Queen making and swarming
Below is the outline of the queens duties whilst at the beginning stages of development and construction
1. Bees construct up to 20 wax queen cells, which are acorn-like and point downwards. 2. The queen lays fertilised eggs in each queen cell. 3. The young (nurse) bees feed the young queen larvae with a rich creamy food called royal jelly, and extend the cell downwards until it is about 25mm in length. 4. Nine days after the egg is laid, the first queen cell is sealed with a layer of wax capping. 5. This is the signal for a large swarm (called a prime swarm) of bees, including the queen, to leave the hive led by the older bees. The queen has been starved of food to make her lighter and able to fly. The older bees cajole the queen to join the swarm. 6. Eight days later the first virgin queen leaves her cell. Two things can now occur, either the first virgin queen leads a smaller swarm from the hive (called a cast swarm) or she locates the other queen cells and kills her sisters by stinging through the wax wall of their cells. 7. About one week later the young queen takes her first flight to orientate her to her new surroundings. 8. The queen will shortly take several mating flights in which she will mate with up to 20 drones. 9. Three days later the mated queen will begin to lay fertilised eggs. 10. This queen will stay with the colony until at least the following year when she too may lead a prime swarm.