When the queen is removed from a colony during a hive inspection, it does not take long before the bees become aware of her absence.
Usually within a few minutes, a noticeable buzz begins to develop inside the hive and continues as long as the queen remains isolated. Experienced beekeepers are sensitive to this sound and sometimes can successfully identify a queenless hive just by the unique, colony-wide outcry. Many beekeepers call this the “Queenless Roar.”
How can the honey bees know so quickly that the queen is gone?
Each healthy queen bee produces a blend of substances called “queen pheromone” that enables the workers to sense her presence inside the colony. When the pheromone disappears, or when an old and weak queen stops producing it sufficiently, the bees take notice.
Without this calming and regulating substance in the hive, the bees become distressed, and within hours or days begin constructing “emergency” queen cells by enlarging normal brood cells in which larvae have just emerged from the egg.
By flooding these emergency cells with royal jelly, the nurse bees can raise several potential replacement queens…..
….which, when they emerge, typically try to eliminate their rival “half-sisters” by a deadly sting, to determine which among them may become the colony’s new queen. —Susi