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The Queen & Her Eggs

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

The Queen is fertilized in the open air while in flight by her chosen drone. This influence lasts for several years and probably for life. She can be impregnated, even though her eggs are undeveloped. The Queen has a small globular sac, not more significant than a grain of mustard seed (about 1/33 of an inch in diameter), communicating with her oviduct. This sac is filled with spermatozoa, a whitish fluid. Later in the season, the same substance was compared with some taken from the drones and found to be similar. When eggs descend the oviduct to be deposited in the cells, they pass by the mouth of this seminal sac or spermatheca and receive a portion of its fertilizing contents. Small as it is, its contents are sufficient to impregnate hundreds of thousands of eggs.


When the Queen is about to lay, she first examines the cell. Then, she will put her head into a cell and remain in that position for a second or two. After ascertaining its fitness for the deposit, she is about to make.



The Queen Inspecting Her Cell
The Queen Inspecting Her Cell

The Queen then withdraws her head and, curving her body downwards, inserts the lower part of it into the cell: in a few seconds, she turns half round upon herself and withdraws, leaving an egg behind her. When she lays a considerable number, she does it equally on each side of the comb, those on the one side being precisely opposite to those on the other, as the relative position of the cells will admit. The effect of this is to produce the utmost possible concentration and economy of heat for developing the various changes of the brood.


The bees' eggs are of a lengthened oval shape with a slight curvature. Of a bluish-white color: being besmeared at the time of laying, with a glutinous substance, they adhere to the bases of the cells and remain unchanged in figure or situation for three or four days; then they hatch, the bottom of each cell presenting to view a small white worm. When the worm grows to touch the opposite angle of the cell, it coils itself up. Furthermore, it floats in a whitish transparent fluid, which is deposited in the cells by the nursing bees, by which it is nourished; it becomes gradually enlarged in its dimensions till the two extremities touch one another and form a ring. In this state, it is called a larva or worm. When transforming into a nymph, just the right amount of food is given so that none remains in the cell. The larva's food consists of a mixture of farina, honey, and water, partly digested in the stomachs of the nursing bees.


The larva, having derived its support in this manner for four, five, or six days, according to the season (the development being slowed in cool weather and inadequately protected hives,) continues to increase during that period till it occupies the whole breadth and nearly the length of the cell. The nursing bees now seal over the cell with a light brown cover, externally more or less convex (the cap of a drone cell is more convex than that of a worker). This differs from that of a honey cell which is paler and somewhat concave. The cap of the brood cell is made of a mixture of bee bread and wax. It is not air-tight as it would be if made of wax alone. However, when examined with a microscope, it appears to be reticulated or full of fine holes through which the enclosed insect can have air.


An Empty Queen Cell
An Empty Queen Cell

From its texture and shape, it is quickly thrust off by the bee when mature, whereas if it consisted wholly of wax, the young bee would either perish for lack of air or be unable to force its way into the world!


The material and shape of the lids that seal up the honey cells are different. They are of pure wax to make them air-tight, thus preventing the honey from souring or candying in the cells! They are concave or hollowed inwards to give them greater strength to resist the pressure of their contents! The larva is no sooner perfectly enclosed than it begins to line the cell by spinning around itself, after the manner of the silkworm, a whitish silky film or cocoon, by which it is encased.


When it has undergone this change, it usually bears the name of nymph or pupa. The insect has attained its total growth, and a large amount of nutriment it has taken serves as a store for developing the perfect insect.


The nymph spins its cocoon for thirty-six hours. After spending about three days in this state of preparation for a new existence, it gradually undergoes so significant a change. It becomes armed with firmer mail and scales of a dark brown hue. Six rings become distinguishable on its belly, which slipping one over another enables the bee to shorten its body whenever it has occasion to do so.


Bees Hatching
Bees Hatching

When it has reached the twenty-first day of its existence, counting from the moment the egg is laid, it comes forth a perfect-winged insect. The cocoon is left behind.

A new Queen bee follows a slightly different development. She passes three days in the egg and is five a worm; the workers then close her cell, and she immediately begins spinning her cocoon, which occupies her twenty-four hours. She remains alone on the tenth, eleventh days, and twelfth as if exhausted by her labor. Then she passes four days and a part of the fifth as a nymph. Finally, on the sixteenth day, the perfect state of the Queen is born.


Lastly, the drone passes three days in the egg, six and a half as a worm, and changes into a perfect insect on the twenty-fourth or twenty-fifth day after the egg is laid.

Cheers,

Hophead Jon

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