From queenless to emergency cells

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Queen Bee
Nov 8, 2008
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Finland, Helsinki
Hive Type
Received: 5 April 1983 Accepted: 22 February 1984

Summary Emergency queen cell production was examined in honey bee colonies of mixed European races. Thirteen colonies were dequeened and followed on a daily basis until after queen emergence. Observations were made on the number of cells, the temporal sequence of queen cell construction, cell location within the nest, the age of larvæ selected for queen rearing, mortality of immature queens and the scenting behavior of workers in queenless colonies.
Queen loss was detected within 6–12 hours and was first indicated by an increase in scenting behavior (on colony disturbance) and queen cup construction. The number of scenting workers reached a peak in 12–24 hours and then declined, as queen cell numbers increased. The time of queen cell initiation varied from 12–48 hours in different colonies. Emergency queen cells were usually started over worker larvæ less than 2 days of age (64.7%), but cells were built over 3 (25.3%) and 4 (10.0%) day old larvæ. Only 2 of 268 cells (0.8 %) were started over eggs; one survived and developed into a drone larva. In 6 colonies emergency queen cells were started over drone larvæ but these were destroyed immediately before or shortly after capping. The overall rate for queen cell construction over drone larvæ was 9.3%.
The rate at which new queen cells were started after queen loss was high for two to four days, but then declined although new queen cells were started as late as eight or nine days after queen removal. The number of cells produced by a colony usually peaked by the third or fourth day and then leveled. Slight declines in total cell number often occurred because of cell mortality. The number of queen cells started by colonies varied from 11–49 with a mean of 20.4; cell mortality averaged 39.1%. Queen cells were well distributed throughout the brood nest but placement was biased toward the bottom of the frames and away from the entrance.

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