Bees reproduce by the method of spawning. There is one queen bee in each hive. The queen bee only fertilizes. The queen bee and its offspring are carefully cared for by other bees. The queen bee lays its eggs, after 3 days, larvae hatch from the eggs. It can lay up to 1500-2000 eggs a day. So, do you know when honey bees mate?
Honey bees mate in the summer months. Mating starts in June and continues until the end of August. Reproduction in honey bees begins when the queen lays an egg in the cells of the honeycomb after her marriage flight. When the queen is about to lay eggs, she first puts her head into the honeycomb cell and thus controls the cell. It then hangs its tail into the cell. In this state, it stops for a few seconds without moving. When it pulls its body out again, it deposits an egg at the bottom of the cell.
The queen bee lays its eggs in such a way that there are no empty cells between the cells. This is essential for comfortable egg care. Honeycomb eyes have two different sizes as worker bee eyes and drone eyes. Queen bee cells are not included in the main honeycomb structure, they are added later. The eggs remain in the cell for three days. On the third day, the eggs hatch and turn into a small larva, a worm.
The larvae are fed royal jelly for the first three days, and honey and pollen for the next three days. Within six days, the larval stage is closed. During this time, its weight compared to the egg will have increased by 1000 times, maybe more. Until this stage, the honeycomb eye is open. On the ninth-day, the honeycomb chamber where the larva is located is filled with honey and pollen and closed.
How Honey Bees Mate?
Reproduction in honey bees begins when the queen lays eggs in the cells of the honeycomb after the mating flight. When the queen is about to lay eggs, she first puts her head into the honeycomb cell and thus controls the cell. It then hangs its tail into the cell. In this state, it stops for a few seconds without moving. When it pulls its body out again, it deposits an egg at the bottom of the cell. The queen bee lays its eggs in such a way that there are no empty cells between the cells. This is essential for comfortable egg care.
Honeycomb eyes have two different sizes as worker bee eyes and drone eyes. Queen bee cells are not included in the main honeycomb structure and are added later. The eggs remain in the cell for three days. On the third day, the eggs hatch and turn into a small larva, a worm. The larvae are fed royal jelly for the first three days, and honey and pollen for the next three days. Within six days, the larval stage is closed. During this time, its weight compared to the egg will have increased 1000 times, maybe more. Until this stage, the honeycomb eye is open.
On the 9th day, the honeycomb chamber where the larva is located is filled with honey and pollen and closed. The weight of 1500 eggs laid in a day is the weight of the queen. A white, worm-shaped baby (larva) emerges from the bee egg. It has no head, eyes, wings, or legs. In other words, no part of it is like a bee. Once a bee larva has grown sufficiently, it produces the pupa. The larva has now reached the pupal stage. At this stage, it almost imprisons itself here, by weaving a cocoon around it in the cell it is in with a substance it produces. In this way, bee larvae make a transition to the pupal stage.
Inside the pupil, the body undergoes enormous changes. The substance they knit as a cocoon has a special structure. After these changes are completed, the pupa bursts its shell. With this last skin change, the bee emerges as winged. Larvae knit a cocoon inside the cell with a substance they produce at the pupal stage. Thanks to the double-sided silk glands on the heads of bee larvae, the property of this substance they produce is; It hardens as soon as it comes into contact with air. Another feature is; Due to the protein named “fibroin” it contains, it is a strong bactericidal and anti-infection.
Scientists conducting research on bees estimate that these creatures are protected from microbes by the cocoon they knit. The web used in knitting the cocoon consists of a mixture of different chemical substances in certain proportions. The formula of this silk, which bee larvae knit cocoons, is the same in every bee. The bee, which changes in the pupa stage, completes this stage in about 12 days; Gnaws out the cell cover. When it first comes out, it is weak, wet, and dull in color. With the care of the bees, the nanny gets stronger in 2-3 days, takes its true color and feather. The time between the worker bee becoming an egg and a mature bee is approximately 21 days.
The queen lays the eggs of the drones in drone cells, which are approximately 6.91 mm wide. The only difference between drone eggs and worker bee eggs is that they are not fertilized. When looking at closed drone cells, they appear to be more swollen than worker bee cells. The development process of the drone is the same as that of the worker bee, but the duration is 24 days. The queen lays the drone eggs in the cells, usually just before the swarm season.
When Queen Bee Mates?
In order to answer the question of how queen bee mating happens, it is necessary to explain in detail. The productivity of a queen is related to its race and the population of drones it has mated with. Queen bee mates only once in her life. Mating happens in the air. It usually takes place between 7 and 17 drones. When the weather permits, it takes about a week. Every drone that mates with the queen dies due to the rupture of the reproductive organ after mating.
Near the area where the apiary is located, there is a “drone gathering area” with a diameter of 30-200 m and a height of 10-40 m above the ground where drones gather and fly. At certain times of the day, men gather in this area and fly. Usually, their flight occurs in the afternoon when the weather is good. In the male gathering area, close to the area of 200 colonies, at least around 25,000 males fly. The hours that drones fly in this area are usually in the afternoon.
Queen bees do not go on a mating flight when the wind is higher than 20 km / h and in cold rainy and cloudy weather. Therefore, mating can be delayed for up to 4 weeks. When the queen bee leaves the hive for mating purposes, the drones in this area follow the queen bee by taking the pheromone scent. The fastest flying male to catch the queen first mates with the mother. After mating, the queen returns to the hive with the male’s mating organ, which remains in the vagina. After the worker bees remove the reproductive organ of the drone from the queen’s vagina with the help of mouthpieces, the queen again takes off to mating.
The mating flight continues until the queen fills the sperm sac with sperm. The sperm sac receives between 5.3 and 5.7 million sperm. The sperms in the sperm sac of the queen bee are fed with the help of the glands located around the sac to remain alive. The queen bee uses these sperm throughout her life. As a result of the researches, it has been revealed that the amount of sperm in a man is enough to fill the sperm sac of the queen bee.
Mating and Swarming in Honey Bees
The queen bee lays 1500-2000 eggs a day from the beginning of spring. If the bees do not take measures to meet this increase, after a while the capacity of the hive will become unable to meet the needs of the increasing population. Considering the spawning rate of the queen bee, this means that 45,000 to 60,000 bees are added to the colony in just 1 month. This rapid increase in number will mean that the bee colony will lose its functions in a very short time and things will not work.
As it is known, the substance secreted by the queen is one of the factors that maintain order in the hive. With the increase in the number of workers in the hive, the amount of queen per bee starts to decrease after a while. The sign that it is time to find a solution to population growth for bees is that the queen matter is running low. The measures to be taken with the population increase in an area are certain. Either the shelter will need to be expanded or the population reduced. Bees also apply the most appropriate of these two options.
Expanding the shelter is not the solution, because the problem is not a lack of space but rather a shortage of queen material. In case of a shortage of this substance, the reproductive organs of females will begin to develop and the colony-specific odor will become faint. As a result, worker bees will constantly attempt to make queen cells. In short, all the balances in the hive will be turned upside down. The population planning method used in beehives is the most rational. In the case of population increase, bees go to decrease the number.
But they do not do this by destroying larvae and pupae, as they do in the winter months when they have to. The solution applied by bees is an extremely rational and profitable solution in all aspects. When there is a population increase in a hive, some of the bees in the hive leave the colony with the old queen and go in search of another settlement. This method used by bees to reduce the hive population is called “swarming”. In this way, bees establish new colonies.
Preparations Made Before Bees Start Their Journey
Bees begin to make drone cells in the first stage of the swarming process – at the beginning of spring. Since males complete their development in a longer period than others (queen 16 days, workers 21 days, males 24 days), these honeycombs must be prepared in early April. It is noteworthy that the male cells were primarily knitted before the queen matter decreased completely. Because, under normal conditions, when this material is reduced, the workers must first knit a queen cell.
However, workers make drone cells, and the males leave their cells in early May. In the meantime, it is also revealed why male cells are knitted. As it is known, drones can go looking for a queen 2 weeks after they are born. Meanwhile, if the males cannot find a queen they can mate with, the reason for their existence will no longer exist. Therefore, the queen should be grown up and ready to go on a mating flight at this time.
If the worker bees anvil the male cells a little later, the queen will not be able to mate or the process will be delayed. This will pose a danger to the colony, as the queen cannot begin to lay eggs before they can mate. The old queen, who has the ability to lay eggs, has already left the hive before the new one is born. This situation, which seems to be complex, is solved by the bees knitting their queen cells with a perfect timing ability. On the one hand, the worker honeybees, who are starting to build new queen cells, on the other hand, force the old queen to stop laying.
Because it is time for bees to migrate and preparations should be made accordingly. Therefore, workers start feeding the old queen with less royal jelly. Due to this nutritional deficiency, the queen’s ovulation stops. There is a second reason for the cessation of food given to the queen. In order for the queen to fly with other bees leaving the colony, it should not be bulky. This method applied by worker bees takes effect after a while and the queen bee starts to move faster. After a while, it becomes as mobile as the other bees.
New Hive Search Process
At other times, worker bees seeking pollen, nectar, or water, this time looking for new places for their colonies. The abandonment of the hive usually takes place in late spring and early summer. Food (pollen and nectar) is abundant in this season, the weather is hot and the days are long. These conditions create the necessary environment for a bee community to leave the hive. Before leaving the hive, bees that will set out to create a new colony fill their stomachs with as much honey as possible. Because they don’t have time to wander around flowers.
As a result of this diet, their bellies become so swollen that their bodies lose the flexibility required to use their needles. Therefore, bees are extremely peaceful. There is great wisdom in this situation of bees, too. It is important for the safety of the bees to be peaceful at this time. Considering that approximately half of a colony left the hive during the swarming period, it is clear that 20,000-30,000 aggressive bees will pose a danger to living things.
Close to the arrival of the new queen, the old queen leaves the hive together with a group of worker bees and some drones. After the bee community leaves the hive, it forms an interlocking clump resembling a bunch of grapes on a nearby branch or ledge. In the middle of this pile is the queen. Worker bees surround the queen bee and build a wall with their bodies, thereby ensuring their safety. The bees cluster in discipline and after a while, the unique scent of the new colony emerges.
As we mentioned before about flower marking, every worker bee has a scent pouch on their body that they can use whenever they want. This pouch consists of an inward folded fold of skin on the back of the bee’s back and the back of the body and is not visible from the outside when not in use. But the bee can take it out whenever it wants. In this way, some special glands in the pouch act and secrete odor. Lookout bees will use this scent to mark places they have just found. Bees, who are very sensitive to their own colony scents, can perceive this scent released by the scout bee strongly even from far away. In this way, they easily find their destination.
The Role of Lookout Bees in Mating
While a part of the colony is waiting by taking the shape of a bunch of grapes, lookout bees are also in a great activity. They even started preparations long before. A few days before leaving the hive, some of the scout bees spread out for new settlements. Sometimes they even fly kilometers away. When scout bees search for crevices and tree trunks to establish their new hives, they do not make random examinations. A large number of scout bees, who are looking for a place for the colony, almost making a settlement plan, make various calculations and reach a common idea about the suitability of the new hive place. Then they move together and return to the tree where the colony is located, and move the colony to the new settlement.
If a scout finds a suitable hole or cavity, it examines it systematically, sometimes for an hour, for a long time. They fly around and check the outside view of the place they find. He usually walks in the hole, getting inside. First, it travels around the places close to the entry point, then the whole interior surface of the place it finds by walking inside. Thomas Seeley of Yale University, who conducted special research on this subject, determined that a single bee walked 50 meters in this way. In his experiment Seeley conducted by walking the bees in artificial hives produced in the form of cylinders that can rotate around itself; He revealed that they calculated how long the bees had to walk to get around the hive and the volume of the hole accordingly.
The number of bees flying in search of a nest location sometimes reaches two dozen. Thanks to this method, the colony obtains alternative information about many nest locations at the same time. Finally, the worker bees make a decision by examining the possible nest locations one after another. Around two dozen nest sites will be reduced to two or three by this elimination, and eventually, a consensus will be reached on which nest will be the best for the colony, and this will be the new nest. Ultimately, the colony chooses the best possible location in the area, at least based on the assessment of the majority of scout bees.
The bees’ decision-making process for the new nest may take a few days. Because each bee examines the possible nest location in great detail and comparing the various possibilities of about 500 worker bees, it takes time for the majority to reach a common decision. Throughout this time, the other members of the bee cluster, as we have previously stated, form a bunch of grapes in the tree they find, and only move to their new nests under the guidance of the worker bees when it is decided by the watchers.
It is useful to examine these behaviors one by one in order to better understand the importance of the work that bees do. First, let’s look at how the scout bees decide the suitability of the new place they find. Scout bees look for a nest by considering many details such as the height of the new settlement from the ground, whether they can be patched if they have openings and the width of the interior space. Furthermore, they pay particular attention to the proper entrance.
The entrance hole of the hive should be small enough to prevent thieving bees, squirrels, and birds, but it should also be wide enough for bees returning from honey flight full of nectar to enter easily. Otherwise, the bees collecting food have to wait before they can enter the hive. A small hive entrance is generally preferred. Because, if the entrance is too wide, the defense of the hive will be difficult. In addition, since there will be a lot of heat loss in winter, it will be more difficult to keep the temperature of the hive in balance.
Another feature required for bees to use a place as a hive is the measure of the width of the nest. Take a tree pit, for example. If the area here is too large, the bees will have difficulty heating the hive. But bees prefer a large nest rather than a small one. Because they can fill unnecessary gaps with bee resin. Problems will be greater when space in the nest is limited. Because the area used as storage will be limited, they will not be able to store enough food for the winter. This would create a serious problem that could result in the death of the entire colony.
Another detail is related to the viewpoint of the hive entrance to the sun. As it is known, a place whose entrance faces north is not suitable for shelter because it will be colder. Watcher bees take this important detail into consideration in their search for new hives. As a result of their research, the scout bees, who determine the area they consider appropriate, mark this place with their scents just as they mark the flowers. The bees, who stay in the new hive area for a while by revealing the scent sacs, thus allow the smells of the colony to penetrate the new settlements.
The Colony Takes Action
After a while, the scout bees arrive in the area where the colony awaits them and dance and show their friends the place they find. This dance is the same dance the bees do to show where the food is. The direction of the place deemed suitable for nesting is indicated by the part of the figure-eight dance where the bee swings from right to left on a straight line. The suitability of the place for nesting is indicated by the intensity of the dance. Bees can dance for half an hour or an hour for an ideal nest suitable for all conditions.
If the place is not so suitable, the dance of bees will be less reluctant. It does not happen immediately for bees to head in one direction altogether. Because scout bees have been exploring an area of square kilometers and each time the scout group returns, they suggest different places to the colony. Several groups of bees dancing can be found in the area where the colony is located. Sometimes these groups all point in a different direction. The dances of the scout bees continue until some bees leave the waiting cluster and fly in the described direction.
These bees continue to scan the environment until they find the place where the scout bees leave their colony scents. More and more visitor bees go to the most suitable residential area and in this way the colony scent is settled in this area. At the latest one week after clustering in the shape of a bunch of grapes, the bee cluster is completely thawed and the bees fly collectively to their new location. When the colony begins to move through the air, the bees accustomed to the new settlement area lead the cluster with their scent secretions, and the bee cluster moves to the settlement area without any further information.
The queen must also move with this cluster. Because it is the presence of the queen bee that holds the colony together. If the queen bee is not with the colony, the bee community will go wrong and return to its former location. As can be seen, all the behaviors of bees during the formation of a new colony are extremely conscious. And the features that are seen in bees during this event, such as planning and choosing by reasoning, absolutely require intelligence.
The Condition of the Old Hive After Swarming
Approximately half or more of the bees remained in the old hive after the “swarming” process was completed. The queen bee in the hive leaves the hive before the new queen emerges, so the mother hive remains without a queen for a while. But this situation only lasts for a few days. Because shortly after the “swarming” process, one of the young queen bees completes her development and leaves her cell, and starts her new life in the hive. If the old queen has not left the hive before the new queen candidates leave the cell, this indicates that she is aging. In this case, the old queen will be stung and killed by the new queen.
But sometimes the queen cannot leave the hive just because of the weather, even though she is not old. This can be extremely dangerous. Because if a new queen emerges while the old queen is in the hive, it is clear that these bees will fight and one of them will definitely die. Bees use a surprising method to prevent this confusion that can upset the balance in the hive. They close the cell lids of the queen candidates who complete their development and try to get out by splitting their pupae more firmly than before. In the meantime, they do not neglect to open a small space for them. Worker bees will then feed the queen candidates through this hole.
But the problem does not stop there. The old queen is constantly wandering around the hive, more active than ever. If he notices the new queens, he will want to destroy them. However, this is not allowed. The worker bees cluster on the queen cells and repel her if the queen approaches to damage them. All the efforts of the worker bees are to protect the new queen and therefore the colony. For this, the queens are protected as a result of the measures taken by considering every possibility. Sometimes a bee community may need more than one swarm. In this case, if the new young queen is also going to leave the hive for the second son, then the workers immediately start raising a new queen.
As can be seen in the subjects discussed so far, bees are among the creatures with the most surprising features in the animal kingdom. The architectural wonder honeycombs that they built with the pinhead-sized wax they produced very patiently, the visits they make to the larvae hundreds of times every day without getting tired, their self-sacrificing behavior to defend their colonies, their efforts to produce honey, their ability to create a new colony within the hive. They astonish scientists with their ability to maintain a certain order.
Bees evaluate their environment, make decisions, and implement them with their own language. They can change these decisions according to the urgency of the situation. In short, a keen mind and consciousness that the bees have shape all the movements of them. This consciousness and intelligence are the most important feature of the honey bees themselves.
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