Why Did My Newly Installed Bees Make a Queen Cell?

Should I Remove a Queen Cell from My New Colony?

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Mary writes…

Today was inspection day and I found what appears to be a queen cell … yikes!?

queen-cell
I found a queen cell on my first hive inspection.

I’ve read a lot of different things about these and I am freaking out a bit because I don’t want my bees to swarm. The cell is not sealed and has larvae inside. Help!

I did see a queen on a different frame from this queen cell. My bees came as a package with a queen. 

queen-cell

Do I need to add a super?

Should I get rid of the cell?

Should I just let them do what bees do?

Any other suggestions other than cry!?

Mary


Hello, Mary!

First off, congrats on joining the ranks of new beekeepers! While it can sometimes be a challenging adventure it’s also a deeply fulfilling one and I’m certain you’ll love it.

The photo you sent does indeed appear to be a queen cell, although I can’t confirm from the angle that there is a larva inside. That said, you’d know if you saw a larva in there so I believe you.

That queen cell appears to be toward the center of the frame — that, combined with the fact you saw the current queen in the hive that day, leads me to believe it is a supercedure cell. The workers build supercedure cells to raise new queens when, for some reason, they feel the current queen isn’t “up to snuff.”  

First and foremost, this is not because you did anything wrong! It is not unusual for a new colony to replace their queen shortly after installation.  Why they do this can be difficult to figure out. That said, once they decide they want a new queen you can’t really change their minds so do not remove the queen cell or any other queen cells you find.  

The best thing to do is to let them do what they want to do.
You also asked about adding a super. Likely the answer is no. I’m assuming you got your colony late April or early May and put them on brand new equipment. 

The general rule of thumb is you let them build wax comb on 80-90% of the frames in the first deep brood box before you add the second deep brood box. Then you let them build 80-90% of those frames out before you add a super. 

During this period where they are building all that new wax in the first and second deep brood box, you should feed them sugar water at all times. You only stop feeding sugar water when you get to the super level.
Now, your bees are in a unique situation in that they are replacing their queen. When the new virgin queen emerges she (or the workers) will kill the current queen. Then, a couple of days later, she will begin taking mating flights, assuming the weather allows. She will take mating flights for 2-5 days. Once those are done, it may be a day or two before she starts laying eggs. All in all, this means you will have a gap in the production of new worker bees, meaning your colony population will slow in growth a bit for a week or two.  

So, you may want to consider delaying adding additional boxes accordingly.
I hope this helps! I distinctly recall my first year keeping bees and feeling like crying from time to time when I had no clue what to do. I applaud you for reaching out to us for support and help and thank you for all you’re doing to care for these incredible creatures. 

All the best to you!
Josh Vaisman


Josh,

Thank you for sending over the info and things to look for. I have to say I am a little upset about the whole killing the old queen even if she isn’t doing her job. She is my first queen! However, I am partially to blame for her situation. They are Italian bees so naturally, I named her Apollonia after Michael Corleone’s first wife in the movie Godfather. Apollonia was killed in a car bombing shortly after marrying Michael. I think my next queen will be named Betty White. 

You are correct on the late April bees and brand spankin new equipment! 

Take care,

Mary

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