HIVE: Re-Direct:

June 2014

The Short Answer (TSA)

            In a honey bee colony, the brood is the population of young honey bees, in the egg, larva and pupa stages. Honey bees are all the offspring of a colony’s single queen. But the brood is raised by the worker bees. Worker bees cannot reproduce.

A honey bee colony lives in a structure called a beehive, which contains “combs.”  Made of beeswax, the comb, itself, is a structure made up of small six-sided cells.  Honey or pollen is stored in some combs.  While other combs, called brood combs, are used for the rearing of young honey bees.

The queen bee tends to lay eggs in a circular pattern in the brood comb. When the eggs hatch, the workers select a few of the larvae as potential queens.  These larvae are placed in special brood comb cells called queen cups. The workers continue to feed the potential queens royal jelly. And it is the diet of royal jelly that causes the larvae chosen to be queens to grow into fully reproductive female bees.

The worker bees feed the rest of the larvae royal jelly for only first three days of life.   Then, those larvae, not chosen to be queens, are switched to a diet of nectar or diluted honey and pollen. This diet assures that the rest of the young larvae will develop into worker bees and will not grow into reproductive adults.  Male, “drone,” bees develop from unfertilized eggs and are placed in slightly larger cells of the brood comb.  Young drones are fed the same diet as the worker bees.

The growing worker bees will stretch out in a cell and spin a cocoon for themselves. When this happens, the nurturing worker bees “cap” the cell. The young bees in their cocoons inside the capped cells enter the pupa stage of their development. During this time, the group is called a “capped brood.” The young worker bees emerge from their cells in about two weeks.

Immediately after a young queen comes out of her cell, she will seek out and try to kill her sister queens. The queens that come out of their cells first will sometimes go so far as to find and burrow into the cells of their sister queens stinging them to death before they have emerged from their cells. There can be several such contests leading up to the “selection” of the colony’s next queen.

Commercial beekeeping hives have removable drawers containing different combs. Certain drawers are positioned to support brood combs. Others are placed to encourage their use as honeycombs. These drawers make harvesting the hive’s honey much easier for the beekeeper and much less disruptive for the bees.

Mark Grossmann of Hazelwood, Missouri

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