Rare Sight – Mated Queen Returns To Hive

Rare sight today as a new queen returns back to the hive after mating!

For most colonies, honey bees will only replace their queen once every three to four years. When the colony deems it necessary to raise a new queen, larva is carefully selected, fed “royal jelly” and is encapsulated with a beeswax queen cell. After about 16 days of the egg originally being laid, the new virgin queen emerges from her cell and will remove many other queen cells in the hive.

By day five or six, when the weather conditions are just right, she is ready to take her mating flight, which is one of the few times a queen will fly and the only time she will mate in her lifetime. Before the virgin queen leaves the hive, she emits pheromones to attract the drone bees (males) to follow her. Drones only purpose in the hive is to mate, they have no other responsibilities. Drones will follow her in flight and she will mate in mid air with up to 40 drones at that time. The drones will die shortly after, but as the only egg layer in the hive, the mated queen will store the sperm from mating for the duration of her life.

Weakened by the experience, the queen returns to the hive and is greeted as the hive’s official queen. A queen sometimes is so week, she does not make it back to the original hive and the colony will have to start over to produce a queen.

Today’s sight of a mated queen returning to the hive is such a rare event, that beekeepers may only see it once or twice in their own lifetime. It signifies a well being for the colony as they can continue to grow and prosper. Photographed here, the newly mated queen returns to the mulch near the base of the hive stand, is greeted and fed by a worker bee, and begins to climb up to the hive.

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