Bee series: What about queen bee?
Bees feed largely on sugar. It is as if we mainly drank soda. For humans, to consume too much sugar causes a serious problem which is called obesity. For bees however, evolution has made it possible to stay clear of this problem by turning the excess fat into a product called “wax”. It is from this fat that bees build the combs of the hive, as well as collectively “vote” for the potential replacement of the queen.
Indeed, bees have the ability to choose to replace the queen if needed. As the queen showcases the quality of her work by spreading a very pleasant smell around the hive, this smell decreases when egg laying declines. Each worker bee will then stack its own piece of wax to form a cell with a specific shape. When the deficient queen will lay an egg in it, the nurses will only feed the larvae with royal jelly, which will turn her into a new queen. In fact, a queen is a normal female egg that could turn into a worker but becomes a queen thanks to its royal jelly exclusive diet. Instead of growing in 21 days, she will develop in 16 days and will be born a virgin. After a week, she will come out of the hive to first understand where the hive is in relation to its environment; and second, to be fertilized in distinctive areas where she will meet with the males.
The males will copulate with the queens and their penises, which are almost as big as their body, will stay stuck. They will therefore withdraw themselves, tear away their penis and die. The queens will then tear each penis out in order to be able to be fertilized multiple times, on average twelve times. When returning to the hive, the sperm collected by the queen will migrate to a small internal pocket called the “spermatheca”. The queen will then start laying up to three thousand eggs a day, throughout her life.
To know more on the topic:
- 📄 “Spore & Pollen“, our research project focusing on the bee and the impact of climate change on pollinators
- 🔊 “An open-source bee for a poisonous environment” (with beekeeper and biologist Julien Perrin) — Podcast (~35min) 🇬🇧🇫🇷
- 🔊 Umwelt of the bee