She’s the most important bee in your hive. Without her, the hive will die as she is the only bee laying eggs and thus creating new bees to replace the ones who die. The better your queen is laying, the quicker the number of bees you have will grow and the better chance the hive has to last through the winter.
Each hive has only one queen. She controls the other bees with her pheromones, stimulating much of the activity in the hive. She has a much longer body than other bees and if you’re lucky, may have a marking on her to help you find her. While finding the queen can be hard, each time you look into your hive you should be looking for evidence of her… brood, eggs or the queen herself.
Because she is so important it can become necessary to replace a queen who has become week. Often the hive will do this without your help but sometimes we beekeepers may choose to do it before they get to it. This is also a good time to consider the genetic makeup of your hive. If you’ve wanted to try a different type of honey bee you can do that when you choose a new queen, depending on where you order the queen from.
Drones are male bees. They have no stinger and serve no other purpose than to mate with a virgin queen. For a beginning beekeeper they are actually fairly easy to find as they are larger than worker bees and have large eyes that meet at the top of their heads. In the winter the worker bees will actually kick out the drone bees as they serve little purpose and consume honey, thus depleting the hive of its needed winter stores.
All girls, these are the bulk of the hive. Workers have a number of different jobs, everything from hauling dead bees out of the hive to foraging for nectar and pollen the lives of the worker bees are often short and exhausting. These gals actually work themselves to death, especially in the summer when the nectar is flowing.
Here’s a brief look at some of the tasks a worker takes on:
Housekeeping- a newly hatched bee’s first job is cleaning out the cell she came out of. She will also clean out other empty cells to make them ready for the queen.
Undertaking- Yup, hauling any dead bees out of the hive is the next task for most bees. If something is in the hive that that the bees can’t haul out they will often encase it in propolis, a bee substance made from tree sap.
Nursery- Taking care of the larvae is the next task on a bees list of things to do. They will check on the larvae more than a thousand times a day and feed them regularly.
Attendant- Some bees will be tasked with taking care of the queen. The queen cannot feed or groom herself so her attendants will do that for her. They even haul out her waste.
Other tasks include fanning the hive when hot, looking for new homes when the hive becomes crowded, guarding the hive and of course foraging for nectar and pollen.
So if you keep bees have you found the queen? Can you tell the difference between the workers and the drones?