Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Queen Bee is Busy

Each honey bee colony has a single queen bee producing all of the offspring of the hive. Here, we see the queen surrounded by her retinue of attendant bees as she prepares to deposit an egg in a cell. The queen is surrounded at all times by a group of attendants who feed and groom her. These bees also regularly stroke the surface of the queen to obtain pheromones to pass throughout the colony. These pheromones, which are odors that the bees can recognize, let the entire colony know that their queen is present. This is the substance that holds the colony together in an organized social group.

Photographer and beekeeper Brandon Dill and I watched this queen fill in the pattern of available cells in the brood nest. She measured each available cell with her front legs then deposited an egg by lowering her abdomen into the cell. A productive queen bee will lay over 1500 eggs each day. This queen is marked by red paint on her thorax, the second segment of a bee’s body. We mark our queens to identify them and know their age. You may see Brandon’s remarkable photographic work at For the majority of his work, Brandon does not have to contend with guard bees trying to take control of the camera.

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