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Can a beehive really have two queens?

Queens are always considered the rulers over all the bees in their colony, with everything revolving around them and their ability to reproduce. But what happens when there are two queens in one hive? Tip- it never ends well.

Beehives typically have one queen. However, if the queen is not performing, the worker bees will create another queen. The time with multiple queens is short-lived. The workers will kill the old queen, or there will be a fight to the death between the queens. In other cases, the old queen will leave the hive with a swarm.

Queens are typically the only royal members of their colony, with no rivals. But in what cases could there be two queens in the hive, and what will the bees do to stop their hive from having two queens?

Queens In A Beehive

As mentioned earlier, a single hive has only one queen. As the queen of a hive age, her ability to lay fertilized eggs will gradually diminish. This also has to do with a reduction in her “footprint pheromone.” This pheromone signals the worker bees in the hive that their queen is active and still present.

When the worker bees in the hive start to notice the drop in their queen’s performance, they will begin a plan to supersede her to make sure they’ll have a new queen to lead the colony into the future. The worker bees will then use one or more fertilized eggs and build queen cells for them.

The worker bees will continue to feed the queen bee royal jelly for about 8 to 9 days before the queen cell is sealed for the queen to hatch. Then about a week, later the queen bee will hatch from her cell.

Once the new queen has emerged, an inevitable showdown will happen as the hive now has more than one queen. Queens that have not emerged is at risk of being eliminated by the rival queen. Rival queens will chew a hole in the wax queen cell and then sting the queen pupa in her cell.

Two Queens In One Hive

Although we are taught that two queens can’t ever survive in a single hive, it can happen quite frequently. It will often occur when a supersedure cell hatches while the original queen is still alive. The virgin daughter will hatch, mate with the worker bees, and lay eggs alongside her mother. This is, however, a temporary situation, but it can go on for weeks or even months!

According to recent research, if the worker bees decide that the two queens should temporarily live in the same hive, they will make sure that their two queens will not kill each other. They will often separate them and keep them in two different spots in the hive.

However, everything will change once the new queen has laid enough eggs. The worker bees will decide to kill the old queen themselves. No royal death match is needed! All of this depends on whether they deem the new queen a better queen than the old one. Otherwise, they will just let the older queen kill the new one.

Another scenario that is likely to happen is that the old, current queen takes some of the population in the hive. She will then make another colony, where she is still the queen. This process is called swarming. When a hive swarms, the queen will leave the hive with a larger number of worker bees, often temporarily clustering in a tree before finding a more permanent location to build their new hive.

During the swarming process, worker bees go out to discover a suitable place for the new colony. Until then, the original queen bee will remain in her original hive, laying eggs beside her daughter. This is one of the cases where the worker bees will keep them separated so they will not fight. Once the swarm has its new hive established, the old queen will leave, and some of the working bees will accompany her.

What Happens If There Are Two Queens In One Hive?

There are one of three things that will happen with the remaining queen to bring the hive back to its natural state with only one queen:

  1. A fight to the death. The two queens will fight to the death, with the victor taking up her position as the sole royal member of the hive. The loser of the fight will die, and her body will be discarded out of the hive entrance by the other bees.
  2. Swarming. The hive will begin to swarm. Swarming is usually a planned exercise by the bees. They will swarm to free up some space in their hive. Usually, the queen original queen bee is doing a great job, but due to a lack of space, the worker bees will create new queens to allow the hive to swarm.

Not all swarms will survive. The successful swarms will find a home in a tree or a wall cavity of a building. They will ultimately need a sheltered space where they will build honeycombs where they can begin storing resources.

  • The worker bees will kill the queen. Sometimes worker bees will actually kill their queens. There could be several reasons for this happening. It typically happens when the current queen is old and is laying too many unfertilized eggs.

The workers will make a new queen, and once she has emerged and has been successfully mated, the workers will ball around their old queen. This process heats the queen and then causing her death. The dead queen’s body is then discarded at the entrance of the hive.

So, even if it is coincidental, two queen bees will never be able to co-exist in a hive for long. It will completely throw off balance in a hive, which is extremely dangerous and unnatural.

Why Does A Hive Only Have One Queen?

The exclusive position of the queen has everything to do with her genetics. Having a single queen ensures genetic purity, and it will protect the colony against natural selection. A genetically weak colony will not survive in the wild for long.

This is because they are unable to protect themselves against diseases and environmental challenges. On the other hand, the queen mates with several different drone bees to promote genetic diversity in the colony.

Conclusion

Beehives can technically have more than one queen. But, the only way this happens is under exceptional conditions. It is never for long periods, and established queen bees will either be superseded, killed by the worker bees, or the hive may swarm, typically with the older queen leaving the hive with a large number of worker bees.

Established queen bees will also sting and kill unhatched rival queens by stinging them while they are still inside the cells. If a new queen hatches while the previous queen is still alive, the two will undoubtedly fight each other to the death,

The most crucial take is to know that a hive will never have two queens for long, as the worker bees will quickly make a plan to get the hive back to its natural state!

Jaco Stander

My name is Jaco Stander. I’m from Cape Town, South Africa. I’m a registered beekeeper with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform & Rural Development in South Africa. Registration number WC808. I live on a small holding where I keep my 16 beehives. Taking care of bees is a very rewarding feeling, contributing to keep our bee colonies growing and thriving, and as a bonus, enjoying that sweet pure raw honey!

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