All hail Queen Pippa
Freddie, Priscilla and now Pippa. A name rather ingeniously chosen by my friend Anne who, having read my previous post on the advantages of a queen having a good rear end, christened her Pippa. For those who didn't get it straight away, that's Pippa Middleton a.k.a. the Duchess of Cambridge's younger sister whose derrière made headlines following the Royal Wedding for being so well proportioned. Two years later, it seems that the memory of it still lives on especially with sites such as the 'Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society'.
No updated news on the Beehaus as I'm doing my first inspection on the new swarm on Monday, so I thought instead I'd pen an educational post on Queen Bee Facts for those non-bee geeks amongst you. Enjoy :)
- A colony can only ever have one queen
- She stands out as she is long and slender, with a smooth and less hairy body. Her abdomen is pointy and her head small as she only has a little brain compared to the worker bee.
- Once a new queen has hatched she firstly goes round the hive and kills off any rival queens that have hatched at the same time. She uses her sting to do this, so basically stabs them to death
- She then flies out on her maiden flight and mates with as many male drones as she can in the air. She can mate with 10 to 20 drones on this flight, all of whom die from the act. Poor them but at least they die happy.
- The queen returns to the hive with sufficient sperm from the drones to lay eggs for three to five years.
- In the summer she lays day and night, each egg taking about 20 seconds. That’s over 2000 eggs a day, more than her own body weight.
- The queen bee is able to control the sex of the eggs she lays. Fertilised eggs develop into female workers and unfertilised into male drones. (Incidentally, the drones serve no purpose in the hive other than to mate with the queen so in the autumn any that remain are all scooted out the hive or are killed by the females).
- The queen is continuously surrounded by worker bees who feed her and even get rid of her poo.
- A healthy queen bee is continually emitting pheromones (a bee perfume) that only the bees in the hive can smell. These pheromone odours are passed around the colony through touch and inform the bees that the queen is still with them and all is well in the hive.
- As the queen grows old she produces less pheromones and this is the trigger for the bees to produce a new queen.
- Workers can easily do this by feeding a hatched egg royal jelly. So, once they've selected which egg they want to produce into a new queen, they feed the larvae this protein rich food making it grow bigger. A special thimble-sized cell is produced around her, which is easily spotted by the beekeeper hinting that supersedure is on the cards.
- So (if you're still with me and managed to read down to this last point), you've probably realised by now that the queen does not in fact rule the colony, she is simply an egg-laying machine.