Thursday, May 05, 2011

Balling the queen!

You all seem to enjoy learning more about bees, so today we are going to discuss "balling the queen", aka "cuddle death." Me, I prefer the latter term. It is EVER so much more dramatic, with no sexual overtones!

Now it's not always fun and games being a queen bee. Although you might think the monarch is in charge of the hive, in fact she is really just a slave. A coddled, pampered slave, but a slave nonetheless. She can do nothing for herself; the worker bees have to feed and groom her and tend to her various needs. Queenie has one job in life, and that is to lay fertile eggs. The worker bees are the ones in control, and when things aren't going well with the Royalty, the worker girls play executioner: off with her head! Or something like that. Heads don't actually roll, most of the time, but the queen does get snuffed.

Honeybees will murder Queenie for various reasons: she might be elderly and not laying eggs particularly well (egg laying slows down as the queen ages.) Queenie might have some deformity, like a damaged leg. She might just smell funny that day. Whatever the reason, when the girls decide it's time for the queen to go, they take action swiftly and brutally.

 They don't use a guillotine to slaughter the Royal One. Oh no. They use brute force. They use...


When they have decided it's time for Queenie to go, the worker bees surround her on all sides. They then  push in towards her, squeezing in until Queenie overheats and dies. DIES. 

Queenie's lifeless corpse is then unceremoniously dragged outside and dumped, and a new queen is born and takes over the hive.

Cuddle death... it's no way to treat a queen!


  1. Anonymous8:16 pm

    Insect societies (bees, ants, spiders even) are extremely fascinating.

  2. GOOD LORD! I think I'd be up nights worrying about my Queen. I thought the human race had some weird rituals but those bees got us beat.
    Oh, but they do make good honey.

  3. I guess Kermit was right - it's not easy bee-ing Queen!

  4. Huh. I've seen native Japanese bees "cuddle" invading hornets to death, but I didn't realize they did so to unsuitable queens as well. What a way to die!

  5. 'A wondrous thing it is to bee
    a regular Royal Queen'

  6. Wow! That's why I love coming to your blog, I learn something new every time I visit. I had no idea about the Queen bee, I thought she was the boss. I guess the life of a queen bee is not what it's cracked up to be after all.

  7. Andrew, I want to learn more about ants, because I think their societal structure is similar to that of honeybees.

    Deb, I worry a lot about my bees, period. It's hell being a new, ignorant beekeeper. ;)

    Hahaha, Evlyn, you are correct.

    Ahab, I didn't realize "cuddle death" was so prevalent in the bug world!

    Fran, you got that right.

    Rob, it's not all fun and games being queen. I don't think I'd want to be in Queen Elizabeth's shoes, either!


Thank you for all your comments, which I love to read!