Mated Queen Bees

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Ideal Queen Bee Mating Conditions

Queen honeybees mate outside the hive in the open while flying, usually in the afternoon.  The mating takes place over the course of several consecutive days.  Mated queen bees typically mate with approximately 10 to 20 drones over the course of their mating flights.  Once the queen bee has mated she will never leave the colony again (unless the colony swarms and she leaves with the swarm.)

Because queen bee mating takes place outside in the open, the weather conditions are critical.  What makes for the best for ideal mating?

  • Temperatures of at least 69º Fahrenheit (but not exceeding 104º)
  • Not too much wind
  • No rain
  • Drones nearby, usually within a mile, so that the queen bee can find drone congregation areas

Poor weather will delay a queen’s mating, and delay her ability to start laying eggs.  If a virgin queen is confined to her hive for over three weeks due to adverse weather, or if she is unsuccessful in her mating efforts during this time, she eventually will begin to lay eggs anyway.  In this case, however, she will only have unfertilized eggs to lay, and will be a considered “drone layer.”

A Good Frame Of Brood

To produce optimally mated queen bees, it is the queen breeders’ responsibility to select for the highest quality genetic stock possible.  In evaluating a colony, we like to keep in mind that any given colony consists of not one, but two generations of bees:  the queen bee, who is the mother of the colony, and her offspring, the second generation.  One of the components of evaluating the first generation, the queen bee, is to examine the quantity and consistency of her brood laying.

A quality queen honeybee lays her brood in a tight circular pattern leaving not too many holes within the brood pattern.  At a minimum there should not be less than 15 empty cells per hundred (or 85% viable brood).  Ideally, in the best displays of brood laying, a top quality queen bee will not miss more than 5 cells per hundred (95% viable brood).  Sometimes, you find a frame that is corner-to-corner or wall-to-wall with brood.  This is what is affectionately known as an “egg-laying machine!”

Wildflower Meadows | Mated Queen Bees - Bee Eggs Photo

Eggs

If you look carefully you will see newly laid eggs inside the honeycomb cells.  A successfully mated queen bee can produce approximately 500,000 eggs over the course of her lifetime.

During the spring and summer, a queen bee lays an average of 1,200 to 1,500 eggs per day.  A real go-getter can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day!  (Some sources say that this number can even reach 3,000).  A young and newly mated queen bee, however, needs time to work up to this kind of production.  She may start with a smaller and perhaps irregular laying rate until she reaches her optimum.

The amount of eggs that a queen bee lays depends on the time of the season, the quality of the nectar flow, the kind of food being fed to her by the nurse bees, the strength of the colony, and the amount of empty space available.  The eggs pictured here are worker bee eggs.  However, the queen determines which kind of eggs to lay as she is laying them.  She can lay either worker eggs or drone eggs by fertilizing or not fertilizing them at the time of laying them.  Fertilized eggs become workers; unfertilized eggs become drones.