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Hivelights May 2022

Hivelights May 2022

In Alberta, Mother Nature has been waiting for rain. Though we've experienced warm temperatures (between snow squalls) the lack of moisture has kept flower blooms on hold. A few brave, miniature dandelions have shown up but that's not enough to sustain our bees, nor other pollinators. Thankfully, significant rain is in the weekend forecast, so although we may not appreciate a wet Mother's Day, Mother Nature will!

Speaking of mothers, the queen bee is the most vital member of a family hive. Similarly, our own mothers are often the binding force in a family and we appreciate the many selfless things they do on our behalf. But honey bee motherhood is very different!

A queen honey bee is mother to approximately 50-60,000 'daughters' and about 5- 6000 'sons'. To maintain this sustainable population the queen will lay 1-2000 eggs a day from spring to fall.  Although she may be considered promiscuous (mating with dozens of male drones shortly after she hatches), it's a necessity to diversify the colony genetics as much as possible. Nurturing of her thousands of offspring is outsourced to legions of sisters. These sisters - appropriately called worker bees- take over operational management of all aspects of the family hive. To keep it all cohesive, the queen bee is able to 'communicate' with her family using pheromones and very occasionally by sound. Her sons, the drones, are a lazy lot whose existence is only for the benefit of other hives where a virgin queen may need mating. Indeed, the queen can choose whether or not she wants to lay drone eggs and will only do so once she has a large enough female workforce. But alas, she is more of a monarch than a mother. And as such, if the hive is mortally threatened by predators, or if her brood production slows down or if she is physically damaged - she is seen as a risk to the colony's survival. Thus, the workers collectively create a coup and dispatch her, usually after engineering her replacement.   

So thankfully, the only similarity between human and honey bee mothers is their key role in the family and they are precious for that reason alone! 

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