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June 11, 2006

Stand In Queen

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At the beginning of winter, when bees are sleepy, Brendon Ashley Cooper can run the gauntlet of 40000 bees without protective gear. The Cape black honey bee thrives on Stormhoek’s nectar laden slopes. Though the fynbos behind the hive was burnt in January's fire, we have plenty of healthy winter flowering plants
Queen bees are bigger than their subjects (ordinary bees). They are egg laying factories producing up to 2000 eggs a day that will become workers (female) and drones (males).
If anything happens to the queen of a regular honeybee hive in Spain, China or Scotland, wherever, and there’s no virgin queen ready to take over, the royalty-bereft colony will send out signals to other swarms, advertising for a ruler.
South Africa has a unique species of honeybee, apis mellifera capensis, (Cape Black Bee) with a short term, quick solution to queenlessness.
Any worker bee, with an advanced degree in dominance, can jump to the head of the succession queue and become mini-queen for the moment. This normal-sized bee can only lay 30 eggs a day, working without a break. She doesn’t even have to bother having them fertilised. She has a process that short-cuts sexual reproduction and she can do the whole job herself without males having to worry about helping.
At least one of her first born generation will have a large princess embryo that will develop into the next queen. Unfortunately, this means that the days of the mini-queen mother are numbered. And it also means that the males come back into the reproductive picture.

Posted by Jason at June 11, 2006 4:02 PM

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