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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
This video I shot today, just to correct what most of the books, and certainly the internet, will tell you. Being that when queen bees get old the bees kill them and make a new queen. This is a popular myth.

What actually happens in a natural hive when the queen is getting old, is that the bees first make a new queen. When this new queen hatches, her instinct is to seek out and kill any other queen she can find. But the bees protect the old queen and do not let the young queen attack her, at least at first. They wait until the new queen has mated and started laying eggs. Once that stage is reached the old queen is no longer needed and the bees allow the new queen to attack her. But the new queen cannot use her stinger now, because that has become unusable by her egg laying equipment. So instead, the new queen constantly badgers the old queen, climbing on it and biting it. The old queen loses her hair, her wings, maybe her legs, and in a few weeks is badgered to death.

This is why the two queens are often found close together. It is not, as some think, because they co exist peacefully. It is because the young queen follows the old queen around, to attack it.

The bees do not attack the old queen, and in fact at the end of this video when the old queen is by herself, you can see the bees tending for her and feeding her.

 

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But the new queen cannot use her stinger now, because that has become part of her egg laying equipment.
Interesting observation OT... I was under the impression they kept the stinger and the venom degraded over time and it was being in laying form with a swollen abdomen that prevented the stinger use of a young laying queen.

The venoms of Apis dorsata, A. cerana, A. florea, and three different populations of A. mellifera were compared for lethal activity toward mice. All venoms exhibited identical activities, a finding consistent with recent evolutionary history within the genus. Young queen honeybees use their venoms only for stinging other queens and possess a venom only half as lethal to mice as worker venom, and by the time queens are 1-2 years of age their venom has become essentially inactive
Schmidt, J.O. 1995. Toxinology of venoms from the honeybee genus Apis
 
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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for that MSL, I am always happy to be educated, and I better not argue with Schmit JO 😎

But did his book also say that the old queen is killed by the bees, not the new queen?

What I say is just from my own observations, which is that whatever the provocation, mated queen bees seem unable to sting.

Which we see here. If that queen was a virgin it would sting the other queen in short order. We do see it is able to curve it's abdomen around and have the sting positioned so it would be pointing straight at the old queen, but is unable to use it

But anyhow, if anyone can offer better information with proof, I am happy to change my opinion. I am old, but am still able to learn 😂. My observations are good, my conclusions may not always be.
 

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I don't think it happens the same way every time.
I've seen the old queen out on the ground, probably badgered or pushed out, or she ran out from the badgering, and for whatever reason leaves the hive to die. I've also seen them leave with a small swarm of bees. I never believed the queens fought it out to the death, as like OT said, laying queens pretty much don't sting. Just my thoughts on it from what I've seen over the years.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
Agree entirely Ray, and I have seen what you describe also.

Back to what MSL said, he was right and I was wrong, or at least I worded what I said poorly. I have consulted with a local expert here who tells me the sting remains intact and in theory at least, functional, and egg laying is done through the vaginal opening.

It would have been more accurate for me to say that the sting is rendered more or less unusable, by the development of her egg laying apparatus.
 

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First off, I have no idea the stinging capabilities of queens aside from the fact I’ve never been jabbed or stung by one. The larger issue, though, in my mind is that defensive queen behavior is more a function of reproductive instincts. Newly hatched virgins are highly agressive towards competition because it makes for a better queen and a more orderly process of natural hive increase. Older queens, however, when faced with another older queen (usually because of some beekeeper manipulation) dosent see her as competition and could care less about attacking her. I don’t clip queens so I guess I don’t know how a new virgin would ultimately respond to an older queen still hanging around.
 
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Older queens, however, when faced with another older queen (usually because of some beekeeper manipulation) dosent see her as competition and could care less about attacking her.
I am curious as to why that would be. Do you think this only works in a very large hive. And I wonder how long that would last (2 queens)
 

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I don't think it happens the same way every time.
I've seen the old queen out on the ground, probably badgered or pushed out, or she ran out from the badgering, and for whatever reason leaves the hive to die. I've also seen them leave with a small swarm of bees. I never believed the queens fought it out to the death, as like OT said, laying queens pretty much don't sting. Just my thoughts on it from what I've seen over the years.
I have seen a dead queen on the landing board last year and the colony was queen right. So much to learn!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well I'll tell you another interesting thing. There is a honey shop / cafe I visit sometimes that has a large observation hive built against the wall. First time I went there I spotted the queen. But then saw another, and then another!

So I asked the owner about it, he said he has several queens in the hive to make sure that people looking have a good chance to see one. And he said how he does it.

He snips one mandible from each queen. They can no longer bite each other, and they can't sting each other, so by that procedure you get to keep several queens in one hive.

I've been curious to try it myself, but not sure I have good enough eyesight, or steady enough hands, to perform the surgery without butchering the queen :oops:.
 

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Part of the effect is genetics, in italian blood lines its more common for the bees to "hold" the old queen in reserver till the daughter a laying then some of the other races.
the sting remains intact and in theory at least, functional, and egg laying is done through the vaginal opening.
That was my understanding from dissecting a mated queen under a scope this fall, I saw what I felt was a stinger and venom sack, but was open to being wrong about that, witch is why I asked... I will take you observations over most books any day. Witch is why I softshoed it..
Not surprisingly both your observations were spot on. (just a smidge off on the reason for the behavior) they are infective at using their stinger, and its all about the mandibles

To assess the fighting abilities of older queens, we conducted contests between paired individuals in Petri dishes: 20 virgins (= VQ, <7 days old), 16 recently mated ones (= MQ, 4 weeks old) and 20 older mated ones (= OQ, ~1 year old). The number of contacts, spraying behaviour (releasing faeces), attacks (bending of the abdomen, biting) and fights (aggressions lasting >10 s) were recorded for 10 min. In case of ongoing fights, observation time was extended for up to 1 hour. OQ showed no spraying behaviour, while spraying was observed in 25% of fights between MQ and in 70% of fights between VQ (χ2=11.50; p=0.003). Significant higher proportions of the encounters in VQ and MQ led to attacks or fights compared to the OQ (p<0.05). While all contests between VQ and 75% of those between MQ were lethal, this was only the case in 10% of the fights between OQ (χ2=17.94; p=0.001). Our results indicate that the abdominal releaser of queen stinging behaviour is still present in MQ and OQ, but the latter ones are less aggressive and less efficient in killing opponents than VQ or MQ. One underlying reason may be the high degree of ovary activation of laying queens in large, established colonies.
SPIEWOK, S (2006) When killers grow old: decrease of fighting ability in honey bee queen ontogeny

edit you just posted about this as I am typing
When three queens with ablated mandibles were placed in an observation hive (n = 3), they did not kill each other and coexisted peacefully, making no attempts to fight. As a control, three intact queens were placed together in an observation hive (n = 3). Pairs of queens engaged in fights within 26.1±43.0 min (mean±s.d., range 1 to 113 min) after their introduction into the hive (Table 1). The majority fought on first contact (Table 2) and a single queen remained alive after 437.3±1001.0 min (mean±s.d., range 8–2480 min).

This effect is used by chinese beekeepers to run muti queen hives (like 6-7 queens) laying up a target comb a day for royal jelly production
again with Italian stock as they are more tolerant of multi queens
 
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The longest I have had a colony with a supersedure queen and the mother queen tolerating each other is 5 weeks. The colony queen mother was a marked Buckfast, and I saw her continuing to lay during the 5 week period. The queen mother was 2 years old when the supersedure began and she had no external signs of age or injury. I never found both queens on the same frame, but they were always within one frame of each other.

When I made the inspection on the 6th week after seeing both queens, and the old queen was gone, I assumed she had turned the business over to the kids and retired to Florida. Oldtimer you have burst my bubble!
 

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"the new queen constantly badgers the old queen, climbing on it and biting it. The old queen loses her hair, her wings, maybe her legs, and in a few weeks is badgered to death." (Quoting Old Timer)

I've seen this-it's the women in my wife's family...
 

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Well I'll tell you another interesting thing. There is a honey shop / cafe I visit sometimes that has a large observation hive built against the wall. First time I went there I spotted the queen. But then saw another, and then another!
This past season I had a hive that had 2 queens in it for about 2 months. One was marked, the other wasn't. Every time I inspected that hive, I made a point to find 2 queens. Just so happened that I needed a queen for another hive, so I grabbed the unmarked queen and installed her into the other hive - marking her before installation.
Next time I inspected the original colony, which was about 2 weeks later, I found the marked queen.....and then I found another laying queen next frame over.
One of the best beekeeping advices I ever heard came from Winnie the Pooh " You never can tell with bees"
 

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I am curious as to why that would be. Do you think this only works in a very large hive. And I wonder how long that would last (2 queens)
With “beehavior” there is rarely an always or a never. My assumption is that how queens react to each or to the hive at large is mostly pheromone driven. Older queens having much less pheromone than newly mated ones. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen 2 queens when doing checkbacks on new matings. However, if you unite 2 queenright hives later in the summer, don’t be shocked if you find 2 laying queens the following spring.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Agreed. I once worked for an outfit that 2 queened their colonies as standard procedure, the queens had a brood box each, seperated by a queen excluder. One queen was from last season and the other queen was new this season. In fall after honey harvest we would pull the excluders and let the bees sort it out.

Next spring we would have to find the queens in order to set up the 2 queen system again. Nearly always the older queen would be gone. But sometimes, she would still be there, hobbling around. And this would be after going through winter in a winter cluster.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
"the new queen constantly badgers the old queen, climbing on it and biting it. The old queen loses her hair, her wings, maybe her legs, and in a few weeks is badgered to death." (Quoting Old Timer)

I've seen this-it's the women in my wife's family...
LOL. I am told that the Chinese symbol for war is 2 women in the same kitchen :LOL:
 

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Nice guesstimate of some of the switching out the queen.
But it just ain't always the same.
My longest ever lived queen was well into her third year when I saw a golf ball size ball of bees on my hive porch. "Hmmm" says I "wonder what that is". So I began to gently prod that ball apart with the blade of my knife. after disturbing away about 1/2 the bees, queenie shoots out of the remains and runs back in the hive. "Oh crap", says I, knowing they were simply doing in that queen. Expected her to be gone the same way in just a day or two. But it was near a month before she was finally gone permanent. And I had my suspicions that that ole gal had actually survived a supersedure. Don't know for sure.
Queens get gone a number of ways.
 
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