Queen Cups Are Not Swarm Cells

I discovered a possible swarm cell in one of my hives about ten minutes ago.



The bottom brood box is full of mostly brood. The top brood box doesn’t show any signs that the queen has moved up there to lay yet. Many of the frames (some of them with plastic foundation) don’t have fully drawn comb on them. I discovered the possible swarm cell while removing a frame feeder and installing two empty frames.

I wonder what I should do now. Hmm… Suggestions?

May 20th, 2011: It’s a queen cup. Some info via extension.org:

    Queen cups are special cup-like precursors of queen cells. They are always present in a bee colony, though their numbers are greatest in the spring months. They are built at the lower margin of beeswax comb (lower margins of frames in a beekeeper’s hive) and in spaces where the comb is damaged or left open as a walkway to the opposite side of the comb.

The queen cup is there in case the colony needs to create a new queen. It doesn’t necessarily mean a swarm is on the way. But I’ll make sure to check the cup during the next inspection.

February 2019 Postscript: Some people destroy queen cups whenever they find them, believing that destroying them will reduce the likelihood of swarming. As far as I can tell, it doesn’t. I look inside queen cups for two things that indicate a swarm might be on the horizon. #1: If I see any eggs or larva in a queen cup, I know the colony is preparing to swarm and it’s going to happen soon. #2: Worker bees will often clean the inside of a queen cup — until it virtually shines — to make it ready for the queen to lay, because the queen won’t lay in a dirty cell. A polished queen cup tells me there’s a chance the bees are preparing to swarm. I wouldn’t see those signs of swarming, and take action to prevent swarming, if I destroyed all the queen cups. So I don’t have any problem with queen cups, but I’m still learning. For a second opinion that I know is more informed than mine, I suggest checking out Rusty Burlew’s little ditty called Queen cups: cut them or leave them?

5 thoughts on “Queen Cups Are Not Swarm Cells

  1. It’s a queen cup. Workers build these in case they are needed later. It doesn’t become a swarm cell until an egg is laid in it and the bees begin tending it and building it up. You can cut it off or just leave it there. Doesn’t matter, they will build more. Great pic.

  2. Thanks Rusty. I don’t know enough about queen production in the hive. Or I did but forgot about it or confused it with something else, as is my wont. I burnt myself out researching before, but I’ll have to start cracking at the books again… So it’s the old queen cup. Very good. It’s a queen cup near the bottom of the frame, which I know is swarm cell territory and thus my concern.

    The queen in our other hive (Hive #1) began laying in the top box the first chance she had. Now I’m wondering why the queen in this hive hasn’t moved to the top box yet.

    I have a fully drawn empty frame I could place next to the brood nest in the bottom box to give her space to lay right away. But I disrupted this hive in a big way recently and I’m hesitant to start poking around again. Hmm…

    This is me thinking, pondering away.

  3. I concur with Rusty – it’s just a “just in case” cup. Watch it to make sure they don’t start filling it – then it is on its way to become a swarm cell.

    Cutting it will just result in another one…

  4. Hello! Thanks so much for the great photo. I just found one of these on my hive and was concerned…particularly b/c they still have a few frames to fill. Queen cup. Noted.

  5. I found one in mine at the top of a frame. After some research I believe I will stop feeding the hive, because they are filling the empty brood with sugar water and not leaving it for her to lay in. They have not filled out all the foundation yet and I think they think she is not productive. Thanks for the photo, great shot.

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