The secret life of the queen honeybee…. now we may be more interested in wild bees than the ‘kept’ honeybee but we couldn’t resist an opportunity to gaze into the mysterious world of a honeybee colony on a recent visit to Oxford…. and as soon as we found the queen circled by her entourage we were hooked.
Now she might not look all that different at first glance from the worker bees that surround her… but when she pulled her abdomen from the cell she was laying into there was no hiding her unique role in this hive. We observed her for hours inspecting a cell, laying an egg into it and then moving onto the next one.
Queen honeybees are extraordinary because then can control the gender of the egg they lay based on the size of the cell they’re laying it into. This is one of many ways in which the worker bees guide, and you could say, have control over the life of the queen. They’re the ones that feed up a worker with royal jelly to become a queen and they’re the ones who decide when an existing queen’s time is up.
It is a fascinating world and we couldn’t get enough of it. During our week in Oxford we also filmed some wonderful displays of waggle dancing and many many bees fanning the cells with their wings to regulate the temperature of the honey within them. The colony we were observing was in an observation hive at Oxford’s Museum of Natural History which is the one mentioned in Helen Juke’s book A Honeybee Bee Heart Has Five Openings. We look forward to sharing more of our observations soon