What Happens When A Bee Colony Loses Its Queen?
Can a bee colony survive without a queen? The answer is “no”. Of course, every bee colony must have a queen, but you may not realize how important the queen is for the health of a colony. The queen ensures that worker bees are working for the good of the colony. The queen releases pheromones that make worker bees productive colony members. Queens must also preside over the colony in order to maintain the colony’s health. However, sometimes queen bees do die, which often results in the eventual death of the entire colony.
If a queen bee dies, then a colony will immediately fall into anarchy. After a queen’s death the worker bees cease to operate under the influence of the queen’s pheromones. This causes the workers to forget about promoting the wellbeing of the colony. If this occurs, worker bees will become self-serving and hedonistic. The worker bees will stop policing the colony, making the colony vulnerable to foreign bee invasions. Foreign bees bring disease into the colony, which spreads rapidly. While the colony becomes ravaged by disease, worker bees are busy copulating at a constant rate. Under these conditions the colony eventually succumbs to disease and collapses for good.
Foreign bee invasions tend to be the most damaging consequence of a queen bee’s death. The rapidly copulating bees will not hesitate to reproduce with foreign bees. These foreign bees are parasitic to the colony. The reason for the rapid and indiscriminate mating among bees is not just for pleasure; it is also a final desperate effort to produce a healthy generation of offspring. Worker bees cannot police the colony and reproduce at the same time. Most of the offspring that result from the constant mating end up being eaten. Without a queen, the colony faces an evolutionary dead end. This is why some worker bees abandon their colony in order to mate with queens that are located elsewhere. Sometimes the worker bees can manage to make a queen out of one of the female colony members.
Some bee species are more susceptible to parasitic bees than other species. For example, western honeybees live in nests that are closed off from the outside. This makes it hard for parasitic bees to access their nests. However, bee nests that hang from trees, such as the nests of Asian dwarf red honeybees, are more vulnerable to parasites as their nests are open to invasion from parasitic bee.
Do you think that it is possible for some parasitic bees to target the queens of other colonies, resulting in the eventual destruction of an entire colony? Could the decline in bee
populations around the world be the result of such a parasitic type of bee invasion?