How the Queen gets mated
I love this, it's amazing... The virgin Queen emerges from her cell and spends a few days in the hive as she matures ready for mating. She can't be there too long, she'll be past her best and too old. So on a nice warm day she'll leave the hive,escorted by other bees as she flies towards a congregation zone - a bee's pick up joint! Congregation zones are often on the top of hills, with drones from local colonies flying around desperately on the look out for a virgin Queen to fly through that they can mate with. It's not all fun when they do: I'm afraid the whole effort of it means they explode and fall to earth... Meanwhile the Queen will go on to mate with up to 20 others apparently. Once fully mated the Queen returns to her hive and starts to lay eggs within a week or so. Egg laying is her only task.
How strong the pheromones she secretes are is a reflection of how well she's mated and a sign for the colony that their Queen is a good one. The Queen's pheromones weaken as she lays more eggs and gets through the sperm she collected on her mating flights and as they weaken the workers sense the change and start the process of replacing her with a new young virgin Queen. It's a popular myth that the Queen is in charge of the colony, she's not - it's the workers who are, they decide where and what to forage, when to swarm and when to replace the Queen.