I think you’ve all heard of the most important member of the bee family – the queen bee. But do you know how many queen bees live in one beehive? How does an ordinary bee become a queen bee? I did some research, asked my fellow beekeepers, and came to this post to share what I’ve learned.
How Many Queens Are In One Beehive?
In most cases, there is only one queen bee per hive. In some cases, two or more queen bees can coexist in a hive for a limited period of time. Additionally, some beekeepers use beehive with multiple queens. However, the queens in these hives are separated from each other and such hives are very rare.
As you probably already know, bees are really interesting in how they work and how they interact with each other. The queen bee is the most important bee in the colony, and sometimes the fate of the entire colony depends on it. This is why the interactions and relationships between queen bees in the hive are so interesting and important.
Most of the time, there is a queen bee in the hive. But in some cases, several queen bees live in one hive. Just as the king, queen and president of our nation change from time to time, so does the queen bee in the hive.
Who Is Responsible For Controlling The Number Of Queens In A Hive?
Who controls how many queens will be born in one hive? Well, control is held by both – the ruling queen bee and the worker bees.
Workers decide whether to raise new queen bees. But the current queen can easily eliminate them while they are still growing in her queen cells. This usually happens because each new queen can pose a threat to existing queens.
In some cases, you will have several queen bees in your hive. Based on the growth of the colony, the worker bees decide whether a new queen is needed. For example, when a colony becomes very powerful, worker bees may decide that a second queen bee is needed.
In this case, the old queen usually leaves the hive with her loyal bees. It’s called spawning. If you see a bee ball near the hive that’s a sign of a swarm – part of the swarm is likely to have left the hive.
On the other hand, if things don’t go according to plan, the worker bees may decide that a new queen is needed. If the colony is not growing vigorously, or the current queen is weak or unable to lay eggs, she may be replaced.
What Happens When Two Queens Appear In The Hive?
Suppose the worker bees decide they need a new queen. What happens is that they develop a new queen bee from the egg and feed it with royal jelly. The queen bee is ready to hatch in about 16 days.
Hatching basically means that the queen bee has to leave her wax chamber. She must do this by eating wax cells. As she was about to hatch, she started to squeak. Pipping is a very funny sound that reminds the worker bees to help the new queen bee get out of the cell.
But the problem is, it also alarmed the existing queen! When the existing queen heard her voice, she also began to brag. This prevents worker bees from helping the new queen bee. So the worker bees are caught between two leaders vying for power. This usually happens in three ways:
- battle between queens
Swarming Is A Sign That The Old Queen Is Leaving The Hive
This is a fairly common situation in powerful colonies. What happens is that the colony basically splits into two colonies. One part follows the old queen; the other part follows the new queen.
Usually, the old queen will occupy half of the colony and move to a new home. The bee scouts sent by the old queen have found a new home. When the Scouts look for a new home, both queens stay in the same hive.
The Young Queen Bee Has Replaced The Old Queen
Replacement is a slightly rarer situation. This can happen, for example, when the colony doesn’t trust the old queen — the bees feel that the queen will have problems laying eggs.
So when both the old and new queens start laying eggs, the worker bees help the new queens hatch because they don’t fully trust the old queens. Once this happens, both queens stay in the hive and live.
Workers do their best to get the new queens to mate as quickly as possible. They will still feed both queens until she does. If the new queen mates and successfully lays eggs, the old queen loses power. After the worker bees stop feeding the older bees, she dies (with some exceptions, the older queen is killed prematurely by the worker bees).
If the new queen does not live up to expectations, do not lay eggs. The worker bees wipe out the new queen, and the old queen regains power. As you can see, bees have good risk management skills and a plan B in case something goes wrong.
When There Is A Battle Between Queens?
Power struggles can also be decided in real struggles.
Whoever wins the battle gains control of the hive. Most of the time, worker bees will feed several queen cells at the same time. So, the winner of the battle will roam the hive in search of other queen cells. When such cells are found, the current queen usually stabs the cell while the new queen has not hatched.
A Beehive With Several Queen Bees
But swarming, crowding and fighting aren’t the only situations where at least two queens live in a hive. Beekeepers sometimes deliberately put multiple queens in a hive. Usually this is done with large hives to increase honey production.
Several queen beehives were used for this purpose. Although two or three queens live in such a hive, they are still separated by queen partitions. So that doesn’t mean the queen roams the hive kindly. No, if they met, they would still try to stab each other.
How Do You Identify A Queen Bee?
There are four ways to easily identify the queen bee: Queen bees are longer and taller than normal worker bees. The abdomen of the queen bee is pointed and the abdomen of the worker bee is blunt. You can clearly see the queen bee’s six legs, while the worker bee’s legs are just below her body, making it harder to see. The stingers of queen and worker bees have different shapes. The stingers of worker bees have barbs, while the stingers of queen bees do not.