Thursday, July 22, 2010

A New Queen Emerges

Still wet, fuzzy, and pale in color, the new queen bee walked slowly and wobbly away from the queen cell on the thirteenth day after I placed the frame of young brood in the bee hive. She emerged from the bottom of the peanut-shaped emergency queen cell that the workers built around a one-day-old larva. The workers were desperate to produce a new queen, but they lacked a suitable larva to feed royal jelly to begin the physiological changes that make a larva develop into a queen rather than a worker. Their brood nest was filled with honey in all available cells. The hive contained no brood, and the colony appeared to be hopelessly queen-less. Without a new queen, the colony would die in about six weeks, the life expectancy of a worker bee.

 Over a hundred years ago, L. L. Langstroth wrote that we can save a failing colony of honey bees by bringing in a frame of very young brood from another hive. I chose a frame of mixed brood having all honey bee stages: eggs, larvae, pupae, and newly emerged adults. The young adult bees have highly developed glands to produce the food needed to feed the rapidly growing larvae. The pupae will be emerging soon to help boost the population of the colony. The youngest larvae and eggs are potential brood to be turned into a new queen. Click on the picture of the brood frame viewed from the bottom. The newly emerged queen is passing empty queen cells built along the lower edge of the frame. Queen cells always hang vertically, while drone and worker cells are oriented horizontally on the brood nest combs. The emergency queen cell that housed this queen during her development is to the right, in the middle of the frame. Workers thinned the beeswax from the lower end of the queen cell to assist her exit the cell. After a successful mating flight, the queen will continue the colony’s reproduction.

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