Learning when bees mate is a nice piece of information to know, especially when you’re planning outdoor activities. With this, you’ll know about the exact season when they’ll swarm. And you can use that to guarantee minimal run-ins with the bees during their mating rituals.
So when to honey bees mate? Here are some of the things that you should be aware of.
A new queen bee has to overcome a lot of obstacles to be accepted by her hive. CC Image courtesy of Dirk Pons on Flickr
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The queen lays new queens
Being queen doesn’t last forever. When swarming season comes, her reign shifts to its last phase in her current hive. Instinctively knowing this, she starts to lay potential replacements.
The queen eggs are put into special honeycomb cells that are built only for them. However, since all the bees in the hive come from the queen, there’s no guarantee that these eggs will be just like her. So when they hatch into larvae, they’re practically the same as any other larvae in the hive.
To transform them into queens, young female workers feed them abundant amounts of a white protein-rich secretion called royal jelly, more than what a regular larva receives. This type of diet triggers the development of fully functional reproductive organs that will carry the hive’s next generation in a few days. The chosen larvae will then become virgin queens. And when they pupate, they’re sealed with wax inside their cells until they grow into mature bees and chew their way out.
This time-lapse video from the National Geographic will take you through the entire process of how bees grow into adults. Although it hasn’t been clarified whether the ones featured in the video are queens, the process is more or less the same.
New queens mate in spring
There’s no definite time for swarming. But if you want a specific time to schedule outdoor activities with kids that have bee allergies, you should definitely avoid spring. The entire season is riddled with swarmers, especially 2 to 3 weeks after it starts.
When the young queens are born, they eat honey and prepare themselves for a short while. They then look for their fellow queens and proceed to fight to the death. After all, there can only be one queen bee in a colony.
Male drones from other hives travel to the colony and swarm on top of it. The single victorious queen then flies upwards and meets them. She’ll do this for a few days to a week. She’ll meet thousands of drones; however, she’ll only be able to mate with 10 to 20 of them for every flight. She does this to collect as much sperm as she can.
Each male positions itself over the queen and an appendage called endophallus is inserted into her sting chamber. This deliver’s the sperm inside the queen’s body. The entire event takes no less than a few seconds. However, it has fatal consequences. When the mating session is done, the drone separates itself and the endophallus is ripped off, killing the male bee within a few moments.
This is what the drone’s endophallus looks like. CC Image courtesy of Michael L. Smith on Wikipedia
After the mating season, the queen returns to the hive, fully transformed into a queen mother. She stores the sperms inside her oviducts and spermathecal, over 100 million of them. These will be the sperm she’ll use to fertilize her eggs for 4 to 5 years of her life.
So what’s the takeaway?
Knowing the answer to the question When do honey bees mate? may not seem important now. But you can absolutely use this information the next time you venture out into the great outdoors for camping, swimming and hiking. You can plan your trips to avoid the bee swarmers who are in a mating frenzy.
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