is not the case. The colony runs more like a democracy, rather than a dictatorship. But, the queen does make the decisions when it comes to laying eggs…or does she?
The queen inspects each cell to make sure it has been cleaned by the worker bees. Each polished cell is then measured with her front legs. The queen controls the sex of the egg she lays, based on the width of the cell. (Keep in mind, the cell size is created by the worker bees.) Drone (male) cells are significantly larger than worker (female) cells. Once the queen approves the cell, she lowers her abdomen and releases one egg. From this point on, her role as a mom is over. The queen is not involved in the rearing of the young, for that job is left to the female worker bees. As you can see, each member of the colony has a very important role.
Bottom left: The flat cells = female worker bees
Upper right: The cells that look like kix cereal = drone (male) bees
As for my sweet Louise, her apiary legacy lives on through two of her daughters and even a granddaughter. The colonies of these queens continue to follow in Louise’s footsteps with their calmness, massive spring buildup and even strong honey production.
We can learn so much about teamwork from these amazing creatures.
Bee well, Roda
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