Cliffe Castle Bee Blog #6 2023
Today (5 May 2023) Lee and I went back to check the (presently queenless) Observation Hive for any extra emergency queen cells. On Monday, there were still eggs and young larvae on some
frames that the bees could use to produce more queen cells “just in case.”
We found that the bees had extended the single, open queen cell that Steve and I had
left on Monday, for them to raise a new queen. But they certainly hadn’t given up on the
idea of rearing more new queens - found 19 new cells in preparation! It took us some time to find the best, open, queen cell to leave them to work on, but we needed to do it.
Lee kindly took some photos so you can see the chosen queen cell construction in progress. You can see a milky white substance - that's royal jelly, the high energy food supply for the larva in the cell. She is going to develop into the new, replacement queen for our Cliffe Castle bees (fingers crossed!).
Now we need to leave the colony undisturbed for at least the next 3 weeks. This will give time for the new queen to emerge from her birth cell, her outer skeleton (cuticle) to harden and her internal organs to complete their development.
After a week, or so, weather permitting, she will fly out from the Observation Hive to mate with a number of drones from other colonies, before settling down to begin her life’s work of laying eggs to keep her Cliffe Castle colony topped up with bees.
On the next visit, Mike and I will be checking for signs of a new queen that has started to
lay eggs in cells.
There are three kinds of bees in a colony
In this picture, you can see the three different types of bee you might notice on the frames
of the Observation Hive.
The smallest, on the left, is the worker. Worker bees are all female and there are more of them, than any other bee in the colony. They do all the work, both inside and outside the hive, apart from laying eggs. If you notice a honeybee collecting nectar or pollen from the blossoms in the park, you are seeing a female bee at work.
The big, bulky bee in the middle of the picture is the drone. Drones are the male bees of
the colony. There are many fewer drones than workers and they don't help with any of the tasks inside the nest or contribute to the collection of food. Their only role is to mate with a new queen from another colony. This involves flying fast, in competition with drones from across the region. Drones have large eyes, as you can see in the picture. They need to be able to clearly see the queen they hope to mate whilst in flight. Drones need a lot of food to fuel their efforts and so a colony has to be of a certain size in order to able to “afford” the cost of having drones in their nest.
The longer, more elegant looking bee on the right of the picture is the queen. Of course,
she is female and is quite different in shape to the other two kinds of bees. Her long lower body (abdomen) contains all the organs she needs to lay eggs. See how small her eyes are, compared with those of the drone! She will spend most of her life inside the nest, laying eggs in the dark, so has no need for 20:20 vision! You may notice that her legs are longer, lighter in colour and shapelier than those of worker or drone. She moves across the face of the comb in quite a different way than either of these, so, when our new queen hatches you may be lucky and be able to spot her yourself on the outer frames of the Observation Hive.