What makes a queen bee a queen bee

What a look at honeybees can teach us about the importance of having a good diet

March 15, 2021

Types of honeybees

There are three types of bees that make up a colony of honeybees, drones, workers, and a queen.


Drone bees are all the males in the hive. They're big slow and fat, they have no stingers and they don't do any work like the workers do (in fact the workers kill them in the fall so that they aren't a burden on the hive as they try to last through the winter). Drones are only useful on the rare occasions when a young queen needs to mate, and drones don't even survive mating.


Worker bees are the females, they're the smallest but by far the most common type of bee in the hive usually taking up well over 80% of the hive's population. As their name implies the workers do all the work, from cleaning the hive, to feeding the young, to protecting the colony, and to foraging for food worker bees will fill various responsibilities in their two month lifespan. Workers have stingers but they die after stinging because of their barbed shape. Workers also do not have functioning reproductive organs, sometimes when the queen unexpectedly dies some workers will lay eggs to try to fill the void but the eggs they lay don't end up living.

The Queen

The queen be is the mother of the hive, in the height of Spring she could lay over 1,000 eggs in a day which would all grow up to be perfectly functional bees. During this time the queen is also the largest bee in the hive and when she has to thin down for the winter or for travel she will still be about twice as large as the other girls in the hive. Queens are by far the longest living honeybees, often living over two years, and they are the only bee in the hive who can survive losing their stinger (although it is incredibly unlikely she'd ever be in a situation where she'd have to use it). Being the mother of the hive, the queen attracts all the bees in her colony to her, she is the most important bee there and every worker would lay down their life to protect her.

What makes a queen a queen?

With this information it is simple to conclude that queen bees are biologically superior to worker bees based upon the fact that they typically have a life span that is ten times as long and they have functioning reproductive organs. The interesting question to ask is what is it that makes queens superior like this? It is possible for a queen and a worker to be sisters with almost no genetic difference, how can one end up so much better than the other?

This question was one that confused me for a long time but it wasn't until recently that I realized the answer, which has two parts. First is the environment in which they develop. Beehives are made up of beeswax built into a comb with several cells, queens will lay one egg in each cell and that cell becomes the area were that egg grows into larva and eventually turns into a bee, worker and drone bees develop in average sized cells but the cell of an egg that will grow up to be a queen gets expanded by the worker bees so that it has plenty of space to fully develop.

The other thing that makes a queen a queen is her diet. Every egg and young larvae in the hive is fed something called royal jelly when they are very young but this will only last a few days for most bees as they will start to be fed other things like honey and pollen as they finish development and this diet of honey and other things will continue for the rest of their lives. This is not the case for the queen bee, queens will always be fed royal jelly, royal jelly will be the only thing she eats in her life because it is the healthiest thing for a honeybee to eat.

I find it quite interesting how a bee's diet is a major deciding factor of the type and quality of life that she will have, I have come to believe that this sort of thing is true of humans as well. If I were to ask you to describe the appearance of an average Asian one of the words that would come to your mind would be "short". There are a number of factors that could contribute to the fact that Asians are shorter on average, genetics is one of them but genetics is not always the reason. It is not uncommon for a couple in America or Europe who immigrated from an Asian country to have children in their new country who grow to be over a foot taller than them, in fact I personally have several first generation immigrant friends who are much taller than their parents. This happens because in rich countries everyone has easier access to things like meat and milk and other nutrient dense foods so children raised in these countries who are fed a good diet will grow to be much bigger than they would have in their parents' home country.

Of course the opposite is also true when it comes to garbage foods which people in rich countries also have easier access to (this is why America is the world's unhealthiest country). If a person is raised being fed, and lives life eating food that doesn't have the nutrients necessary for proper growth, development, and maintenance of good health they will never reach their true genetic potential and they will live a much less healthy life and will likely become dependent on several medications and dietary supplements to stay functional. Many of the worst diseases that people suffer from today are preventable through a healthy diet. You wouldn't fill a gas car with diesel, why would you fill your body with unhealthy food?

We should all try to live like queen bees by eating good food and striving to eliminate garbage from our diets.