When will a newly-hatched queen begin to lay?


A first-year beekeeper e-mailed to say he was excited to see a new virgin queen in the act of hatching from her cell. But that was three whole days ago and still no eggs! He wanted to know if he should should replace her.

My answer? Holy guacamole, give the woman a chance! These things take time. Newborn babes do not start mating and carrying on for at least a few days.

As a matter of fact, according to M.E.A. McNeil in The Hive and the Honey Bee (2015), a new virgin queen does not become sexually mature for five to six days after emergence. A number of things need to happen before she is ready to fly. Like all insects, the outer layer of chitin covering her body must become hardened and thickened, a process that may take several days. In addition, her pheromones must develop so she will become attractive to flying drones.

Once she is sexually mature, the workers escort her out the door on the first sunny afternoon in the 60s or above. She flies to one or more drone congregation areas where she will be pursued by hoards of drones. If all goes well, she will mate with a dozen or more, and then return to the hive, guided by workers waiting for her return.

Sometimes, however, the number of matings from one flight is not sufficient and she must repeat the mating flight once, or even several times, until she has collected enough sperm to fill her oviducts.