After last month’s column regarding swarming, I had several inquiries regarding what happens to the sisters, half-sisters and the few brothers who are left behind when a hive swarms. Although these bees “didn’t get the memo” that the mother queen was leaving the hive, they all know she is gone within 24 hours. All bees know how to create a new queen. As long as there are some developing larvae left behind, we can create a new queen by feeding some chosen larvae the “royal jelly” until she emerges as a bee and this crowns the bee as a queen.
Actually, everyone receives royal jelly for their first 3 days as a larvae, but only when a queen is needed do we continue to feed the larvae royal jelly. The newly emerged queen has to mate with a drone from another hive, so most hives will prudently create several queens in case the mating doesn’t work or something happens to the queen bee on her mating flight. If something happens to our mother the queen besides swarming (perhaps she is accidentally squished by the beekeeper, is old and in decline, or otherwise dies) we can create a new queen and stay in our hive.
We take very good care of our mother the queen and she is fed some amount of royal jelly all her life. It seems like it would be nice to be the queen, but our mother the queen almost never gets to leave the hive.
While I enjoy writing columns for Sundrops & Starflowers, my primary job is as a foraging worker bee and I spend most of my days flying around looking for flowers with pollen or nectar. There are many food sources blooming now! I especially like catmint, Salvia, and pincushion flower. I also like Calendula, marigold, and geraniums. My sisters and I are usually able to find a fresh water source, but if you would like to be helpful to us, a birdbath provides water for the birds, for us bees and many other beneficial insects.