Out and about in the community running our honey stall at markets, I often get asked about who does what in the hive. Questions like 'is the Queen the Boss?', 'what do the boy bees do?', 'how do they produce different flavoured honeys?'...This post is about trying to sum up some of these questions.
The Queen of the Hive is about half as big again as the worker bees. She has a sleek, shiny abdomen that has paired ovarioles numbering about 150 within her large ovary. Some say she is waspish in appearance, as her wings are smaller than a workers', as is her head. However, she does not have any of the waspish tendencies such as twitching and edgy movements.
Once the Queen has hatched from her cell and has done a small orientation flight, she will go on her 'mating flight'. This entails flying around and emitting a 'come hither boys' pheromone. Once the boys do 'hither' along, she has copious amounts of...copulation with as many males as she can (usually about 8-20!). She then heads back to the hive to start her life of Queenly state.
After her day of passion, the Queen becomes pretty much like the Queen of England. She produces a pheromone called the Queen Substance. This is spread around the hive, and basically tells the workers that 'everything is fine, go about your business'. This is very much like the Queen waving at the people from the Balcony- Yes, dears, everything is fine, go back to your lives! [insert calm wave here]. And now she starts laying eggs. Lots of them. Up to 1500 a day in the peak of spring! She doesn't clean herself, or feed herself. The Queen has a retinue of worker bees who attend her, and spread the Queen Substance around the hive, and direct the Queen to comb they want her to lay eggs in. She remains in total darkness (except during an inspection from a beekeeper ;-) and lays eggs for the next 2-4years! When she is judged by the hive (or beekeeper) to be too old, she is deposed, in fact, laying the egg that will be the new Queen... and her own doom!
(Photo Source: http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/324761/Diamond-Jubilee-Queen-s-heartfelt-Jubilee-message)