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 afterwards. 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!