Queen and Drones

(Pinner & Ruislip Beekeeper Association)

There are 3 specialised castes in the honeybee colony

QUEEN     Female   3/8 inch long
DRONES     Males    5/8 inch long
WORKERS  Females   3/8 to 5/8  long

Size differences – Queen and Worker (left), Drone and Worker (right)


The queen is the most important bee in the colony but contrary to popular belief she does not rule the hive; her sole function is to lay eggs to reproduce.  She is a fertile female and could live up to 7 years but average lifespan is 2-3 years.  Due to a super nutritious diet she grows larger than worker bees.  She is usually the mother of all the bees in the colony and normally there is only one adult, mated queen in the hive.  She will have mated with up to 15 drones (males) so batches of female offspring will have different fathers.  The queen has an un-barbed sting used for killing off rival queens.

Young workers always surround the queen, feeding, cleaning and disposing of her waste. She produces pheromones which pervade the hive and workers lick it off her body. This ‘queen substance’ is shared with all the female workers and it inhibits them from laying their own eggs.

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