Me happily pregnant, almost St Valentine’s day,…love is in the air! At this point I would like to speak about bees and something related somehow to loooove… do you remember when we spoke about how bees mate and the unhappy ending of the drone? Well…now aren’t you wondering maybe: but if the beequeen mates only once, during this famous marriage flight…where do all those eggs that she continues to lay come from?? How can she lay these eggs?? How does it work?
The beequeen lays the eggs, yep…but how??
So let’s start from the point that everything works very very differently compared to our way (or the way of any other mammal). Once ended the marriage flight, with all the spermatozoas collected, the beequeen comes back to her beehive, tired but happy. From there, she starts to take care of her main task: laying eggs as if there’s no tomorrow! And consider that a beequeen leaves some years (while worker bees or drones max. only a couple months), so she prepares several eggs. And this way for the whole year (a part from when the superorganism stops to grow during winter, of course).
But only the beequeen lays the eggs?
Mmm yes and no! Worker bees lay eggs too in exceptional cases, but these are generally thrown away immediately then. Indeed, they too have a reproductive system, but – as explained by the expert beekeeper Paolo Fontana – they are frigid. This means that they have the reproductive organs, but they don’t mate. For this reason, in case, they can only give birth to drones.
I haven’t understood… why only males??
To make it as simple as possible: if the egg is fertilized, it will be a baby girl (beequeen or worker bee), while if it is a not fertilized egg, it will be a baby boy (a drone). Why this? Because the fertilized egg has received a couple of chromosomes from mom beequeen and a couple from dad drone (at least one of many). Speaking of drones, they have only the couple of chromosomes from their mom. This mini-lesson of genetics just to let you understand why it’s important that the beequeen has her marriage flight…without mating, they could not fill up the beehive with many new hardworking worker bees!
It’s true, the beequeen lays eggs…but what if I tell you that worker bees are involved too in this all??
What do I mean?? Well, buckle up because this is so so so cool: the beequeen can decide if laying female or male eggs and this choice is influenced by the worker bees! But…what do I mean??? The cells for female eggs are different from those of the drones, that are much bigger. So our beequeen that goes back and forth with her ready little egg, first of all checks the cell, to get an idea of what she should do. ‘Ok, this is a big one, let’s put a drone in!‘ or ‘This one is little, it’s ok for a little worker bee!‘ and so on. The cells of the honeycomb are built by the working bees, so it’s them that basically decide if it’s a female or male (or if a beequeen is needed!).
Can the waxsheet influence somehow the construction of the cell?
Yes, definetely! With the waxsheet, bees tends to build cells for female eggs. The beekeeper generally push for this need because of course worker bees are those that take care of the nectar collection (and so of the production of honey than) and moreover the varroa seems particularly gourmand of drones broot. So, this could be a further way to keep under control the varroa spreading!
So for this issue as well, you can notice an extraordinary organisation and balance. The beequeen lays eggs, that’s true, but it’s a choice guided by the worker bees… a truly team work! What do you think about it? Were you aware of this peculiarity?
Let us know with a comment here below 🙂