It can be scary when you open your hive and see queen cells. Are they going to swarm? Did they swarm already? Is the queen dead? These are usually the questions that go through my head when I see a queen cell. I also, sometimes, get a little sad. Was it something I did? (sniffle, sniffle) Do you not like your home? Did I squish the queen in the last inspection?
The most important thing to remember when you see queen cells is to not do anything rash like squish them all. Take a minute or a few days to figure out the bet course of action before doing anything that cannot be undone.
Now that we've recovered from our initial response, it's time to figure out a game plan for what to do next. It's important to remember that the role of the beekeeper is to first, figure out what the bees are trying to do and then second, figure out the best way to help them accomplish their goal. Not, to make the bees do what you want them to do.
I have for you a Choose Your Own Adventure chart for when you spot queen cells in the beehive. This will guide you in the process of figuring out how to help your bees.
In this video, I explain the queen cell Choose Your Own Adventure chart, so you can figure out the best course of action for your hive. I've also included extra tips, photos and clips of queen cells, so you know what you're looking for!
Here's the chapters in the video if you'd like to skip ahead:
- What does a queen cell looks like - 2:03
- What not to do if you see a queen cell in your beehive - 4:06
- Queen growth time table and age chart - 6:42
- Queen Hatching & Mating Time Table - 18:27
- Why a hive makes a queen cell - 8:17
- What to do if you see an empty queen cell in your hive - 10:15
- What to do if you see a queen cell in your hive and there's still a queen in the hive - 32:06
- What to do if you see a queen cell in your hive and have no queen - 11:00
- Tips on spotting eggs - 11:30
- What to do if you have an empty queen cell in your hive - 9:59
What NOT to Do If There's Queen Cells in Your Hive
Do NOT flip a queen cell upside down. If you see queen cells in your hive, as a precaution, do not turn any frame with brood on it upside down just in case there is a queen cell somewhere on the frame that you didn't see. Flipping a queen cell upside down can harm the queen and she may hatch but may not be a viable queen.
Do NOT kill all the queen cells in your hive before you've taken some time to decide what the best course of action is for your hive and you've down a full inspection and know what's going on in your hive. If you are planning on introducing a bought queen to your hive, first make sure you can buy a queen locally, before killing the queen cells.
How It Works:
Sometimes a queen cell in a hive is a warning that something is going to happen in your hive, sometimes it means something bad has already happened, and sometimes it means nothing at all (I can them practice queen cells :). That's why you need a choose your own adventure chart.
With this chart, you follow the path by answering the questions according to what you see in your hive.
Each answer will tell you the next step you need to take. By the end of the chart, you will figure out whether the queen cell is viable, if the hive has a queen, what to do next and what to plan for in the coming weeks.
This chart is the next best thing to talking to an experienced beekeeper!
Why Care if Your Bees Have a Queen Cell?
A hive that does not have a queen bee will, eventually, collapse if they can not successfully make one in time.
Decreases Honey Production
A queen cell is almost always in a beehive because the bees are going to swarm, swarmed already or their queen died. All three of these situations will lead to your hive decreasing in population and in hone production. If you would like to harvest as much honey as possible from your honey bees, then you will want to take the steps recommended in the Queen Cell chart to help the bees bounce back from their queenless state or prevent the queen from leaving altogether.
Bees Are Depressed without a Queen
The queen bee releases a pheromone. This pheromone lets the worker bees i the hive know that she is present and healthy. This pheromone also encourages the worker bees to be productive. A hive without a healthy, laying queen bee has been known to be less productive. You can read more about this fascinating fact in this study
Don't Annoy the Neighbors
Bees often make a queen cell when they are getting ready to swarm. Although not all beekeepers like to prevent their hives from swarming, if you live in a residential area, you will want to prevent swarming as much as possible, so you do not aggravate the neighbors.
Also, when a hive swarms, the queen bee goes with them, leaving your honeybees with no queen. Although, your colony might make their own queen, there is approximately a 30% chance the new queen will not successfully mate and return to the hive safe and able to lay eggs.
Queen Cell Growth Chart
Queen Development from Hatching to Mating
Helpful Downloads & Links:
- How to Spot the Queen video & blog
- How to Split a Beehive
- How to Introduce a Caged Queen to a Beehive
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