The queen is the soul of the hive and the only fertile female. Her job is to reproduce and perpetuate the “family”. Generally there is just one queen in each hive. She has a long body (20-25 mm), a small head a very developed abdomen and small wings in comparison to her body. Her legs are longer that the worker bees’ and don’t have the pockets to collect pollen and her tongue is shorter which means she can`t use it to collect nectar. Her sting lasts longer, however she rarely uses it against people, but rather to kill her enemy: another queen.
The queen bee is the only one that can lay eggs in the hive (aprox.1200-1500/day in spring) which is why her belly is swollen and she moves quite slow. Queen bees are born from eggs whose larva has been fed with mother bee milk. They have a life span of approx. 3-4 years. In the first 8-10 days of her life she will copulate outside the hive. Her priority is to lay eggs. She will spend her whole life inside the hive surrounded by working bees which feed her.
There are 3 types of queen bees: 1 the emergency queen: she will appear when the already existing queen gets injured so she has to be change. This type of queen is not very good for production. 2 the swarming queen: a case in which can be two queens in the same hive is when bees swarm the hive. In this case, before swarming, the bees will announce the queen that they will make a new queen to swarm with. This is done so the old queen bee doesn’t kill the new one. So, when swarming, one of the queens and a part of the bees will stay in the hive while the other queen, followed by the rest of the bees will swarm and never return to that hive. Those are vigorous queens but they will have a strong swarming instinct. A beekeeper will dislike this. Number 3 is the queen of peaceful exchange. When she gets old the bees will “make” another queen (by feeding a larva with queen bee milk). They allow the old one to stay in the hive until she eventually dies. In beekeeping language this phenomena is called "peaceful exchange".
This is the type of queen which I prefer to work with because they are very rare. When I`m “making” my own queens, I’m doing it in the presence of the already existing queen from the hive, so the worker bees can feel the pheromone smell. In this process I use two strong families which I put in the same hive. I never put more than 12 queen larvae inside, just to make sure that the bees will feed those larvae very well. When I chose the family from which I want to make the queen, I always look at the family’s history in the last 3 years (3sesons). I`m interested in: 1: the queen doesn’t have a swarming instinct, 2: the productivity of honey is high and 3: the bees are tame.
Ready between June and August.