Bees are social insects, and there are two advanced forms of communication they excel at—the honey bee ‘waggle’ dance and honeybee pheromones.
Today we will take a brief look at the Queen Mandibular Pheromone (QMP) which is emitted by the queen of a honeybee colony. This is one of the most important sets of pheromones in the entire bee hive.
Pheromones are chemical scents emitted by bees and they have a potent effect on the hive, causing physiological, social and behavioral changes in the other bees. Pheromones are used as a form of communication and are released in order to provoke a response.
Scent is one of the most important aspects of beehive life. Each hive has its own scent, which is the natural chemical scent that the beehive’s queen secretes from exocrine glands.
All the worker bees in a hive depend on their queen to set the scent, which sets the tone of the hive.
How does the queen make her scent? She secretes from her mandibles her own personal blend of “perfume” which is made up of multiple natural chemicals.
That scent permeates the hive and becomes the theme odor for all the bees living in the hive. If the scent changes, it gives the worker bees a tip that the queen is changing. Is she unwell? If so, all residents will soon know.
The stronger the scent a queen exudes, the stronger that queen is assumed by her hive mates to be. The smellier she is the more potent she is, the healthier all the bees in the hive presume the hive to be.
The queen’s pheromones make her sexually attractive to the drones she encounters for mating on her nuptial flight. Once she mates, her pheromone scent changes and the worker bees know she is no longer a virgin queen.
This powerful pheromone scent keeps the ovaries of the female worker bees in the hive from developing, to ensure the queen bee remains the only reproducing female in the hive.
The scent also instructs the worker bees to attend to her needs, perhaps because they know she will be laying eggs constantly for the rest of her days and needs to be cared for. The smellier she is, the larger a retinue of ‘ladies-in-waiting’ or worker bees she will receive to attend to her every need.
How strong the queen’s retinue is can be observed by seeing how many bees are in her inner circle, how often the worker bees touch the queen with their antennae, how often they groom and feed her. These pheromones also calm, stabilize and control a swarm. They control foraging, cleaning, feeding the brood and all other activities in the hive.
The hive is so dependent on the queen’s signal pheromone scent, that when she ages and dies and her pheromone signal fades and dies too, worker bees start to rear new queens in the brood within 24 hours. The worker bees await their new queen for renewed structure and purpose. Otherwise, the colony will go into decline and die.
Synthetic queen pheromones are available for purchase. They have been chemically composed to simulate a queen's scent.
Have you used synthetic queen pheromones in your bee colony? If so, please let us know over on our Facebook page how well it worked compared to real QMP.