There are three Castes of honeybees within a hive… The Queen, the Workers and the Drones.
The QUEEN is one of the prettiest honeybees and she is the largest in length. Her primary duty is to lay eggs for the procreation of her species. She can be quite the machine as she can lay up to 1500 eggs per day and can do so for several years if given her needed conditions.
Her Majesty will start as an egg herself, but being fed a highly nutritional diet of Royal Jelly for an extended period by nurse bees, her body (primarily her reproductive system), will develop into a highly efficient laying machine.
A queen will mate with a number of drones on her mating flight and once she’s collected the sperm needed, she will fly back to her hive where she will remain and become the egg producer of her colony.
While being cared for by her attendants; fed, groomed and guarded, she will carry out her duties until no longer able. The average life expectancy is between 3-5 years, but the older she gets the less productive she will be. Either she will be superseded by the house bees or a beekeeper will often-times need to discard her if she is failing. A new queen will replace her and hardly any disruption within the hive is noticed if and when a beekeeper plans accordingly.
Replacing a queen can be successful by practicing a variety of queen rearing methods.
Our Majestic Beauties usually make do us proud. However, we occasionally have to resort to methods like taking queen cells from one hive and pressing them into the comb of queen-less hive in the hopes the workers would finish the cell building and a good queen will hatch and get mated successfully. This process has gone smoothly for us on several occasions and we couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome. Last year we had to purchase two queens and neither of them made it through one season. A very costly experience. We also hope to experiment again, with grafting eggs and with the help of nurse bees, rearing our own queens.
The Worker Bees are the largest population within the colony. They are all non-fertile females and each have particular worker positions to fill. To name just a few of those positions: queen attendants, nurse bees, housekeepers, foragers, guard bees, undertakers, honey makers, wax producers and more! Honeybees are able to control the temperature of the hive by fanning their wings to cool or circulate airflow and sort of shivering all together in a cluster in the effort to maintain heat in the winter.
A honeybee’s life-span is only a few months. In those few months they are extremely prolific in carrying out their duties and seem to be one of the hardest working species on this earth.
These are the male castes. When the timing is just right, the queen knows when and in which cells to lay eggs that will develop into drones. (She knows everything!) The cells are built a bit larger than the cells for worker brood. When the drone is mature enough they will fly outside of the hive to an area called a drone pool where they will have a chance to mate with a queen. If successful his mating organ will be ripped out upon separation from the queen and he will fall to his death. If he does not get to mate, he seemingly hangs out inside of the hive eating and taking up space. It is said however, that he perhaps keeps some camaraderie within, as well as helps with the warmth and or cooling. In the fall when the weather is turning colder, he will no longer be welcomed and is kicked out of the hive. The queen then, ceases laying anymore drone eggs until the following spring.