Queen Succession in Honeybees Biology 342 Fall 07
by Laura Mulshine and Alice Runckel
Queen Succession in honeybees
The eusocial insect Apis mellifera, also know as the western honeybee is an incredibly important agricultural species. The USDA estimates that on average one third of our diet come from honeybee pollinated foods.
In order to develop the most efficient hives beekeepers will often introduce foreign queens that have been selected for their superior genes to an existing bee colony. Under normal circumstances the colony would reject this new queen and she would be killed either by worker bees or the current queen. However there are certain circumstances where a new queen can be introduced into a colony or a colony can be “requeened”. There is emergency requeening when the last queen has died unexpectedly, routine requeening when the old queen is old or no longer producing enough offspring, and hive reproduction in which a new queen is needed during swarming (Tarpy, hatch, and Fletcher 2000).
Behavior in euosocial insects is highly ritualized; by looking at how bee colonies deal with foreign invaders, specifically how they accept novel queens, we can learn how to best introduce new queens. An understanding of queen succession will allow efficient queen introductions that does not stress the colony. Limiting stress as well as breeding for efficient colonies will allow the most productive hives possible.
The above image shows a queen bee (left) next to an average worker (right).
The rest of this website looks at the behaviors associated with queen succession based on Tinebergen’s four questions (2005). The mechanism, ontogeny, phylogeny, and adaptive value of queen-queen competition and worker involvements in such interactions are described on pages that follow.