How To Identify A Queen Bee

Most people have heard of the queen bee, but not everyone knows what her role is in the hive, and why she is so important. Additionally, a lot of people are unable to distinguish between the queen bee and her workers.

How to Identify a Queen Bee

Do you know how to identify a queen bee? If not, you have come to the right place. Continue reading to discover how a queen bee looks, acts, and moves, so that you can successfully identify them in the future.

So, let’s get into it. Here is how to identify a queen bee.

What Is A Queen Bee?

Traditionally, a queen bee is an older female bee who resides in a honey bee colony or hive. The queen is typically the female parent of the majority, if not every one, of the bees in the colony.

Larvae chosen by worker bees are transformed into queens, which are then given specialized nutrition to help them reach breeding age.

In a beehive, there is typically only one queen, in which circumstance the bees will typically adhere to her and aggressively defend her from any threats outside of the hive.

As essentially the originator of the entire colony, queen bees serve as among the most significant functions in the hive.

To continue making workers and perhaps even future queen bees, they are completely in charge of the hive, and depended upon by the worker bees.

How Do Bees Choose Their Queen?

At this point, you may be wondering how a queen bee gains her important role.

Generally, an average honey bee hive would have a population of about 20,000 to 60,000 bees, so how do the workers decide which one to make their queen?

Honey bees are particularly concerned with the colony’s preservation, and the workers are mostly in charge of selecting the next queen. The queen of honeybees (see also: What Is A Honeybee Queen?)lays her eggs in a variety of larval cups.

Queen cups are those where a fresh queen emerges.

One instance in which the queen will decide to produce a successor is when she intends to swarm. Alternatively, just one of the queen’s eggs will be placed into a queen cup by the workers.

Typically, they will perform this action when the queen becomes unwell, loses her life, or her fertility starts to decline.

The workers put royal jelly, a unique concoction, on the inside of the queen cup. In short, the young workers develop this jelly by blending protein, moisture, and sugar together.

The larva is changed by the royal jelly into a bigger bee with a reproductive system that grows more quickly and is capable of outliving its siblings.

The new queen will have to procreate prior to actually ascending to the throne once she emerges. If she cannot produce eggs, the workers will begin the process all over again to find a new queen.

Distinguishing Between A Queen Bee And A Worker

To the average person, it may be quite difficult to tell the difference between the average honey bee and their queen. However, there are some differences that will help you be able to tell them apart.

It could be challenging for the typical individual to distinguish between an ordinary honey bee and her queen. You will be able to distinguish them, though, due to a few differences.

Although they may be fairly comparable to a worker bee in appearance, a queen bee is typically a little bigger. 

The abdomen and legs of a queen bee are somewhat easily distinguished from those of all the ordinary bees in the colony because they are noticeably longer.

Moreover, the queen bee’s wings are quite short compared to a worker’s wings, not being long enough to extend past the conclusion of her abdomen.

These are the initial differences that the average person may notice between a queen bee and her workers. Below, we have added a couple more differences that will help you identify a queen bee.

The Physical Attributes Of A Queen Bee

How to Identify a Queen Bee (1)

The queen bee will measure around 34″, or 20 mm, in length, which is the first thing you’ll notice about her. While appearing slightly larger than worker drones, there are much more accurate ways to recognize her.

Alternatively, you might want to keep an eye out for an abdominal area with a single color and a black spot on the back of her thorax. The glossy black and hairless back of a queen bee is also going to be noticeable.

A queen bee can be any color, although the most common ones are yellow, gray, brown, or black. But, because a hive may produce a new queen who is a different hue, seasoned beekeepers don’t frequently utilize color to identify the queen.

Additionally, a queen bee will have a smoother stinger with no barbs attached. Worker bees have barbed stingers. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to notice this unless you are looking at the bee up close and personal.

The Characteristics Of A Queen Bee

Although she does it occasionally, a queen bee rarely leaves the hive. The first occasion is for her first mating voyage, and the sole additional occurrence is if the colony swarms. 

The new queen starts her mating flight around seven days after she emerges and effectively uses her stinger to kill the other queen larva in their cells.

A queen bee is not likely to be discovered on honeycomb frames. She is most frequently found in the nursery, wherein eggs have been placed. Also, if a queen bee feels frightened or exposed, she will retreat into a corner.

Furthermore, you’ll see the personnel surrounding her and guarding her.

The Movement Of A Queen Bee

Finding the queen in a colony is easy if you keep an eye on the colony’s behavior. While the queen is stationary, worker bees may create an annular structure that faces inwards around her.

With the queen fully displayed within the confines of the circle, the final floral pattern is simple to identify.

A queen bee frequently flits around a frame rapidly and deliberately. Her worker bees will already have made a place for her to pass through, if you pay close attention.

The beekeepers can locate the queen thanks to the gap that this gap generates in the hive’s structure.

Will A Queen Bee Sting?

As we briefly mentioned earlier, the queen bee’s stinger is completely smooth, void of any barbs. Worker honey bees have barbed stingers, which are used when they sting an enemy. 

When a worker bee stings someone or something, they are immediately killed, as the barbs stick into the victim’s skin and effectively trap the bee in place. As the bee attempts to pull away, their inner organs are ripped out of their abdomens, killing them.

Since a queen bee does not have barbs on her stinger, this cannot happen. However, she can use her stinger, and since she does not have a barbed stinger, she can attack multiple times without dying.

A virgin queen will track down rival virgin queens as soon as she leaves her brood cell and will attempt to sting them to death. She will mate and start producing eggs when there is just one remaining.

The queen won’t likely ever use her stinger again after being mated; instead, she will stay in the laying chamber.

Final Thoughts

A queen bee is quite a bit larger than her workers, and this is probably the easiest way to identify a queen without getting too close.

If you are able to get closer, you will notice that she has a completely smooth stinger, longer legs, and is usually colored yellow, black, gray, or brown.  

The issue here is that if you, an average person, get too close to a honey bee, you are highly likely to get stung. So, it is best to be careful before investigating a bee’s appearance.

Additionally, the queen bee will rarely ever leave her hive. So, unless you are peeking straight into the beehive itself, you are unlikely to ever see a queen bee on the outside.

If you are looking inside, you will likely see her surrounded by workers, or moving through an open area that the workers have cleared for her.

We hope you found this guide helpful.

Thomas Callaghan
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