Hello beenthusiasts!

Wednesday afternoon’s visit to the hives with 6 high schoolers from Boston Day and Evening Academy went well (greetings from Deborah, then an intro to plant & bee sex discussion, followed by thorough hive inspection and honey tasting). Bees were hatching/emerging from their cells (having metamorphosized from pupa into adult insect) as we watched (quite a sight to see!), but the hive we went into had signs indicative of the queen having died (absolutely no eggs or larval bees). There were numerous capped queen cells, however, so the bees are well on their way to raising a new matriarch!

Some facts you my find interesting: It is the worker bees who decide which eggs become workers and which become queens. Both are genetically identical, but queen bees are distinct because they have complete reproductive organs, which comes to pass simply because she is fed a nutrient-rich diet (called royal jelly) for her entire larval development (and the workers enlarge her “cell” so that it can accommodate her larger abdomen). The first queen to emerge (within 6 days of her cell being capped, which happens at the end of her larval stage and beginning of her pupal stage) will start making a piping noise by reverberating her body against the comb. The other queens that the workers have raised (they always raise numerous queens when something happens to their old queen, or when she is laying poorly and the workers decide they should replace her) will begin “quacking” in response to the first emerged queen’s “piping” The one emerged queen will then typically proceed to sting and kill the remaining queens who have not yet hatched. The new queen will then spend 7-10 days going on her nuptial (mating) flights (she never mates in the hive). Once she has mated with ~half a dozen drones from other colonies (who die in that process) she returns to the hive and begins to lay (she stores the sperm from her mating sessions in an organ called a spermatheca, and can decide when to lay a fertilized egg – which will become a worker or a queen, depending on what the workers feed her (both are female) or she can lay an unfertilized egg which will develop into a drone (aka male bee). Yes, that’s right, all male honeybees develop from an unfertilized egg and are thus haploid clones of the queen’s genetics.

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed reading my rambling update and learning a bit more about honeybee life. I am optimistic about the future of this hive, but because of this changeover of queens it will be imperative that I continue to feed supplementally through the summer and not harvest honey from that hive (it already has much less drawn comb and honey compared to her sister hive).

Below are a few photos from the trip.

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