Every hive of bees has only one queen. She communicates with her colony by using pheromones. The bees respond to her and generally the hive will work together as a single unit.
Occasionally, a hive will require a replacement queen. Perhaps the original queen has died, or is no longer a productive egg layer. The photo above shows a colony of bees meeting their new queen for the first time. This queen was purchased from another beekeeper who reared her and placed her in this tiny wooden box called a queen cage. The queen cage is hollow on one side and is covered by a screen to allow the bees to interact with the queen. Fondant has been placed inside the cage for two reasons; as food source for the bees, and to slow down the queens progress in escaping. Once the fondant has been completely eaten by the bees, an escape route will be presented and the queen will exit the cage and join her new colony. This process will take a few days and it is a good thing because by then, the bees will be accustomed to her pheromones and will accept her as their new queen.
Nicki Praiswater is co-founder and co-owner of Lone Star Bee Company alongside her life-partner, Mark Crippen. Together, they both enjoy beekeeping, traveling and eating great foods.