The Sound of a Queen Bee


Image: Wikipedia.

I have  a friend who wanted bees so when I got a call late in the afternoon on Sunday that there was a swarm in a tree nearby I threw my equipment in the car and headed over.

The swarm was about twelve feet up in a pineapple guava tree. I trimmed a few branches, stuck a nuc box (a kind of temporary hive box made out of cardboard) under the swarm and bumped on the branch.

I knew I had the queen when I noticed a group of workers fanning their wings on the outside of the nuc box. Fanning creates a cloud of scent that lets the other workers know where the hive is located. The other reasons I knew the queen was in the box was more interesting.

When I set the nuc box down on a wooden deck I heard a sound I’ve never heard before: what I think was the sound of a queen bee “piping.” The sound is the queen announcing herself to any potential rivals–sometimes there is more than one queen in a swarm–the other queen, if there is one, will respond in kind and fight it out to the death.

It’s hard to describe how awe inspiring it is to be in the midst of a swarm. To hear the queen made this rescue effort an experience I’ll never forget.

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  1. You are very brave. Being in the midst of a swarm for me would be fear-inducing, not awe-inspiring. I will never get that close to a hive being caught, so I suppose you will have to get an audio next time. I have never even read about piping. Interesting.

  2. Truly fascinating! Thank you for sharing. So inspiring how simple, everyday things can affect us if we let them.

    • Well said, Nikki, “So inspiring how simple, everyday things can affect us if we let them”. With emphasis on “if we let them”

    • Hey Warren,

      Cool! Nice recording! I’m still a bit puzzled by what I heard, actually. It was a much lower pitch. It could be “quacking” or I’m thinking it could be piping against the cardboard nuc box. Whatever it was, it was distinctive. Too bad I had no way or time of recording it.

    • I am not sure about how much variability there is in the sound of piping but inside a box, I would say it could absolutely make a different sound. I wish I could get pics/recordings of half the stuff I see in the hives. It’s just so fascinating and they always have some amazing thing that they do…anyhow, as always, I enjoy reading your stuff!

    • Thanks Warren! I had read somewhere that the queen makes the sound by vibrating her flying muscles against the comb. I thought that since there was no comb in my nuc box that the piping sound could be different. Or maybe I heard some other kind of sound–I’m still puzzled and amazed by the experience.

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