Queen bee cups

Queen bee cups DEFAULT

This month we explore the little-known realm of queen cell cups, when worker bees lay eggs in them. How exotic is that?

Queen cell cups are small cup-like structures that form the base of queen cells built for swarming or queen supersedure (replacement). Figure 1 shows a queen cell cup.

Beekeeping slang can be confusing for new beekeepers so here it is for queen cell cups versus queen cells. When empty, a queen cell cup is called just that. When containing an egg, mostly I hear beekeepers still call the structure a queen cell cup (not a queen cell). The discussion occurs mostly with swarming, a situation when the bees may remove the eggs from the queen cell cups, which would delay swarming. When a larva is in the structure, then it is called a queen cell.

The number of queen cell cups varies from colony to colony. I have found a colony with as many as 40 queen cell cups while next to it another colony of similar size may have only five. In addition, colonies tend to have more queen cell cups when the brood nest is large, as in the spring. Later in the season, the bees dismantle many queen cell cups as the brood nest decreases. The bees seem to regulate the number of queen cell cups in the colony for the current conditions, though much of the mechanics is unknown.

Knowing queen cell cup regulation was important when I studied laying workers in a single-comb observation colony. The small colony maintained only about four queen cell cups. Figure 2 shows the observation hive in my bee house that holds 30 of these hives.

Beekeepers commonly know that laying workers will lay multiple eggs in brood cells, the signature of a hopelessly queenless colony. Less well known is the activity of laying workers at queen cell cups. Laying workers will lay multiple eggs in them too, and I wanted to photograph that behavior.

So if I just transplanted, for example, ten queen cell cups into a small colony, that would give plenty of opportunities to see laying workers in them. That approach would be good for me, but what about the bees? They are already regulating the number of queen cell cups to be about four. Then suddenly and abruptly the bees would perceive they have too many queen cell cups. Intuitively, I would expect them to destroy quickly most, or even all, of the foreign queen cell cups.

In addition to too many transplanted queen cell cups, other potentially complicating factors could influence their acceptance. For example, these transplanted queen cell cups would come from queen-right colonies. They would have queen pheromones on them, which might affect the bees’ reaction in the observation hive. Also the exact place I attach the queen cell cups on the comb, even their distance from each other, may affect whether the bees destroy them.

In order not to disturb the number of queen cell cups too much, I just transplanted one or two at a time into the observation colony. I had be very careful not to dent the delicate sidewalls or distort the hole, keeping it perfectly circular. Cutting queen cell cups from combs of the donor colonies and attaching them to the observation hive comb, without damage, is more difficult than moving queen cells.

Immediately, numerous bees meticulously scrutinized the “new” queen cell cups. As expected, the bees destroyed some queen cell cups. On other attempts however, the bees accepted the queen cell cups, and worker bees laid in them within just two hours (see Figure 3).

I had observed and photographed worker bees laying eggs when they backed into a cell similar to a queen, which is called oviposition (see Figure 4), a sight beekeepers rarely see. In that situation, numerous cells across the comb provide oviposition sites. To photograph a laying worker in only one to four queen cell cups made for a more difficult and exotic event to photograph. After much tedious work with the bees, I produced Figure 5.

I felt there was more to see. I wanted to see the bees inside of the queen cell cup. Instead of transplanting an undamaged queen cell cup, I carefully sliced off about a quarter of it lengthwise. This bit of surgery revealed the cavity in the queen cell cup as seen from the side. To make a straight slice through the queen cell cup’s delicate sidewalls was not easy, even with a razor blade. Working under the dissecting microscope like a miniature auto-body mechanic, I repaired distortions in the sidewalls by gently pushing on the wax with a small probe until it regained the original shape.

Now for another twist. Instead of transplanting the queen cell cup to the brood comb, I attached the sliced queen cell cup to the glass so we could see inside it while it was in the brood nest. And at this juncture, a few important though subtle points need to be addressed about bees to enhance the chances of seeing a laying worker in the queen cell cup against the glass.

Some places on the brood comb had more laying worker activity than others. I marked the glass accordingly, so the queen cell cup would be near one of those active places. Next, to attach the queen cell cup, first I ….

Sours: https://americanbeejournal.com/queen-cell-cups-and-laying-workers/

I just found this fantastic photograph of a queen cup and I wanted to share it with you. These cups are built by the bees on the surface of the comb. The bees select a regular cell as a base and then enlarge it. If the queen lays an egg in one of these cups it can be expanded into a long peanut-shaped queen cell. Otherwise, it goes unattended.

The bees may build one or dozens of these throughout the hive, the number being dependent on the bees’ genetics. After a while, the bees may tear down an empty cup and use the wax elsewhere, or they may just leave it alone.

Although most queen cups remain empty, some will be used to raise supersedure queens (queens reared to replace the existing queen) or swarm cells if the colony is preparing to swarm. Supersedure cells are generally built on the face of the comb while swarm cells are usually placed along the bottom edge of the comb.

Thanks to Max xx for this great photo of a queen cup. This photo made the cover of l’Abeille de France et l’apiculteur in 2006.

A queen cup built on the surface of a brood comb.  Sometimes the bees use these and sometimes they don't. Often, the bees build them and then take them down again. Flickr photo by Max xx.

A queen cup built on the surface of a brood comb. Sometimes the bees use these and sometimes they don’t. Often, the bees build them and then take them down again. Flickr photo by Max xx.


Sours: https://www.honeybeesuite.com/a-cup-fit-for-a-queen/
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Like nearly everything else in beekeeping, how you handle queen cups depends on a number of factors. It depends on what you are trying to accomplish and whether you are a commercial beekeeper or a hobbyist. It is also influenced by your general attitude toward messing with nature. Oddly enough, it also changes with time: one year it may be “fashionable” to cut cell cups and another year not. The thing to remember is the bees don’t change—just the beekeepers.

For the most part, I ignore the occasional queen cup found on the sides of frames. Bees often build these, take them apart, and rebuild them. If we want to ascribe human thinking to bees, we can say they are building them “just in case” they need to perform an emergency supersedure. The number of queen cups built in this way has been found to vary by subspecies—a fact that indicates there is a genetic component to cell building.

Cell cups being built on the bottom edge of frames are usually precursors to swarming and should be handled differently. As to whether I cut them or leave them, my answer is “neither.” When I find an active swarm cell—one where the bees are tending it—I simply remove that frame from the hive and put it in a nuc. During swarm season I keep a number of these “starter” hives and use them for different purposes as the season progresses.

My reasons for this practice are many:

  • Your bees may swarm even if you cut the cells. This leaves your original hive queenless and you’ve destroyed your queen-to-be.
  • You can sometimes forestall swarming by removing some of the bees—and the swarm cells—and giving the old hive some new frames to work on. In essence you are splitting the hive.
  • If one queen fails—in either the hive or the nuc—you can recombine them later and still have a queen.

Personally, I always try to prevent swarming. There are many who think that we should allow bees to swarm so they can populate the wild places, and because it’s a natural thing for bees to do. However, the world they swarm into is no longer “natural.” In this time of so many perils to bees—including ordinances against bees, pesticides, diseases, lack of suitable habitat, mites and other parasites—there is very little chance of a colony surviving in the “wild.” It’s almost cruel to let them go.

An almost foolproof method of preventing swarming once you have swarm cells that are capped or nearly capped is to take the old queen along with some capped brood, newly hatched workers, and some honey and put her in a new hive. In other words, make a split by putting the old queen in a new location and allowing the old hive to keep the swarm cells. This “artificial swarm” has a similar configuration to a natural swarm in that the old queen leaves and the new queen stays.

Although there are many ways to keep your bees from swarming, once you destroy your replacement queen by cutting the cell you’ve seriously compromised your options. When you see a swarm cell, look at it as an opportunity to experiment.

Honey Bee Suite


Sours: https://www.honeybeesuite.com/queen-cups-cut-them-or-leave-them/

Delaman Queen Rearing Cell Cups - Plastic Brown Honey Bee Beekeeping Supplies 500Pcs


The queen rearing cell cups are made of high-quality plastic materials, it is durable and can be used for a long time.

The smooth surface of the cell cup is beautiful and practical, and it is the perfect tool for the breeding of the queen.

The queen rearing box is no odor, safe and non-toxic, can be used with confidence.

The method of use is simple, not easy to break and age, and the quantity is enough to meet your needs.

The beekeeper cell cup can reduce the risk of grafting and ensure the correct age of the larvae, which is a must for the queen bee.


Condition: 100% Brand New

Material: Plastic

Color: Brown

Applicable Objects: Bees

Application: Beekeeping Appliance

Weight: Approx. 137g / 4.8oz

Size: Approx. 1x1cm / 0.4x0.4in

Package List:

1 x Bag of Queen Rearing Cell Cups (500Pcs)


1.Please allow 0-1 inch error due to manual measurement. Thanks for your understanding.

2.Monitors are not calibrated same, item color displayed in photos may be showing slightly different from the real object. Please take the real one as standard.

Sours: https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Rearing-Cell-Cups-Beekeeping/dp/B07X2PDSR3

Cups queen bee

Queen bee

Egg laying individual in a bee colony

For other uses, see Queen bee (disambiguation).

The term queen bee is typically used to refer to an adult, mated female (gyne) that lives in a honey beecolony or hive; a female bee with fully developed reproductive organs, she is usually the mother of most, if not all, of the bees in the beehive.[1] Queens are developed from larvae selected by worker bees and specially fed in order to become sexually mature. There is normally only one adult, mated queen in a hive, in which case the bees will usually follow and fiercely protect her.

The term "queen bee" can be more generally applied to any dominant reproductive female in a colony of a eusocial bee species other than honey bees. However, as in the Brazilian stingless bee Schwarziana quadripunctata, a single nest may have multiple queens or even dwarf queens, ready to replace a dominant queen in a case of sudden death.[2]


Older queen larvae in queen cell lying on top of wax comb
Queen larvae floating on royal jelly in opened queen cups laid on top of wax comb

During the warm parts of the years, female "worker" bees leave the hive every day to collect nectar and pollen. While male bees serve no architectural or pollinating purpose, their primary function (if they are healthy enough) is to mate with a queen bee. If they are successful, they fall to the ground and die after copulation. Any fertilized egg has the potential to become a queen. Diet in the larval stage determines whether the bee will develop into a queen or a worker. Queens are fed only royal jelly, a protein-rich secretion from glands on the heads of young workers. Worker larva are fed bee bread which is a mixture of nectar and pollen. All bee larvae are fed some royal jelly for the first few days after hatching but only queen larvae are fed the jelly exclusively. As a result of the difference in diet, the queen will develop into a sexually mature female, unlike the worker bees.[3]

Queens are raised in specially constructed queen cells. The fully constructed queen cells have a peanut-like shape and texture. Queen cells start out as queen cups. Queen cups are larger than the cells of normal brood comb and are oriented vertically instead of horizontally. Worker bees will only further build up the queen cup once the queen has laid an egg in a queen cup. In general, the old queen starts laying eggs into queen cups when conditions are right for swarming or supersedure. Swarm cells hang from the bottom of a frame while supersedure queens or emergency queens are generally raised in cells built out from the face of a frame.

As the young queen larva pupates with her head down, the workers cap the queen cell with beeswax. When ready to emerge, the virgin queen will chew a circular cut around the cap of her cell. Often the cap swings open when most of the cut is made, so as to appear like a hinged lid.

During swarming season, the old queen is likely to leave with the prime swarm before the first virgin queen emerges from a queen cell.

Virgin queen bee[edit]

Metamorphosis of the queen bee
Egghatches on day 3
Larva (several moltings)day 3 to day 8+1⁄2
Queen cell cappedc. day 7+1⁄2
Pupac. day 8 until emergence
Emergencec. day 15+1⁄2 – day 17
Nuptial flight(s)c. day 20 – 24
Egg layingc. day 23 and up

A virgin queen is a queen bee that has not mated with a drone. Virgins are intermediate in size between workers and mated, laying queens, and are much more active than the latter. They are hard to spot while inspecting a frame, because they run across the comb, climbing over worker bees if necessary, and may even take flight if sufficiently disturbed. Virgin queens can often be found clinging to the walls or corners of a hive during inspections.

Virgin queens appear to have little queen pheromone and often do not appear to be recognized as queens by the workers. A virgin queen in her first few hours after emergence can be placed into the entrance of any queenless hive or nuc and acceptance is usually very good, whereas a mated queen is usually recognized as a stranger and runs a high risk of being killed by the older workers.

When a young virgin queen emerges from a queen cell, she will generally seek out virgin queen rivals and attempt to kill them. Virgin queens will quickly find and kill (by stinging) any other emerged virgin queen (or be dispatched themselves), as well as any unemerged queens. Queen cells that are opened on the side indicate that a virgin queen was likely killed by a rival virgin queen. When a colony remains in swarm mode after the prime swarm has left, the workers may prevent virgins from fighting and one or several virgins may go with after-swarms. Other virgins may stay behind with the remnant of the hive. Some virgins have been seen to escape the hive to avoid being killed and seek out another without a queen, such as in the eusocial bee Melipona scutellaris.[4] This can contain multiple virgin queens.[5] When the after-swarm settles into a new home, the virgins will then resume normal behavior and fight to the death until only one remains. If the prime swarm has a virgin queen and an old queen, the old queen will usually be allowed to live. The old queen continues laying. Within a couple of weeks she will die a natural death and the former virgin, now mated, will take her place.

Unlike the worker bees, the queen's stinger is not barbed and she is able to sting repeatedly without dying.

Capped queen cell opened to show queen pupa (with darkening eyes).


About this soundPiping (help·info) is 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 show 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 adult queen pipes for a two-second pulse followed by a series of quarter-second toots.[6] The queens of African bees produce more vigorous and frequent bouts of piping.[7]

Reproduction cycle[edit]

The surviving virgin queen will fly out on a sunny, warm day to a "drone congregation area" where she will mate with 12–15 drones. If the weather holds, she may return to the drone congregation area for several days until she is fully mated. Mating occurs in flight. The young queen stores up to 6 million sperm from multiple drones in her spermatheca. She will selectively release sperm for the remaining 2–7 years of her life.[8]

The young virgin queen has a limited time to mate. If she is unable to fly for several days because of bad weather and remains unmated, she will become a "drone layer." Drone-laying queens usually signal the death of the colony, because the workers have no fertilized (female) larvae from which to raise worker bees or a replacement queen.[9]

Though timing can vary, matings usually take place between the sixth and tenth day after the queen emerges. Egg laying usually begins 2 to 3 days after the queen returns to the beehive, but can start earlier than this.[10]

A special, rare case of reproduction is thelytoky: the reproduction of female workers or queens by laying worker bees by parthenogenesis. Thelytoky occurs in the Cape bee, Apis mellifera capensis, and has been found in other strains at very low frequency.[11]


As the queen ages her pheromone output diminishes. A queen bee that becomes old, or is diseased or failing, is replaced by the workers in a procedure known as "supersedure".

Supersedure may be forced by a beekeeper, for example by clipping off one of the queen's middle or posterior legs. This makes her unable to properly place her eggs at the bottom of the brood cell; the workers detect this and then rear replacement queens. When a new queen becomes available, the workers kill the reigning queen by "balling" her, clustering tightly around her. Death through balling is accomplished by surrounding the queen bee and raising her body temperature, causing her to overheat and die. Balling is often a problem for beekeepers attempting to introduce a replacement queen.

If a queen suddenly dies, the workers will attempt to create an "emergency queen" by selecting several brood cells where a larva has just emerged which are then flooded with royal jelly. The worker bees then build larger queen cells over the normal-sized worker cells which protrude vertically from the face of the brood comb. Emergency queens are usually smaller and less prolific than normal queens.

Daily life[edit]

Unmarked queen with attendants.

The primary function of a queen bee is to serve as the reproducer. A well-mated and well-fed queen of quality stock can lay about 1,500 eggs per day during the spring build-up—more than her own body weight in eggs every day. She is continuously surrounded by worker bees who meet her every need, giving her food and disposing of her waste. The attendant workers also collect and then distribute queen mandibular pheromone, a pheromone that inhibits the workers from starting queen cells.[12]

The queen bee is able to control the sex of the eggs she lays. The queen lays a fertilized (female) or unfertilized (male) egg according to the width of the cell. Drones are raised in cells that are significantly larger than the cells used for workers. The queen fertilizes the egg by selectively releasing sperm from her spermatheca as the egg passes through her oviduct.


The queen bee's abdomen is longer than the worker bees surrounding her and also longer than a male bee's. Even so, in a hive of 60,000 to 80,000 honey bees, it is often difficult for beekeepers to find the queen with any speed; for this reason, many queens in non-feral colonies are marked with a light daub of paint on their thorax.[13] The paint usually does not harm the queen and makes her easier to find when necessary.

Although the color is sometimes randomly chosen, professional queen breeders use a color that identifies the year a queen hatched, which helps them to decide whether their queens are too old to maintain a strong hive and need to be replaced. The mnemonic taught to assist beekeepers in remembering the colour order is Will You Raise Good Bees (white, yellow, red, green, blue).[13][14]

Sometimes tiny convex disks marked with identification numbers (Opalithplättchen) are used when a beekeeper has many queens born in the same year - a method that can also be used to keep multiple bees in the same hive under observation for research purposes.[15]

Queen rearing[edit]

Queen rearing is the process by which beekeepers raise queen bees from young fertilized worker bee larvae. The most commonly used method is known as the Doolittle method.[16] In the Doolittle method, the beekeeper grafts larvae, which are 24 hours or less of age, into a bar of queen cell cups. The queen cell cups are placed inside of a cell-building colony.[17] A cell-building colony is a strong, well-fed, queenless colony that feeds the larva royal jelly and develops the larvae into queen bees.[18]

After approximately 10 days, the queen cells are transferred from the cell building colony to small mating nuclei colonies, which are placed inside of mating yards. The queens emerge from their cells inside of the mating nuclei. After approximately 7–10 days, the virgin queens take their mating flights, mate with 10–20 drone bees, and return to their mating nuclei as mated queen bees.[17]

Queen rearing can be practiced on a small scale by hobbyist or sideline beekeepers raising a small amount of queens for their own use, or can be practiced on a larger, commercial scale by companies that produce queen bees for sale to the public. As of 2017, the cost of a queen honeybee ranges from $25 to $32.[19]

Beekeepers can also utilize alternative methods of queen rearing. Examples are the Jenter kit, walk-away split, Cloake board, and artificial insemination.


  1. ^Root, A.I.; Root, E.R. (1980). The ABC and Xyz of Bee Culture. Medina, Ohio: A.I. Root. OCLC 6586488.
  2. ^Ribeiro, Márcia De F.; Alves, Denise De A. (2001). "Size Variation in Schwarziana quadripunctata Queens (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Meliponini)"(PDF). Revista de Etologia. 3 (1): 59–65. Archived from the original(PDF) on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-11-05.
  3. ^"Bee larvae fed beebread have no chance of becoming queen".
  4. ^Ribeiro, Márcia de F.; Wenseleers, Tom; Filho, Pérsio de S. Santos; Alves, Denise de A. (2006). "Miniature queens in stingless bees: basic facts and evolutionary hypotheses"(PDF). Apidologie. 37 (2): 191–206. doi:10.1051/apido:2006023.
  5. ^Repasky, Stephen (2016-04-22). "What's Happening In The Hive". Bee Culture - The Magazine of American Beekeeping. Retrieved 2020-06-27.
  6. ^Butler, Charles. "The 'piping' and 'quacking' of queen bees". The Moir Rare Book Collection. National Library of Scotland. Archived from the original on 2007-06-29. Retrieved 2008-01-08.
  7. ^Schneider, S.S.; Painter-Kurt, S.; Degrandi-Hoffman, G. (June 2001). "The role of the vibration signal during queen competition in colonies of the honeybee, Apis mellifera". Animal Behaviour. 61 (6): 1173–1180. doi:10.1006/anbe.2000.1689. S2CID 26650968.
  8. ^Waldbauer, Gilbert (1998). The Birder's Bug Book. Harvard University Press.
  9. ^"Drone-laying queen or laying workers?". Honey Bee Suite. 2014-04-21. Retrieved 2020-06-27.
  10. ^Gojmerac, Walter. (1980). Bees, Beekeeping, Honey & Pollination. AVI Publishing Company, Inc.
  11. ^Ellis, James D.; Mortensen, Ashley N. (2017) [2011]. "Cape honey bee - Apis mellifera capensis Escholtz". entnemdept.ufl.edu. Retrieved 2020-06-27.
  12. ^Seeley, Thomas (1996). Wisdom of the Hive. Harvard University Press. ISBN .
  13. ^ abWaring, Adrian; Waring, Claire (26 March 2010). Get Started in Beekeeping: A practical, illustrated guide to running hives of all sizes in any location. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN . Retrieved 1 March 2018 – via Google Books.
  14. ^"International Queen Bee Marking Colors". Piedmont Beekeepers Association. Retrieved 2020-06-27.
  15. ^Seeley, Thomas D. (2009-06-30). The Wisdom of the Hive: the social physiology of honey bee colonies. Harvard University Press. ISBN .
  16. ^"How to Raise Queen Bees with the Doolittle Method – dummies". dummies. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  17. ^ ab"Queen Rearing – Glenn Apiaries". www.glenn-apiaries.com. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  18. ^"Queen Cells". Wildflower Meadows. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  19. ^"Queen Bees For Sale | Wildflower Meadows". Wildflower Meadows. Retrieved 2017-11-23.

External links[edit]

  • Bees Gone Wild Apiaries, accessed May 2005[dead link]
  • Schneider, Stanley Scott; DeGrandi-Hoffman,Gloria; Roan Smith, Deborah THE AFRICAN HONEY BEE: Factors Contributing to a Successful Biological Invasion Annual Review of Entomology 2004. 49:351–76; accessed 05/2005
  • The Feminin' Monarchi', Or the History of Bees by Charles Butler, 1634, London; accessed 05/2005
  • Châline, Nicolas (September 2004). "Reproductive conflict in the honey bee"(PDF). Sheffield, England: University of Sheffield, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences. OCLC 278134906. Archived from the original(PDF) on 16 May 2005. Retrieved 31 July 2009.
  • Sour Honey
Sours: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_bee
Nicot Queen Rearing Transferring Cell Cups to Cell Bar

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