How many eggs can a queen bee lay?

by Khorshed
(Dhaka, Bangladesh)

How many eggs can a queen lay in her whole life?

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Hi Khorshed,

That's a question that is difficult to answer with precision because there are many variables involved.

But the short answer would be: A lot!

According to most beekeeping reference books, a queen honey bee can lay a maximum of between 1500 and 2000 eggs per day. So obviously a queen can lay an incredible number of eggs!

But that number is a little bit deceiving, because a queen is laying eggs at her maximum capacity for only a relatively small percentage of her life. The rest of the time she's laying a much lower quantity of eggs per day, or even none.

During late winter and early spring, as the colony is gearing up for the spring and early summer honey flows, the queen is laying at her maximum rate. Hive conditions, though, will not always permit her to lay eggs at the maximum rate of which she's capable.

Conditions that would cause her to lay at a slower rate include lack of room in the hive, lack of food (honey and/or pollen) to support raising brood at the maximum rate, and too few bees to maintain the optimum brood-rearing temperature within the hive (around 95 degrees F).

And if the bees decide to swarm, the queen's egg-laying will be interrupted for a number of days while she loses body weight so that she'll be able to fly well enough to accompany the swarm.

By mid summer the queen is normally laying at a substantially lower rate than she's capable of, and she slows down even more in the fall.

She continues to lay eggs during most of the winter, but at a drastically reduced rate. And for a short period in the winter, the queen might lay no eggs at all.

So as you can see, the amount of eggs that a queen lays is varying throughout most of the year.

Quite obviously, the length of a queen's life will also impact the total number of eggs she lays.

Queens are capable of living for several years. But a queen will only live for as long as her daughters perceive her as being productive enough. If the bees in a colony 'decide' that their queen is no longer sufficiently productive, they'll kill her and raise a new queen to take her place.

Some queens may lay eggs for several seasons; some don't even survive their first season.

The record queen lifespan that I've observed in my own hives was a queen that survived for 4 years (and that was a very strong and productive colony during most of that time period). That was many years ago, though, and I would guess that it would be very rare for a queen to survive that long nowadays.

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May 13, 2018
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4 year old queen
by: Anonymous

I recently installed a package of bees, and unbeknownst to me, there was a 4 year old queen in the package. By the time I found her, all the attendants in the queen cage were dead, so it was too late to try to get the new queen accepted. I gave the new queen to another beekeeper and she's doing well. The old queen is starting here fifth year, she's laying but I'm sure she will have to be replaced soon. The workers may have begun to replace her, there's a couple queen cells already, and it's only been 18 days since the package was installed.

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