Beekeeping is a noble but tricky pursuit. A lot can go wrong with your beehives, including diseases, pests, and bad weather. However, savvy beekeepers know that one of the biggest threats to a honey bee colony is queenlessness. A queen bee is the most important member of the colony. Without her, a beehive can’t function properly and will soon fall apart. To keep a successful apiary, you must understand the dangers of losing a queen in your beehive and what you can do to fix the issue. Check out this guide to queen bees, queenlessness, and royally important solutions.
The Role of the Queen
To understand the effects of queenlessness, you need to know why your queen bee is so crucial in the first place. The queen is solely responsible for laying every egg in the hive. Without her, there would be no brood to raise. This means no up-and-coming population of worker bees, which means no one to raise the brood, forage for food, make honey, or protect the hive.
When the Queen Dies
Queens produce a pheromone that lets the colony know they’re alive and healthy. When the queen dies, her royal subjects notice the lack of this pheromone. In the best-case scenario, the bees will get to work raising a new queen from the current brood. However, they only have a small window of opportunity to choose suitable eggs and feed them the necessary nutrients to grow into a queen. If the bees can’t raise a new queen in time, they quickly grow desperate to keep up the colony’s population. The result is laying workers—regular worker bees who start to lay eggs. Unfortunately, only the queen bee can lay the fertilized eggs that will become worker bees. Laying workers only lay unfertilized eggs that grow into drones who don’t contribute to the hive. This creates an unbalanced population that can’t maintain a healthy hive.
How To Replace a Queen
When a hive fails to make a new queen, beekeepers must purchase a replacement. Introducing a mated queen to a colony is a tricky process. While some colonies will eagerly accept a queen to help them right the hive, others will grow aggravated and attack the outsider. That’s why beekeepers use a queen cage to introduce the queen to her new colony slowly. If all goes well, the bees will free the queen from her cage so that she can start laying eggs again after a couple of days. Once the queen has joined the ranks of her hive, you can carefully remove the queen cage and enjoy your hive’s future success.
The dangers of losing a queen in your beehive can be intimidating, but quick and confident action will keep your colony thriving. Keeping an eye on your queen and looking for a healthy brood pattern during inspections will help you catch queenlessness early so that you can keep your colony on the right track no matter what happens.