The new hives that I installed earlier this year have been hard at work creating a new wax comb to live in. The workers between the ages of about 5-15 days old will excrete wax from their abdomen, which they will form into the hexagon shape of the comb.
Honeybees have somehow figured out that this shape is both structurally sound, and takes the least amount of wax out of any other shape to create. The bees use the cells they create in the wax to store honey, pollen, and young eggs and pupa, as they mature into adult bees.
As a beekeeper, you can learn a lot about your hive by taking a quick look at a few frames. By looking at a frame and seeing how the bees are using the various cells, it call tell you whether they are focusing on making new food, increasing the size of the hive, or if there is a problem.
If you’re lucky, the queen will present herself to you on a frame you have removed. This is not something a beekeeper should expect each time they go into a hive. The Queens are wiley and elusive, so it can be very difficult to find her when you want to. When you finally do get to see her, it’s quite a treat!
She is often found freely moving about a frame of freshly laid eggs, and sticking her head into cells to examine it for cleanliness. If she deems the cell to be clean and polished, she will stick her abdomen in, and lay an egg.
When she lays, she decides whether she wants to lay a fertilized or an unfertilized egg. The fertilized eggs will create new female worker bees, and the unfertilized eggs will create new male drones. Typically the queen lays the drone cells on the bottom of a frame, in larger cells that resemble bullets, rather than the cells that are more flush with the comb, which baby worker bees live in.
The queen can lay up to 2,000 eggs in a day, and about 1,000,000 in her lifetime! That’s a lot of bees from just one mother, so it’s important to have strong queens that can live 4 or more years, and lots of good food to feed all those new mouths!