Queen honey bees are different from workers and drones. They have a distinct role in the colony that no other bee can do. This includes laying eggs and producing pheromones that keep the colony in check.
But what do these all-important bees eat? Do queen bees eat honey like drones and workers? Or does their diet consist of other food?
The truth is that queen bees eat different diets depending on their life cycle. Before they become fully-grown adults, queens eat a substance called royal jelly. After they mature into adults, they eat honey and nectar as their main sources of food.
A ‘Royal Jelly’ Diet Helps Turn A Larva Into A Queen
Queen bees are produced through a process of metamorphosis, in which an egg develops into a larva, pupa, and finally an adult bee. Queen bees start out as regular eggs, but after hatching, they are fed a diet of royal jelly, which is a secretion produced by worker bees.
It was originally thought that this diet of royal jelly activates certain genes that turn a larva into a queen. However, it’s recently been discovered that the main reason a queen becomes a queen is because of what it is not fed.
You see, after 3 days, larva destined to become workers are switched to a diet of ‘worker jelly.’ Worker jelly is a mixture of mashed-up honey and bee bread and it contains p-coumaric acid. According to a recent study, bees that eat a diet with this p-coumaric acid end up having underdeveloped ovaries. In other words, their ovaries don’t develop enough for them to become queens, and they become workers instead.
If a larva is fed only royal jelly, it will develop into a fully-grown queen bee after 13 days. From this point onwards, their diet changes.
Adult queen bees eat a mixture of honey and nectar
Once they are adults, queen honey bees no longer eat royal jelly. Instead, they eat honey and nectar. Queens are typically fed a pre-digested blend of these two substances by their loyal attendants, who pass the mixture to queens mouth-to-mouth.
Queens eat honey because it is a fantastic source of energy, and nectar because it contains essential nutrients that help them stay healthy and strong. Without these two substances, a queen will die.
Why Do Queen Bees Eat So Much?
Queen honey bees play an essential role in the health of a hive. They are responsible for laying eggs, and they need to eat a lot of food in order to maintain their high level of activity.
Queen bees consume up to eight times more food than worker bees, and they can lay up to 2,000 eggs per day. In order to meet the demands of their busy lifestyle, queen bees must have access to a steady supply of honey.
Honey is an excellent source of energy, and it also contains nutrients that help to keep the queen bee healthy. Queen bees typically eat about half a tablespoon of honey per day, and this amount can vary depending on the time of year and the level of activity in the hive. When you consider that each worker only makes a tablespoon of honey in their lifetime, you’ll realize that this is a LOT of honey.
How is a queen bee fed?
A queen honey bee is fed by special worker bees that are assigned to take care of her. These bees are her constant attendants. They are responsible for her every need. They don’t just feed the queen, they also groom her and clean up after her.
When a worker bee finds nectar from a nearby flower source, she brings it back to the hive in her honey stomach. After reaching the hive, the worker bee regurgitates the nectar from its honey stomach and passes it mouth-to-mouth with other workers who do the same. At this point, the water content in the nectar starts to evaporate.
Once the water content reaches around 18%, the nectar turns into honey. It is then stored inside cells in the comb and capped.
When a queen needs to be fed, workers will take honey from a capped cell and give it to her. They will often mix the honey with nectar, too, and feed the queen a mixture of both.
A queen’s attendants will deprive her of food when it is time to swarm. This is because the queen needs to lose weight in order to be able to fly. Once she is light enough, she will fly away and half of the colony will follow her.
Can queen bees feed themselves?
Just because queen bees are fed by attendants, doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of feeding themselves. If you place a queen in a queen cage without attendants, for example, you will see her eat the sugary substance inside. This shows that, when a queen is hungry, she can feed herself.
Queens eat the same way as workers. They have mandibles, which are jaws used for cutting and chewing, and a proboscis, which is a tongue used for sucking up fluids.
Queen honey bees are vital to the health of a hive and they need to consume large amounts of food to maintain their high level of activity. Their diet consists of honey and nectar, which provide them with the energy and nutrients they need to survive. Queen bees are typically fed by special worker bees that attend to their every need.
If queen bees are deprived of food, it is usually because they need to lose weight in order to be able to fly during a swarm. Although queens have attendants, they are still capable of feeding themselves when they absolutely need to.