The queen bee is piping in the hive

March 29, 2010 | By | Comments (7)


Last week when we opened Veronica’s hive (at left) to inspect, we were amazed to hear a high, shrill, loud whining.

Zzzeeeeeeeeeee! Zzzzeeeeeee!  Zzzzeeeeeee! Zzzzzzzzzeeeeeeeeeeeee!

It sounded exactly like a queen bee piping, or, anyhow, exactly like they sound in YouTube files on the internet. Up until now, I’ve never heard any real-life bees make noises like this. It was pretty exciting to hear these sounds coming from our hive.

Piping are the sounds made by a mated queen or a virgin queen (an recently emerged, unmated queen). The urgent high-pitched buzzings are like a battle cry to any other queen bees in the hive. The queens who are still in queen cells will respond with short buzzing called quacking. You can hear them on this video here (turn up the sound on your computer), and here (this video is kind of long, so put some honey in your tea and settle back to watch.).

The free queen may open the queen cell and kill the unemerged baby queen. Or, if the other queen has emerged by the time they find each other, they will often fight until one is dead.

 It’s mighty rough being royalty in the hive.

We spotted Veronica on the first frame we pulled, She was slowly making her rounds and laying eggs (there was one full frame of nothing but beautiful white eggs). But we didn’t see a virgin queen, so we’re not sure if it was Veronica tootling along, or if we didn’t spot a virgin queen because we weren’t aware of what we should be looking for.

Since the cluster of bees in Veronica is so small, we didn’t want to disturb her anymore, so we put everything back together to wait and see what happens. We’ve been watching the outside of the hive as much as we can, but haven’t seen any queens taking mating flights.

It’s definitely bee season. We’ve got two packages of bees arriving next week. While waiting, I’ve been enjoying the blog of Mistress Beek in Albuquerque. I love this post, entitled High Drama and the Virgin Queen Piping.


Veronica in the middle of her retinue.



  1. Margaret

    Yay! Congratulations on your new nuc.

    April 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm
  2. mfree

    Thanks for the tip on BeeHuman. They took the bees out on Sat. and set us up with a nuc box! More permanent home coming next weekend. Yeah!

    April 12, 2010 at 5:00 am
  3. Mistress Beek

    Awww… thanks for the bee love!

    Did you see swarm or supercedure cells in your hive? Perhaps Veronica’s launching a preemptive strike 😉

    Did your new hives arrive safely?

    April 5, 2010 at 10:58 pm
  4. Margaret

    You’ve been blessed with a swarm, but how unfortunate that it’s in a difficult spot. A swarm can be extradited by using a live trap-out (see how it’s done at the BeeHuman blog: You have to find someone who knows how to do that, and it can take a couple months and be quite expensive. Call your local beekeeper guild; they should be able to point you to someone who can help.

    April 5, 2010 at 9:52 pm
  5. mfree

    I’ve been following the blog for sometime thinking about getting a hive. Well this weekend a swarm relocated itself inside the post on our front porch.. not exactly the hive i was hoping to have. I was wondering if you knew of an easy way to get the bees to swarm. I’m assuming to live capture them now, we’d have to take the post apart..something we don’t want to do unless an absolute last resort.

    April 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm
  6. Margaret

    Are you sure they’re queenright? Bees will get very defensive if they’re without a queen. Go into the hive on a sunny day and look for her. If she’s not there, and there’s no sign of her —eggs, brood, larvae—then you may need to requeen.

    Before you get rid of your bees, I suggest contacting your local beekeeper’s guild. Let us know what happens!

    March 30, 2010 at 9:48 pm
  7. liz

    Our bees suddenly became aggressive today! I got stung and a small swarm followed me as I ran across the yard. Is it the weather, mating season, african bees, what’s the deal? I’ve got toddlers, and a baby on the way, I’m going to have to get rid of my bees…

    March 30, 2010 at 12:05 am

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