Honeyflow.com | FAQ's |

2 week old NUC covered in Queen Cells - ADVICE please

Hi all,

I have just completed my 2nd inspection 2 weeks after installing a 5 frame nuc into my new Flow Hive here in Surrey, UK. Things appeared to be going well after my first inspection with 1 new frame of comb built out and signs of brood in various stages, but queen not spotted (she was marked). I have just completed my second inspection today and have found over 10 queen cells, some already capped. I don’t think I can identify any eggs and only a handful of larvae on frame 7. Queen cells were on frames 3, 4 and 7. Frames 3 and 4 are the Nuc frames and frame 7 is the newly drawn comb. Frames 1 and 8 are not drawn out yet. Some cells looked a bit like they had eggs or larvae in, but on closer inspection look like blobs of pollen at the bottom of the cell? What seems strange, at least to me as a newbie, is that Frame 7 has the most Queen Cells (8 I think!).

My best amateur guess is that during my first inspection (week 1) where I was being quite cautious and did not clear bees off the comb to inspect thoroughly I missed a queen cell. The weather has been wet and windy this week so they may have felt a bit congested in the hive? I am thinking I should uncap the most developed queen cells and release a few virgin queens and destroy the remaining queen cells? Very glad for any expert advice and alternative theories/guidance.

Photos of both sides of frames 2 to 7 shown below.

Thank you

Hi Chris, thanks for the great pics.
It all looks normal in the pics except for the queen cells so my action would be to visually find the queen and if you find her then I would remove all the queen cells to avoid swarming. There is nothing in the pics to see a reason that the bees need to swarm, the hive is not over populated and there is room for it to use available space so maybe it is being triggered by the warmer than usual climate there or the hive is queenless.
If you don’t find the queen then a possible she was rolled with your last inspection, in that case I would remove all the queen cells except the two largest and when one of the queens survives she will take over as the queen for the hive. Likely the queen cells are what is called emergency queen cells - to replace a queen in a queenless hive.

1 Like

I think these are emergency queen cells from the location and the hive density. I would follow the advice in this excellent publication:

Wait for it to download if you have rural internet. :wink:


Thank you @Dawn_SD @Peter48 - the WBKA Website and Booklet are very informative. The supplier of the Nuc had to delay delivery as the Queen had gone off lay for a week so I initially wondered if it could have been superseder, but I gather there would only normally be a max of 3 cells for that. I’ve also had a lot of wasps showing interest in the hive and trying to get inside! I put up some traps and reduced the size of the entrance a week ago to help. I suspect the most likely scenario is I inadvertently dropped or squished the Queen though. Fingers crossed for a new queen to emerge and get mated!!

It is good to read your update today and you have figured out the likelihood that the hive is queen-less. I find if I accidentally roll the queen the colony will make from four to eight queen cells but I have also heard or nine being made. I prefer in that situation do squash all but two of the largest of the queen cells if your only wanting to retain that hive and not take a split from it. That said I more often make a split with new queen cells in each of the splits.
Wasps normally don’t try to enter a hive, that is normally fatal for the wasp, but I’ve seen them take a returning bee very close to landing at the entrance in flight.

OP is in UK and there wasps can certainly enter, and destroy a weak hive. And right now the season is just starting.

They seem to be able to sense weak or queenless colonies, perhaps because the guard bees arent so active.
Its difficult to stop wasps once they have identified a target. Making the entrance as small as possible helps. Also placing a sheet of glass at an angle in front of the opening can confuse them.

When using traps close to the nuc, its important that they are the non escape type. If a proportion of wasps escape from the traps they will simply return to the nest with the news of the location of the source of food (the traps and the nuc) …

Thanks @JimM. I have certainly seen a few wasps attempt to enter the hive over the last week or two, although the guard bees soon chase the wasp back out again. I also spotted a few wasps chewing on abdomens so decided it was time to take action and created an entrance reducer with a few scraps of wood left from the nuc box. The entrances it has left aren’t the smallest, but even at its current size I have seen it create a bit of a queue in the afternoon on a sunny day with returning bees although some of that is down to them favouring the left entrance. Given the lack of queen I am wondering if I should be making my entrance even smaller to be safe?

With regards, the wasp trap I have one of the supposed non-escape type, although I have definitely observed a few crafty wasps find their way back out again. I have been more careful with the bait this time to avoid getting any on the sides so am hoping this will ensure more succumb to drowning and avoid returning to their nest. I have also hung one of those dummy nests in a tree nearby which seems far too simple to be effective, but anything is worth a try right. Both have been in place 1 week and there does appear to be a reduction in the number of wasps I have observed near the hive so perhaps…

Reducing the entrance as in your pic is an excellent move, I have made double entrances to my hives and got good results.
I’ve seen wasps try to take bees from the landing board but more often they get attacked by the bees. I have seen lots taken in flight near the landing board so fast the other bees don’t seem to notice.
Cheers Chris

Personally I wouldnt use two entrances if the hive is under attack, though would be fine in normal circumstances. In fact I keep my entrances to about 10cm all year round, though I use national hives.