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Aging Swarm Queens


Hi Dawn, thanks for that. As far as the queen cell itself goes, I wonder if it is only there for 12 out of those 16 days before it is ripped?

Yes, I reckon the more frequently you inspect for queen cells, the better chance you have of finding them for sure. I’m wondering though about the possibility that you might miss a queen cell that was 5 days into construction when you do your weekly inspection? By the time you look again aren’t you potentially 3 days too late? Say you inspected every 5 days instead, and you missed a 5 day old one on the first inspection, by the time you look again it would be 10 days old and much harder to miss and you could intercept it before emergence?

It has to be if you want to know how old your queen is. Just too quick a process. A supersedure can happen so easily without being noticed out of the swarm season inspection routine.

Yes thanks Jeff… true. I find I get more chalkbrood in the frames I move away in the split rather than the ones I leave behind, even when grouped. This year my splits will be in an ideal box only. It is very cool here in spring when the numbers increase dramatically. The average maximum is only 15c when I split - and then much cooler most of the day and night.


I totally agree with that. Can easily take a couple of weeks or more. However, I have seen them gone within a couple of days of emergence of a new queen too. As I don’t deliberately raise queens, it is hard to give an average, but I bet a professional queen supplier would be delighted to discuss it with an interested beekeeper @Dan2. :wink:

I think that depends, like everything else in biology. There is a concept in the US of “druthers”, as in I’d rather this than that. If bees get their druthers, I think they would prefer the queen to lay an egg in a nice fresh new queen cup. In that case, the evidence would be there for 16 days. If that doesn’t happen, and they are desperate for a new queen, they will extend the cell of an existing egg or larva. In that case, you may not see signs of “queenification” until up to a maximum of 6 days after the egg was laid. Then the capped cell would be there until the virgin queen emerges (or dies) and the open cell would be there for another 2 to 14 days or so after emergence.

If you do ask a pro queen-raiser, please let us know what they say. :blush:

I think we are getting stuck on details here. If they intend to make a queen, it is entirely possible (but not usual) that there may not be a queen cell around that larva until 6 days from the egg being laid. So you could miss it for that time (if you are unlucky), but after that, they will have to draw it out, because 8 days after egg-laying, the cell will be capped. You then have another 8 days before the pupa emerges as a new queen. So if you inspect carefully every week, you should see it happening >95% of the time.

If you inspect without great care, even doing it every 5 days isn’t going to catch a queen. I am sure you know that, but it bears repeating for others.

Nurse bees are so good at hiding queen cells, that even shaking the frame may not reveal everything. I shake the frame thoroughly if the old queen is not on it, but then I also run smoke directly backwards and forwards over the frame, inspecting just behind the smoke. The bees hate it, but it is the only way to be sure. I have to say, I don’t do that every time. Maybe once per month. The rest of the time I rely on shaking, observation of bee behaviour and experience.

We will all miss queen cells sometimes. Even my mentor does, and he has been a professional for 50 years or so. Such is the fun of beekeeping. :blush:




A picture is worth more than a million of Dawn’s typo’s :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: :heart_eyes:

Thanks @Bubba :wink:


Thanks for this Dawn.:smiley: I think I will inspect every 4 days until I get better at it and then tentatively extend it out to seven.
So the bare minimum time for a visual on a queen cell is just 8 days (assuming you are correct that the cell will be there for 2 days after ripping) or if you are wrong about that (:astonished:) and the cell could actually be torn down within hours, it could be just 6 days to spot one…worst case. Because brood is hatching all the time (in most cases), I find it is difficult to tell from something like hive activity if the bees have replaced the queen and I can’t necessarily make assumptions about the queen’s age. @skeggley was talking about a swarm queen, and it has gotta be easy to miss an (unmarked) replaced queen in a swarm colony because it is not checked for swarm cells. Well I haven’t checked any I have had anyhow :face_with_raised_eyebrow:


Not sure where this thread is going but removing a swarm cell will not stop hive from swarming. At that point best bet is to put queen in nuc . Move to new yard or lock her in for few days with entrance queen excluder. You could make a few nucs adding extra swarm cells to them speeding up queen rearing time. Leave 1 or 2 swarm cell in original hive. The hive will not swarm without a queen. The nuc being small and weak probably will not swarm. If it does so be it you loose a few bees. As far as knowing if hive superceed queen there will be several days probably 2 weeks with no new eggs. Pretty good sign something is up. I like to inspect every 10 to 14 days in swarm season, pulling frames of brood to make nucs from the strong hives. Adding boxes and checker boarding empty frames where needed. Marking queens is the only way to remember what year that queen is from. How can you remember if you have more then few hives? If I do not write on box a few notes I forget hive details and last inspection date. Hope this was somewhat on topic.


Agreed, and I wasn’t trying to imply that. The question seemed to be specifically about spotting queen cells, I didn’t take the next step into what I do when I find one.

I usually do a modified Snelgrove split if it looks like they are going to swarm. Page 17 of this booklet:


I don’t agree with that. A queen cell is capped for 8 days, so the bare minimum for spotting a fully drawn and capped queen cell is 8 days. :blush: It will likely be identifiable as a queen cell for quite a bit longer in most cases, say at least 12 to 16 days.


My post was not in response to anything you said. I guess I posted it that way. Probably wrong reply button. What I posted was for the newer beekeeper. Seasoned beekeepers know what to do and they know that there is more than one way to accomplish something.


I didn’t take it that way, but I am a bit neurotic, and hate to mislead people. So I just had to clarify. I enjoy your posts very much, please keep adding them. :blush:


Hey Dan, this is your last post. Where have you been? I hope you’re ok, cheers