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Musical Bees!

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Did you know that bees make music?  Perfect pitch, rhythm, and everything.  It’s true, and simply fascinating!

One way they do specifically is called “piping”.  Piping describes a noise made by virgin and mated queen bees during certain times of the virgin queens’ development. Fully developed virgin queens communicate through vibratory signals: “quacking” from virgin queens in their queen cells and “tooting” from queens free in the colony, collectively known as piping. A virgin queen may frequently pipe before she emerges from her cell and for a brief time afterward. Mated queens may briefly pipe after being released in a hive.

Piping is most common when there is more than one queen in a hive. It is postulated that the piping is a form of battle cry announcing to competing queens and the workers their willingness to fight. It may also be a signal to the worker bees which queen is the most worthwhile to support.

The piping sound is a G (aka A). The adult queen pipes for a two-second pulse followed by a series of quarter-second toots. The queens of Africanized bees produce more vigorous and frequent bouts of piping.  Pretty amazing isn’t it?

In another segment, I’ll write about how and why bumblebees often produce a perfect “Middle C” note and what it’s used for.

Click here for a video of what this sounds like when a queen bee is piping!

10 fascinating facts about bees…

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  1. Bees can actually get to “know” their owner, and recognize him/her. Especially if kept in proximity to people and not kept in isolation miles away from civilization.

  2. The Queen of a colony will mate only once in her lifetime of maybe several years and lay around 2000 eggs a day every season until she dies. The drone which fertilized the Queen, himself fatherless, the product of an unimpregnated egg, becomes the father of thousands upon thousands of worker bees, and many fully developed Queens. After his one mating, he dies.

  3. The Queen can choose to impregnate an egg or not at will. An impregnated egg can be hatched by the workers, also at will, as either an undeveloped female like themselves or a fully developed Queen to carry on the species.

  4. Bees can in effect “speak” to each other, by means of their antennae, or feelers. The antennae, by their motions, form a language, in which wants, needs, and desires can be communicated.

  5. Although it is commonly believed that a bee will die once it has stung, due to the barbs on it. In fact, if left undisturbed, the bee can work its sting out without causing itself injury. Of course, the pain caused by the sting usually results in the bee being attacked by its victim, not giving it enough time to withdraw undamaged.


  6. A prolific Queen will, during her lifetime, lay one and a half million eggs. If these were to be laid end to end, the resulting line would stretch for nearly two miles. A good Queen is able to lay on average two eggs a minute for weeks on end. The lowest estimate would mean she lays twice her own weight daily.

  7. Propolis is a sticky, resinous substance gathered by bees from pine, horse-chestnut, and other trees, as they carry pollen on their hind legs. Propolis is used by the bees for filling up cracks, keeping out drafts, and making the hive watertight.

  8. While bees are not normally aggressive, if they consider themselves and the colony to be in danger they can, and will, attack with fury. They have even been used as weapons, and there are cases on record of whole regiments being put to flight by having hives hurled at them. Riots have also been subdued by the use of bees in this manner.

  9. The egg from which a Queen is to be reared, like the egg which is to produce a worker, hatches in three days. For six days more it continues in its larval state. It then spins its cocoon, is transformed into a nymph, and on the sixteenth day from the laying of the egg, it emerges as a perfect virgin queen. The vacant cell is never used again, and is usually cut down within a few hours.

  10. Sometimes a colony will find its Queen to be defective. Maybe she is infertile from not mating soon enough, or for a number of reasons only the bees themselves know. If that is the case the colony will “ball” the Queen. That is, they will entirely surround her, interlacing their bodiesArticle Submission, forming nothing less than a living prison. The queen is immobilized and unable to move. She will be kept imprisoned like this for up to twenty-four hours if necessary. Until she dies of suffocation or hunger.