What Happens if you kill a Queen Bee?

Written On: by Theo The Beekeeper

Bees are one of the most orderly and organized creatures on Earth. They follow a simple but effective hierarchy; First, the queen bee, and then the workers. But what would happen if the queen bee no longer ceases to exist? Will chaos in the beehive ensue? Will a swarm of angry bees unfold? Will the colony look for a new queen for their beehive? Continue reading to find out what will happen if you kill the queen bee.

When a queen bee dies, the worker bees immediately work to rear a new queen for their colony. It is the queen’s pheromones that ensure order in the colony by preventing other female bees from laying eggs. So once the pheromones are no longer detected, the bees are alerted to rear a new queen.

If you are considering killing a queen bee, it is essential to know how the colony will react first. Read on to learn whether you should kill a queen bee and how to do it.

 

Effects of Killing A Queen Bee

The queen bee is an integral part of the bee kingdom. In the beehive, she is the only female laying bee. This is not to say that there are no other female bees. On the contrary, other female working bees exist. But the ovaries of these female working bees are non-functioning. Why, you may ask? Well, because of the queen bee.

The queen bee produces a powerful pheromone that stops the other female worker bees’ ovaries from functioning. So if the queen bee dies, the chemical signal will wear off, which means worker bees can lay eggs, effectively throwing off the balance of the beehive.

This chaos is a no-no in the bee kingdom. So when a queen bee eventually dies, the worker bees will notice that she is not producing her signature pheromone. The lack of pheromones signals the worker bees to go into emergency queen-rearing mode. The worker bees then do what they do best -work.

They start to build special vertically-hanging queen-rearing chambers/cells and randomly collect 10-20 young female eggs or larvae. The larvae are typically less than three days old and then housed in the queen cells. These vertically-placed queen cells are special indicators to the bees as they tell the worker bees to feed the up-and-coming queen bees different food.

Queen bees are only fed royal jelly. Royal jelly is protein-rich secretion derived from young workers. On the other hand, worker bees are fed bee bread, a mixture of nectar and pollen. The royal jelly fed to larvae in queen cells helps make the queen bees fertile and develop functioning ovaries, unlike the worker bees.

Overall, fertilized queen eggs take about three days to hatch. After that, they pupate in their cells for six days, and around day eight days later, the queen bees emerge. If a potential queen bee emerges first, she will kill the other developing queens. If two or more emerge at the same time, they will engage in a battle to the death.

The victor? The victor, i.e., the last queen standing, will assume her role as queen bee and start laying eggs. Interestingly, if the queen bee dies of old age, the queen-rearing process is slightly different. The older the queen bee gets, the more her pheromones start to wane.

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The decline in pheromones signifies that the worker bees should start rearing a new successor. When the workers build queen-sized cells, the queen bee (if she is still alive) will lay her own potential successor eggs into the cells.

Do Bees Swarm If You Kill A Queen Bee?

You might find swarming after you kill a queen bee, but not in the way one might typically expect. Most people are prone to picture a swarm of angry bees rushing to avenge their now-dead queen; while this is not impossible, it is certainly not a common reaction of bees. Bees typically swarm when a queen is amidst them. So, it is not common for bees to swarm without a queen.

Bees that swarm are typically looking for a new location to build their colony. When a queen bee has died, the worker bees will work to raise a new queen by building large numbers of queen cells along the bottom of the comb. When the virgin queen has emerged, a large number of bees will fill up with honey and leave the hive with their new queen.

The swarm will look for a temporary dwelling place, usually a bush or on a tree limb, while the scout bees look for a good location for their new hive. If a suitable location is found, the scout will return, and the bee swarm will fly to the new site and create their hive.

After the initial swarm, it is not unusual for more swarms of bees to leave the old hive. New queens will lead the other swarms within a few days apart from each other. The old hive is usually filled with enough bees to keep the colony operating. However, the colony will be weaker as a result.

What Happens If Bees Have No Queen

As mentioned, once a queen bee has died or is dying from old age, the worker bees start to rear potential queens to take over the throne. However, this process is not always successful. If raising a queen bee is unsuccessful, the hive can be left without a queen, which can be detrimental to the colony.

Bees without queens can become agitated and aggressive (definitely not a beehive you would want to mess with). Because the queen’s pheromones are no longer suppressing the ovaries of the worker bee, the female worker bees will start to produce eggs. However, the eggs that worker bees produce are not fertilized.

This means that drones will emerge instead of worker bees. Drones are pretty unproductive in the colony. They do not work or collect any food and are hungry. Their only role is to mate with the queen bee (if one exists); as worker bees continue to lay eggs, the population of unproductive drones increases.

This will cause a weakening of the colony and will lead to a greater vulnerability to diseases and pests. Eventually, the colony will disappear. To solve this problem, some beekeepers add queens from outside hives to queenless colonies if the rearing of a queen has failed.

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Should You Kill A Queen Bee?

If you’re new to beekeeping, you might wonder if you should kill the queen, and if so, why? Some beekeepers kill their queens every year and replace them with new ones. The idea is to keep the colony as healthy and strong as possible. But many argue that it is not necessary to kill the queen every year.

Believe it or not, bees know how to sustain a strong and healthy colony without the help of human intervention. If the bees notice that their queen is not as fertile as she once was or produces sterile and lazy offspring, the worker bees will kill her. In general, the queen is only in power so long it serves the colony.

Once the queen has been killed, one of her daughters will take the throne and resume the breeding process. This will ensure the genetic continuity of the hive. So how do worker bees know if the queen is producing sterile bees? Interestingly, worker bees can smell the difference between regular worker bees and sterile bees. The distinct smell of the bees appears about ten days after emergence.

Once the worker bees smell the sterile bees, it is not uncommon for the queen to die around the same time. It is apparent that bees are pretty adept at maintaining a strong and healthy colony. So, for the most part, letting nature run its course is the best option for many beekeepers.

But adding a new queen bee yearly to have the most fertile queen at all times is also a preferred method for many beekeepers. So, in the end, killing the queen bee is up to personal preference.

How To Kill A Queen Bee

When killing a queen bee, many people want to cover their bases and do the ‘deed’ correctly. There are many ways to kill a queen bee, so the method you choose is up to personal preference. For example, some people prefer to break the front forelegs of the queen bee and let nature take its cause. While this may seem like a less human way of killing a queen bee, it certainly provides results.

The queen has a critical job of measuring the diameter of the cell to determine if the eggs need to be fertilized or not. To do this, she uses her front forelegs to measure. If she cannot measure and do her job correctly, the colony will deem her unfit and will ultimately dethrone her by killing her. A more effective and valuable successor will then replace her.  

Another popular way of killing the queen bee is dropping the queen into a bottle of high-proof alcohol. Not only will the queen die by fumes before she reaches the alcohol, but her pheromones mixed with the alcohol make for a fantastic swarm lure.

The more dead queens in the alcohol mixture, the better. If you would like to speed up to process of making your own swarm lure, mush the dead queen’s corpse in the alcohol.

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How To Kill Bee Hive And Their Queen

Beehives can make anyone nervous, especially if said beehive is in your back garden. Unfortunately, beehives can pose a threat to people around them. They are especially threatening to people with allergies and children. Luckily, there are ways of removing beehives and their queen that will not expose you to harm.

The safest and best option is to hire a professional bee removal service. Not only can they remove the bees much quicker than you can, but they will also do it in a way that will not result in a swarm of angry bees. However, it’s not always possible to reach these services depending on the area you live in and the price.

As a result, you might have no other option than to remove the beehive yourself. The best time to remove a beehive is in late winter or early spring. During these times of the year, the bee population is at its smallest and weakest. So if you are in these seasons, be sure not to delay removing the hive, and you will have a higher population of bees.

The first thing to do is to wear protective gear that will protect you from any stings. Then, during the afternoon hours, ideally, between 2 p.m and  4 p.m, spray insecticide directly onto the beehive. For the next three to four days, repeat this process once a day.

Do not attempt to rush the process and spray insecticide into the beehive hole on the first day. This will more likely than not result in a swarm of angry bees. Slowly spraying insecticide onto the beehive over a couple of days will help to kill the majority of worker bees without excessively aggravating them.

Most of the worker bees will die within a couple of days. However, the queen will still be alive deep inside the hive. At this point, spray insecticide directly into the beehive and cover the hole with a rag. Then place a plastic bag over the hive and seal the top.

The insecticide should kill off the queen bee. Keep the bag over the hive for about two days to make sure the insecticide kills all of the bees. After two days, dispose of the beehive to ensure a new swarm and queen do not settle in the old hive.

Conclusion

When you kill a queen bee, the worker bees smell the lack of pheromones and go into emergency queen-rearing mode. 10-20 potential queen bees will incubate and grow in the queen cells. The first queen to emerge will eradicate all the other queens that are still developing.

If two or more queens emerge, they will fight until the death until the last one standing. Occasionally, a virgin queen and some of the colony’s bees may leave the hive to start their own colony. Once a new queen is established, she will begin laying eggs and resume her responsibilities as expected.

Sources

https://www.greenmatters.com/p/what-happens-when-the-queen-bee-dies

https://sciencing.com/happens-queen-bee-dies-5159216.html

https://theconversation.com/a-game-of-drones-why-some-bees-kill-their-queens-83624#:~:text=If%20the%20queen%20is%20producing,perpetuate%20their%20collective%20genetic%20legacy.

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/how-to-kill-the-queen-bee-13406323.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_bee#:~:text=Queens%20are%20fed%20only%20royal,mixture%20of%20nectar%20and%20pollen

Author

Theo The Beekeeper

When I was a kid, my dad used to keep bees around the small farm we had, and I absolutely loved helping him. In the past few years, we’ve picked up the hobby again, and I’ve been doing a lot more research. This website is the accumulation of things I’ve learned along the way! You can learn more about my journey and the resources I’ve developed on my about page.

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