As social insects, honey bees share the responsibility for the reproduction of the entire colony with two types of bees, queens and drones. Each colony has one queen, and she lays all of the eggs for the entire colony. The success and condition of the entire colony is largely dependent upon the condition of the queen. Reproduction in honey bees is accomplished by the queen, a female, mating with a number of male bees, drones. Typically, the queen will mate a few days after she emerges as an adult bee. The event is a series of flights in which she mates in the air with between 12 and 20 drones.
There are a number of factors that determine the quality of the queen. The success of the mating flight is one. The genetic make-up of the queen is another. A third is the nutrition that the queen received throughout her development and after her emergence as an adult. Each of these factors combines to determine the condition of the brood that the queen produces. Another factor affecting the brood production is the genetics of the several drones that mated with the queen. Whenever we examine the nucleus hives housing the new queens, we are evaluating her condition. We look for behavioral conditions like gentleness, how rapidly the queen produces brood, and the bees’ resistance to diseases and pests. Much can be told about the condition of the queen by examining the brood pattern. Click on the photo to see an excellent brood pattern of capped brood. This is a large area of continuous brood with very few empty cells. The capped cells contain the third stage of the developing honey bees, the pupa.