The story of a single cell within a beehive

Eggs, eggs and more eggs

The laying of eggs

Having looked at how cells are formed, let’s turn our attention to one of the most important uses to which they are put, namely to raise brood. We’re going to walk through the process, from the time an egg is laid to when an adult bee emerged from the cell.

Let’s consider the queen as she wanders across comb in the brood chamber. We’re going to assume we’re in mid-summer and she’s laying eggs at a rapid pace. That can mean 2,000 or more eggs per day. That, of course, means there’s a significant demand for cells in which to lay eggs.

We won’t dwell on reproductive factors in this article but, as a recap, as she passes each cell in which she decides to lay an egg, she will make a decision about the eventual gender of the egg. If she lays an egg and then moves on without fertilizing that egg, she will have laid an egg destined to be a drone. If she fertilizes the egg then it will emerge as a worker or a queen.

The queen has a real discipline about how and where she lays eggs. Workers can lay eggs too (always unfertilized) but they are much more haphazard, which can be a valuable clue when beekeepers are concerned about laying workers.

  • The queen will lay one egg per cell, compared to workers who may lay multiple eggs in a single cell.
  • The queen has a longer body than a worker, which means she can reach down deep into the cell to lay the egg. By comparison, workers do not have that reach and so lay eggs attached to the wall of the cell, rather than the bottom.
  • An efficient and productive queen will leave few empty spots in the cell pattern, resulting in a beautiful and consistent brood pattern. Workers, however, are less disciplined and the result can be a much more haphazard use of cells, with many spots in the pattern.

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