Last Updated on September 13, 2021
Do queen bees leave the hive? Yes. In this article, we go into a bit more depth on this topic and explore why queen bees leave the hive.
The queen bee is the dominant female reproductive in the hive. Her job is to lay eggs and produce a continuous supply of future workers, drones, and sometimes queens, for the hive. The queen lays anything from 1500 eggs a day on a quiet day, to 4000 eggs a day in an African hive during a strong honey flow. The queen is a very busy lady!! She can be required to lay just shy of 3 eggs a minute – 24 hours a day. Remember she also has to eat during this time.
In this article, we will have a look at the normal reasons the queen leaves the hive. Then we will also have a look at the weird things a queen bee can do.
After a young queen bee hatches, she will live in the hive for a few days. She is unmated, so she cannot lay eggs. She will go on a few mating flights and mate with up to 60 drones. The queen bee will now return as a mated queen. A mated queen bee can lay fertilized eggs which develop into workers or queens, and unfertilized eggs which develop into drones.
When a hive increases in population size rapidly, the bees will sometimes produce a reproductive swarm. The intention of this swarm is that it will leave with the old queen and will seek out a new hive location. The swarm will consist of a number of workers and drones and the queen from the parent hive.
When the bees swarm, normally the workers will leave first, and then the queen will leave. As soon as the workers sense where she is, they will congregate around her, and the swarm will gain a sense of direction and move.
When the queen gets tired, the swarm will settle on a tree branch, or in a bush.
If there is a fire or a flood, the bees will attempt to move away from the hive. The queen will normally scurry along a branch and try to flee the catastrophe. Often, if she is in full egg-laying condition she is too heavy to fly and will run along the ground. Sometimes the bees will cluster around her.
Weird and Wonderful Reasons The Queen Leaves The Hive
I was once sitting watching a hive at night under the moonlight. It is curiously satisfying watching the guards patrol the landing board. Every now and then a bee will just wander over the surface of the hive. Sometimes, for no apparent reason, a bee will even fly out of the hive at night, never to be seen again.
One night, I was doing this, and I saw the queen walk out of the entrance of the hive. She just sat on the landing board and appeared to enjoy the fresh air for a bit. Then she buzzed authoritatively and went back into the hive. To this day I have no idea what she was doing. I thought maybe she went outside to take a poop, but there was no yellow spot where she went.
I once met an elderly man who could hum to the queen. He was an old San man. This old man was a complete wild person. He believed that houses were evil and slept under bushes in nature. He was a talented honey hunter and would find beehives by tying a piece of spider web to the leg of a bee, with a small piece of a sweet wrapper tied to the spider web. Then he would let the bee go and follow her as she struggled to get home.
Rooiland – a San descendant who can hum to bees. 87 years old and still going strong.
He would light a piece of hessian sack, blow smoke into the hive and then put his hand into the wild hive. He would hum at a constant low frequency and the queen would walk out onto his arm. He would then put her in his mouth and would remove a few honeycombs from the hive, and put the queen back when he was finished.
There is some science to how this worked. Bees do make their own vibration to communicate, and his humming probably made the queen think there was another queen in the hive, and she came out to investigate and kill this queen.
Sometimes we have to move beehives on a vehicle. I was once moving some bees along a dark road at night and two drunk guys jumped on the back of the vehicle to hitch a lift. I told them there were bees, but they said it was fine.
Half an hour later we heard a banging noise and we stopped. The one guy said this was where they got off the vehicle. The other guy had fallen asleep with his head on the entrance of a hive. When we woke him up, we saw he was covered in bees, and there was a queen walking around on his forehead. We took her gently and returned her to the hive he was sleeping against, and then asked him to shake the bees off his head.
Apparently, he looked a bit funny the next day, as he had a significant number of stings on his face. I suspect his wife did not understand his explanation.
We hope this article has helped you understand some of the reasons a queen bee can leave the hive. Bees are clever animals, and queen bees are quite eccentric. There are probably other reasons they will leave from time to time, but suffice it to say, we have covered the main biological reasons.
If you found this article fun and interesting, please share.
Read more about: How To Find The Queen Bee In A Hive
Dr. Garth A. Cambray is a Canadian/South African entrepreneur and beekeeper with 28 years of experience in apiculture and specializes in adding value to honey. His Ph.D. research developed a new advanced continuous fermentation method for making mead that has resulted in a number of companies globally being able to access markets for mead. His company, Makana Meadery, exports honey mead to the USA where it is available to discerning connoisseurs. He has also developed technologies to commercially manufacture organic honey vinegar in Zambia for export globally. He holds a few patents globally in the ethanol industry and believes in technology and knowledge transfer for human development and environmental sustainability. One of his proudest achievements is the fact that the wind farm he started at one of his old apiary sites has essentially made his hometown carbon neutral.