Queens and kings are found in the modern world and the animal kingdom. Some species have a king with no queen or a queen with no king. Lions have both. We all know or have heard about the queen bee.
But does the queen bee have a king?
Are there king bees ?
There’s no such thing as a king bee, and neither is there a need for one. There’s a saying, “Every Queen needs a King,” which isn’t true for the queen bee. Queen bees need royal jelly, a few dozen drone bees when mating, and a host of worker bees to look after her throughout her life.
Some animal species don’t require a king or a queen in their social structures. Others require at least one of the two. Bees have a queen, but it’s interesting to know that this queenship doesn’t relate to having power over the rest of the bees. Not that worker bees will listen to anyone but themselves, never mind a baby-making queen.
A honey bee colony has three types of bees living in it, with each type contributing to the continuous success and longevity of a hive:
- The Queen Bee
- The Worker Bee
- The Drone Bee
You will notice that there’s no mention of a king bee, as no such type of bee exists (the only male bee is the drone). She does not need one either, as she is the most important bee in the hive hierarchy, although easily replaceable when not performing her duties.
Take one type of bee out of a hive, and the system falls apart, as each type has a very important function to perform that’s crucial to the survival of a colony of bees.
Why Does The Queen Bee Not Need A King?
If you look at the state of the world today, most countries still have men in the most important leadership positions. Women leaders will probably do a much better job in managing the world than their power-hungry, war-loving, money-grabbing male counterparts.
There are no such issues in the beehive as no dominant male is found in its structure. In fact, the only reason there are males allowed in the hive is to use their sperm when a queen bee mates for a couple of days.
Male bees are just sperm donors. There’s no need for special king sperm, as simple peasant sperm will do fine when breeding more queen, worker, and drone bees. The drones do not work inside the hive; all they do is lounge around and eat.
After mating with a queen, a male drone bee falls to the ground and dies as his endophallus stays in the queen’s sting chamber. Due to a very powerful ejaculation, the drone bee gets ripped from its endophallus, tearing out its stomach.
There’s No Place For A King Bee in A Queen Bee’s Busy Life
The worker bees choose a queen bee out of a batch of the old queen’s eggs. Queen bees can lay an unfertilized or a fertilized egg. The unfertilized ones are destined to become the male drones of a hive, where the fertilized eggs have the potential of becoming a queen or a worker bee.
All the fertilized eggs are fed royal jelly until day four when the worker larvae are switched to a diet of pollen and honey. The queen bee larvae remain on the royal jelly diet until they hatch.
The first queen to hatch will instantly kill the other queen larvae, and if more than one queen hatches simultaneously, a fight to the death will ensue. The victor becomes the hive queen, easily identifiable by being the largest bee.
Now for the most important part. A queen bee’s most important role is to maintain the population. Many people will have a picture of a bee king doing the insemination work and that only the sperm of a royal could do the trick.
The truth is this. A queen bee is not monogamous when it comes to partners and sex. She literally “sleeps” with any able drone bees during a two-day mating period. The more male drones she has sex with, the longer her lifespan!
During this two-day orgy, the queen will fly around, and any capable drone (no matter his social standing) can mate with her in mid-air. A queen bee can only mate once in her life (with as many partners as possible), where she collects sperm in a special organ, which she utilizes to lay unfertilized and fertilized eggs throughout her life.
When she runs out of this genetically stored material and her egg-laying efficiency decreases, she will be replaced by a new queen, which the worker bees will rear. A queen bee can only mate once in her life. As you will notice through this process, there is no requirement for a king.
The Queen Bee Does Not Rule The Hive
Contrary to popular belief, a queen bee doesn’t rule the hive; hence she doesn’t require a king to rule beside her. A beehive is more of a democratic system, and important decisions tend to be made by the worker bees by way of voting, an example being the choice of a new nesting site for a swarm.
A queen bee’s pheromones have a controlling effect on the other bees in the hive, keeping everyone focused on their required functions, which seems to happen instinctively. Producing the pheromones are part and parcel of the duties she needs to perform in the hive.
When the pheromones start to wane, together with her ability to lay many eggs, the queen will have to relinquish her crown. As a rule, the other bees will decide to kill her if it’s in the best interest of the hive.
A Bee Hive Doesn’t Need A King
A beehive does not need a king. It’s as simple as that. And why would they? The male bees that live in the hive are only there because they have sperm.
The queen is there because she can lay fertilized eggs (between 1000 to 2000 per day), and the worker bee basically does all of the rest.
Adding a king to the equation will only result in an extra mouth to feed, and bees don’t like extra mouths, as seen when they kick out the drone bees who haven’t mated when winter is near.
With all its current players, the bee colony works well as a unit. Three’s company. Four is a crowd.
Long live the queen (bee)! If a bee colony needed a specific male bee to fill the role of king bee, we would have seen him in a hive. Not every species needs a male ruler, and that’s a possible reason why a hive works so well.