The Queen bee
What a special insect! The egg which is destined to be the queen, is identical to the eggs which typically develop into worker bees. The transformation takes place when worker nurse bees feed the young larva with a very rich royal jelly diet - this triggers its development into a queen.
She develops in a special queen cell which is far larger than worker bee cells, and it hangs down in the hive.
When the queen emerges from her pupa, she is a little larger than her sister worker bees. Also her anatomy has subtle differences – her sting is not barbed as she may have to sting other sister queen cells to ensure that she is “the one” – as there can only be a single queen heading the colony.
Within her first three weeks of life, she flies outside the hive to mate with several male drones from other colonies. She can live for 2- 3 years, and incredibly, she never mates again. She lays over a thousand eggs per day at peak in the spring. She will continue to lay eggs for most of the year, although during the depths of winter, only a few eggs are laid each day.
A queen cell - at the sealed cocoon stage from which will emerge a virgin queen
This young queen bee is marked in green
Beekeepers mark queens with a coloured pen so they can be easily found during hive inspections
Newly laid eggs in the bottom of beeswax cells