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Fecundity of Honey Bee Queens

The egg laying rate of a queen

The two paragraphs that follow are a mixture of information due to David H. Headrick and myself. Those that are further down the page are entirely my fault.

The numbers of eggs produced by a female is referred to as her fecundity. Most insects produce from 50 to several hundred eggs during their lifetime. Fecundity is probably greatest in social insects. The honeybee, Apis mellifera L., can produce about 220,000 eggs during a 12 month period. This translates into 602 eggs per day, 25 eggs per hour or an egg laid every 144 seconds. These figures are misleading as they are averages that do not take into consideration seasonal variation and the rise and decline of population. In a rising population leading up to midsummer the rate may be 3000 eggs per day and I have heard claims for up to 5000 per day.

For comparison... The termite, Kalotermes flavicollis, has been estimated to lay 10 million eggs per year, or an incredible 27,400 eggs per day. Non-social insects typically lay fewer eggs, but the number can be substantial, up to several thousand.

Egg laying rates are particularly important in honey bees and have a profound effect on Population Dynamics and then the Longevity of the individual insects comes into the equation. Egg laying frequency, and particularly the maximum rate of egg laying are important in assessing a race or strain's ability to respond to rapid changes in weather or flora.

Far too much emphasis has in the past been placed on sheer numbers, without considering the racial differences involved. This has resulted in bees being selected for their ability to produce a large workforce... Many Italian derivatives exhibit huge numbers, but this is of no use if they do not show sufficient industry in gathering nectar, unless it is especially warm and sunny.

Dave Cushman.

Page created 18/06/2001

Page updated 30/11/2022