February - The Month of Love: Courtship Bee-havior in Bees

February 14th is Valentine’s Day. It’s a day when many of us humans make a point of taking our 'special someone' out for dinner, buying them chocolates or flowers, and doing romantic things like that.

But have you every wondered what goes on in a beehive around February 14th?

The answer is... nothing. That’s bee-cause bees don’t observe Valentine’s Day. They wait until it’s a bit warmer outside 😉.

When a new virgin queen bee is born, she emerges from her cell in the honeycomb, and then takes a few days to (as they say) "come of age". She lets her wings dry and expand, and her glands have to mature.

Then, on a warm sunny day, when it’s around 20 degrees Celsius and there’s hardly any wind outside, the queen bee leaves the hive and goes out on what’s called a “mating flight”. Yes, you heard it right… honeybees are members of the Mile High Club. They mate in flight.

The video below does a SUPER job of showing the process. It starts off showing the queen bee being born and emerging from her “queen cell” in the hive... (that big white thing in the center of the screen). Another bee tries to help her out by pulling the lid off, and the rest is history…

***Parental Discretion Is Advised: This Video Contains Scenes of a Sexual Nature***

As you may recall from my previous blog posts, the drones (or male bees) ONLY HAVE ONE JOB, and that is to mate with the queen. During her 1 or 2 mating flights, the queen bee generally mates with 18 to 20 drones. The reason for this is, she needs to take in enough sperm to last her a lifetime, which in her case could be up to 5 years.

After she has mated, the queen bee returns to the hive and begins her lifelong job of laying eggs. She does this to keep the bee colony going. That’s why all the other bees consider her so important! She generally lays around 1500 to 2000 eggs per day! Can you imagine?!

I wouldn’t want that job!!

The drones (male bees) die after they mate, losing their private parts in the process. But at least they went out "with a bang”! 😉

Here's what bee eggs look like. They are those little long things in the center of the honeycomb...

Well until next time, Happy Valentines Day from Girl Beekeeper, and remember...


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