When a queen dies (or a hive is split), the hive (or 1 of the split halves) will become queenless. This means that the hive will no longer be able to increase in population, as they do not have a laying queen. Numerous methods of requeening have been observed in Australian Native Stingless Bee species, particularly the 'Tetragonula' bees. If you have ever wondered how these bees manage to survive if they become queenless, please read on!
Requeening methods of Australian Native Stingless Bees:
Method 1 - A virgin queen already in the colony is recruited.
In stingless bee nests, numerous virgin queens are usually present. They often lie low, as they could, at any time, be evicted or killed by worker bees. However, if the hive's workers percieve that a queen is failing, they will choose a virgin queen (if they are available) and allow her to leave the nest to go on a mating flight. They then await her return and accept her back as their new queen.
Method 2 - A queen emerges from her cell and is selected by workers to take over.
This is akin to the first method, excluding the fact that the virgin queen must first hatch from her cell. This can take a number of days. Queen cells are larger than worker and drone cells, and obvious in many species, as they usually lie on the edges of the brood comb.
Method 3 - An emergency queen cell is made.
Queenless colonies of stingless bees, provided they have brood, can construct emergency queen cells.
According to Tim Heard's 'Australian Native Bee Book' (a recommended book for native beekeepers), this has been observed in hives of Tetragonula carbonaria.
When a colony becomes queenless, it continues to build brood containing larval food, but no eggs. Many of these cells are large, similar in size to the normal queen cells. They are scattered throughout the comb, whereas normal queen cells are usually located on the periphery of the comb. These are emergency queen cells.
They are always built next to a working cell containing a larva, produced when the colony was still queenright (with a laying queen). The worker larva moves into the larger cell, consumes it's contents, and eventually develops into a queen.
NOTE: A fourth method, the contribution of a queen from a nearby colony is not known for Australian bee species, but a South American species has been shown to do it regularly.
Image Credits: Anne Dollin (AussieBee)
Hi! I'm Isaac, a 14 year old passionate about all of Australia's native bees, particularly our stingless bees (Bush Bees). My interest in them began when my school bought a native beehive, in early 2016.