Every honey bee colony has a queen bee. Colony that for any reason doesn't have a queen bee, needs to make a new queen or it will perish.
Occasionally, two queen bees can live and lay eggs in the same beehive. This happens when the bees themselves decide to replace the old queen bee and make a new one. As a result, mother and daughter lay eggs together until the old queen disapears.
The queen's job is to lay eggs and to keep the honey bee colony together with her scents – pheromones. Worker bees do everything else – they feed her, clean her and take care of all her needs.
The queen's quality or rather her genetics and productivity in laying eggs are vital to the colony's strenght and its productivity in making honey, beeswax, pollen and other bee products but also its tendency towards swarming, calmness etc.
Queen bee is the only female in the hive that can mate and lay fertilized eggs. The queen lays both fertilized and unfertilized eggs.
The queen can lay up to 2000 eggs in a day but she doesn’t lay the same amount throughout the year.
Occasionally the queen can reduce or even completelly stop laying eggs. This can happen just before the winter or if there isn't much food in the hive. Because of this it is better to start with two or three beehives so you can observe whether the queen is falling behind with laying and react on time.
The queen lays the most eggs during the honey flow.
In fall she gradually reduces laying until she completelly stops in winter.
She begins laying the eggs at the end of winter, in the beginning not so much, but as it gets warmer she gets busier and busier.
In some regions the queen bee can lay during the whole year thanks to the hot climate.
Egg laying depends on the temperature, weather, honey flow but also the genetics, quality and age of the queen.
Although the queen bee can live 5 years or sometimes up to 7 years, the queen's fertility is at its peak in her first and in the beginning of her second year. This is why many beekeppers change queens every or every other year.
A good and healthy queen lays eggs in honeycomb cells neatly in concentric circles without leaving many empty cells.
The bigger part of the brood should be a worker brood. A little and scattered brood or mostly drones brood indicates that something is wrong with the queen.
On the surfice of her body the queen produces pheromones – a substances that influences the work of the honey bee colony such as gathering the nectar, pollen, propolis, honeycomb making and many other bee's duties.
Bees often lick the queen and pass the pheromones across the whole beehive.
They recognize their queen by her smell and they won't let another queen bee enter their hive. If that happens, unknown queen will be killed.
When do the bees make a new queen?
The bees make a queen:
During the supersedure (when they want to replace the old queen),
During the swarming or
If for some reason they are without a queen.
In order for the honey bee colony to make a new queen they need to have eggs in the hive and/or young larvae (up to three days old). Without that the bees can't make a new queen and the colony will cease to exist.
Sometimes bees that already have a queen decide to make a new one. This happens when something is wrong with the current queen bee - she is injured, old, exhausted, lays less than she should... This is called the supersedure.
The supersedure occures when the colony decides to replace the old queen with a new one if they are not satisfied with her.
Not every colony will perform the supersedure even if the queen is old and exhausted.
The reasons are unknown why some colonys do this and others don't.
This is why beekeepers don't wait for the bees to replace the queen but rather they themselves replace her with a new young queen.
Swarming is a method of making new honey bee colonys, so the bees need to make a new queen.
During the swarming the old queen bee leaves the beehive with a number of bees and forms a new colony which settles down in a new place. The young queen remains in the hive and continues the old queen's work.
If colony lost its queen
Sometimes colony lost its queen or the beekeeper removes her on purpose.
The bees immediately notice that the queen is missing and tend to make a new one.
If there is a young brood in the hive, the bees will choose a number of larvae and feed them abudantly with royal jelly and make new queens out of them.
When the first queen emerges, the other queen cells will be destroyed or there will be a fight between young emerged queens.
If the two queens meet in the beehive there will be a fight and one of them will be eliminated.
If there is no young brood (eggs and/or up to three days old larvae) the bees can't make a new queen and, unless the beekeeper helps, the colony will fail to exist.
Marked queen bee
The beekeepers often mark the queen with a color dot on her back. This is done with a special paint for queen marking.
Marked queens are easily spotted in the hive.
Every year has a certain colour that is used to mark the queens that emerged that year. Thanks to the color beekeepers know how old is the queen.
Queens that hatched in the years that end in:
🔵 0 and 5 are marked with blue paint,
⚪️ 1 and 6 with white,
🟡 2 and 7 yellow,
🔴 3 and 8 red,
🟢 4 and 9 green paint.