Requeening Methods of Our Stingless Bees
by Bush Bees Admin
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.
Requeening methods of Australian Native Stingless Bees
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.
A queen emerges from her cell (queen cells are larger and usually situated on the edge of the brood in Tetragonula carbonaria. See the image above for a queen 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.
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.
Emergency queen cells 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 its 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.