Monarchy or Hive Mind?

Bees swarming around the entrance to their hive

Monarchy or Hive Mind?

Calling someone a “queen bee” usually invokes an image of a strong leader who rules all, but did you know that in beehives, the queen bee is actually not the one truly pulling the strings?


The main role of the queen bee is to lay eggs, and she will lay up to 2,000 eggs per day. Because the queen’s lifespan can be as long as five years, she could lay as many as 3,650,000 eggs before a new queen takes over! Even though the bee colony depends on a queen for new workers and drones, she can be replaced at any time if the workers think she is not laying enough eggs, or if she is sick. The queen bee cannot even digest her own food, relying on the workers to feed her already digested food, and dispose of her waste. When a colony grows too large, meaning there are too many workers per the one queen, the old queen will split the colony in half and leave the hive, traveling as a swarm until they find a new home. The remaining half of the colony is left in the hands of a newly-hatched queen. If two queens exist in the same hive, they will fight to the death for control of the hive. Ultimately, the queen is merely a puppet ruler–the true masterminds are the worker bees.

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