No, I’m not talking about the ‘mile-high club’, I’m refer to the mating flight of queen bees. Today looks set to be a nice day weather-wise and I’m fairly certain that if all is going well our virgin queen bee should have emerged on Saturday and should therefore be ready to take her first mating flight.
The mating flight usually occurs a few days after the queen emerages and presumably she picks a nice sunny, windless day for it. The virgin queen flies to a congregation area where hundreds or thousands of unrelated drones await. I have no idea where this would be around here or how she or the drones know where to meet but somehow they do. No doubt it involves copious amounts of pheromones.
The drones pursue the queen and several mate with her in flight. During ejaculation, the male falls back and his endophallus is ripped out of his body and remains attached to the queen. Drones that mate with the queen later remove the previous drone’s endophallus and lose their own. The emasculated drones die very quickly with their abdomens burst in this fashion.
The queen stores a sample of sperm from each drone that mates with her in a special pouch in her body called the spermatheca. These sperm will be used, a few at a time, during the queen’s life to fertilize her eggs.
She may only take one mating flight, or could take a few if she deems it necessary. Clearly this is a fairly risky time in her life as she could easy get predated, injured, lost or otherwise killed but it is necessary in order for her to become a laying queen and necessary to ensure genetic variation.
Of course, I can’t be sure that ours will take flight today but it wouldn’t surprise me if she does. We wish her luck as we need her to start laying soon.