The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams - Henry David Thoreau -
Making & Swarming
construct up to 20 wax queen cells, which are acorn-like and point downwards.
2. The queen lays fertilised eggs in each queen cell.
3. The young (nurse) bees feed the young queen larvae with a rich creamy food
called royal jelly, and extend the cell downwards until it is about 25mm in
4. Nine days after the egg is laid, the first queen cell is sealed with a layer
of wax capping.
5. This is the signal for a large swarm (called a prime swarm) of bees,
including the queen, to leave the hive led by the older bees. The queen has
been starved of food to make her lighter and able to fly. The older bees cajole
the queen to join the swarm.
6. Eight days later the first virgin queen leaves her cell. Two things can now
occur, either the first virgin queen leads a smaller swarm from the hive
(called a cast swarm) or she locates the other queen cells and kills her
sisters by stinging through the wax wall of their cells.
7. About one week later the young queen takes her first flight to orientate her
to her new surroundings.
8. The queen will shortly take several mating flights in which she will mate
with up to 20 drones.
9. Three days later the mated queen will begin to lay fertilised eggs.
10. This queen will stay with the colony until at least the following year when
she too may lead a prime swarm.
How do bees make a queen?
The development of a new queen is normally triggered by a combination of
conditions, such as congestion in the hive and lack of egg-laying space, which
culminates in a swarm.
Why is there only one queen?
It is not understood (by man) why bees will only tolerate one queen but any
attempt to introduce a second queen results in her death. If a queen dies
unexpectedly during the summer, the bees are able to make an emergency queen
from eggs younger than 3 days old.
How long does a bee live?
In the summer a worker bee only lives for about 40 days. As no young are raised
over the winter months, the workers born in the autumn will live until the
following spring. A queen can live up to five years; however, for the beekeeper
a queen is past her prime in her third year.