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Newly purchased nuc has queen cups

Hi everyone. I am new to bee keeping & have a Flow hive full of bees which is a joy to watch.

I purchased another nuc from local, well respected beekeepers as I wanted a second colony so I could share resources when or if necessary.

I dropped off my nuc box on Saturday morning & bees were transferred that evening. I collected them Mon morning after being told my nuc box was very small (it fits 5 frames in easily when empty) & they had to trim the frames back to be able to fit them in - they later told me they keep 7 frames in an 8 frame box, or 9 in a 10 to give them more room (no wonder they didn’t fit!)

I transferred the frames into a 10 frame box on Tues morning noticing a queen cup on the bottom of a very heavy brood frame. Unfortunately, I forgot to put my glasses on, but I was sure I could see a larva inside the open cup.

I reopened the hive today to double check, & there are at least 6 cups along the bottom of the frames - some open & some capped. Looking at the time frame for this, I believe some of these cups would have been there prior to the transfer on Sat into my nuc box.

I contacted the people I purchased the bees from today & they felt it was because of the size of my nuc box & their suggestion is to remove the cups. This goes against info I sourced from my Australian Beekeeping book, as all this will do is prolong the inevitable swarming.

What does your collective knowledge suggest I do?

Will the fact that they are now in a bigger box stop them swarming if I remove the cups?

Should I split - I would then have 2 very small colonies - I could give them extra bees from the Flow Hive if I went down this path.

Thanks for any advice,

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Welcome to the forum Karen, you will find lots of friendly and helpful members here only too happy to give you tips and a helping hand and a good move to have a second hive for the reason you have already covered.
If you ever get the chance to look in an 8 frame and a 10 frame box at the same time you will notice the 8 frame box has about 1cm gap to spare with all the frames in it, and that gap is really handy when you want to remove a frame. You will also see in a 19 frame box there is no gap and it is often a real shove to get the 10th frame in. A lot of experienced bee keeps remove the 10th frame and leave a gap on each side of the frames, a heap easier to do an inspection that way and reduces crushing bees.
So to your queen cells, firstly I would check that there is actually a queen in the colony and that will decide your next step. If there is a queen laying I would squash the queen cells, my reason is that we are talking basically about a nuc sized colony and making a split with that will leave you will a very weak(in numbers) colony that is very vulnerable to issues like SHB and robbing. Having placed the nuc in a full sized box and eliminating the queen cells it is very likely that they will settle down and build up quickly.
You could do a split and add frames from the Flow Hive to boost the splits numbers and also weakening out the FH if it is really strong, but have you got the knowledge to pull it off successfully, I’m not knocking you but you are saying you are new to bee keeping. If you decide to go that way maybe find a local bee keeper to give you a hand, and it is doable. But I would like to see everything before I would advise going one way or the other.
In closing I’m wondering why all the queen cells as I would think you are well past swarming season. I’m not one for killing queen cells but they are a resource that at another time could be very usable but are an issue now.
Love to hear an update on what you decide to do, but done well either could be a good result.


I recently bought 2 nucs, one was stronger than the other and 3 weeks after getting it I noticed about 8 swarm cells, I destroyed them and within a week they were making more.

So I split the box taking all swarm cells and leaving the queen with everything else.

the swarm cells are due to hatch any day now and the queen right hive started to build more swarm cells, I took one frame with 3 large cells and made a small nuc with a really full frame of sealed brood and a frame off uncapped honey from another hive.

So I now have two colonies waiting on swarm cell queens to hatch, one in the original box and the second small nuc made up of only 3 frames.

I feel the bees knew we were going to get a bit of rain and started to prepare for a swarm, within days we had 60mm of rain.

We currently have a pretty good nectar flow happening here, tons of pollen coming in as well.


Thanks for the replies.

The photos aren’t great, but you can make out 3 queen cells.
The bees are not very active, although this evening I saw a few returning with pollen. Mostly just hanging at the entrance.
I will wait until the weekend to remove the cells - another 40+ degree day tomorrow here.

Redline, I hope I don’t have the same problems as you & will be very pleased if Peter’s prediction of them settling in their bigger box is correct.


The ones I can see look like “play cups” to me. Not a real queen cell. I would give them a chance in their new box, and re-examine a week after you moved them. By the way, the photos are very helpful, even if you don’t think that they are all that great! :blush:


Hi Dawn, I agree that the photos are helpful. Those queen cups look advanced to me. I’m pretty sure I can see a grub in the cup of the second photo. As well as the queen cup in the top photo looks more advanced than a play cup. In the bottom photo, you can just make out the almost fully extended queen cell behind those bees on the bottom bar.

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Hmm, I must need new glasses. I am not seeing it right. Can you circle the bits you are describing @JeffH?

Edit - never mind, I got it now. Because the photos are slightly blurry, I thought those were smooshed wax. I agree, looking closer, the bees want a new queen… :blush:


Photos don’t seem clear enough to me. You could probably convince me either way at the moment

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I’m tending to agree with @BayoNat that the pics are to blurred for me to decide if they are just play queen cells or seriously advanced. A bee hive will commonly have a few play queen cells and knocking them down is futile, they will just make more.
It is really hard to take a good photo close up of a queen cell especially if you are wearing gloves, to get a good close up with some cameras it is borderline in the range of focus.

Hi Karen, I know where the supplier is coming from because I space 9 frames in a 10 frame box, however I don’t put 7 frames in an 8 frame box.

If you had a coreflute nuc box, they are hard to squeeze frames into without trimming some of the wax down from off the frames. It could be possible that the queen got killed or balled during the transfer. Therefore those queen cells could be emergency queen cells. The position of the queen cell in the photo indicates to me that it possibly could be an emergency queen cell.

I think it would be important to identify whether you still have a queen in that colony. If you can’t find the queen or any newly laid eggs, that would indicate to me that the queen has died. By this evening, that will be 5 days without a queen. Therefore you shouldn’t even see any tiny larvae. So bare that in mind.

If they are emergency queen cells, leave them be so that you’ll get a new queen via natural selection. Make a note of the date of the transfer, then check again in 1 months time, no later.


I had to delay my inspection until this morning due to the heat & fire risk yesterday.
I searched & searched for the elusive queen & I could not find her. I could not see any eggs, although there are largish larvae. Since Tuesday, they have emptied a frame of honey.
Hopefully I have done the right thing…

I removed open & small queen cups, leaving 2 of the biggest capped, 1 at the bottom of a frame & one central (hadn’t noticed this one previously).

I opened one of the capped cups & have attached a picture of the larva. Being 2cm long, am I right presuming this larva is at day 9-11 of its life cycle, therefore in the nuc before I brought it home?

Thanks for everyone’s previous comments.

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the good news is it seems quite a developed and powerful nuc. The other good news is you could possibly take advantage of the queen cells and split the Nuc into two if you wanted another hive? As someone who sells the odd Nuc- I have some sympathy for the seller- it isn’t always easy to know exactly what bees will do- and just the act of transferring the colony poses a small risk to the queen. The fact that you saw largish larvae and no eggs indicates a hive that has possibly gone queenless- but only in the last 6 to 9 days. Also that larvae is around 9-11 days old- but if it is an emergency queen it could have been started from a tiny larvae that was intended to be a standard bee- but was turned into a queen in an emergency. It takes 21 days to make a queen- but in an emergency they can start with a three day old larvae and so it only takes 18 days from there. I am not exactly sure of your timeline but it seems just possible the queen died in the transfer and they started making a new one in the day or two before you picked up the hive?

If you used a coreflute Nuc box- as Jeff said they are tighter than standard Nuc boxes and the frames only just squeeze in with no room to spare at the sides- I can’t put 5 frames from one of my normal hives into a coreflute box without shaving them down to fit. I have actually decided I don’t much like coreflute boxes- they are OK for temporary swarm catching- but I have found swarms do not develop as well in a corelfute as a wooden nuc. It is hard to close the lid without squashing bees.

In a larger box I don’t think the hive will swarm- just requeen- especially now you have removed some of the cells. However take care to make sure it doesn’t end up queenless. You would want to largely leave it alone for around 20 days from now- until a new queen has emerged and hopefully gotten mated. It could take as long as 25 days before she starts to lay. Apparently it’s best to leave a hive alone during this period.

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Hi Jack, it’s only 16 days for a queen. 21 for a worker. It’s the royal jelly that makes the difference. It’s hard to believe that switching from bee bread to royal jelly can make that much difference. She emerges 5 days earlier & ready for a fight to the death.

It’s different with our native bees. Royal jelly is too complicated for them. For them to make a queen, all they do is make the cell bigger & give the larvae more of the same food that the workers get. I don’t know whether she emerges any quicker.


our stingless queens actually take a few more days to complete their development Jeff.


Hi Jeff. You are correct it does take only 16 days for them to make a new queen, but there’s another 5 days or so for her to mate and start laying.


yup- you are right- I forgot. It is so odd that the most crucial interesting bee of them all is formed the fastest! Funny old drones take 24!

It is amazing- not only does the royal jelly change her entire body shape and development it somehow leads to an extension of life up to 50 or more times the bee standard. Remarkable! My brother actually became obsessed by Royal Jelly when he read a Rhoald Dahl ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ story as a kid about a guy that turns into a bee after eating it. He got my mum to buy him some vials of it when she went to China in the late 1970’s and he ate it all hoping to turn into a bee…

Decades later and this spring he was eating the uncapped queen cells in his hive after it swarmed. He said the taste was indescribably foul but utterly unique. There is a surprising volume of jelly in those cells… they are like a little gourmets delight- a larvae swimming in royal jelly in a bees wax bowl. I am sure that restaurant Noma would sell tiny plates of them with proplis and pollen garnish and a swish of honey for a small fortune to the richest people on Earth.


Hi & thanks Brett, since out last talk I met two people who’s TCs got taken over by TH’s. Apparently the TH’s use the TCs that emerge out of the cells as virtual slaves. Therefore for a couple of months or more you’ll get a mix of both bees in the colony.
I did a split at my place for a lady yesterday. They turned out to be TH’s. She had a “fighting swarm” about 12 months ago. I made a mistake of doing the split next to one of my TC colonies. Instead of the flying bees going back to their original hive, they swarmed & tried to overtake the closest TC hive. So I moved that hive away & replaced it with an empty box containing some TC brood. Now I have a colony containing the flying TH’s as well as the returning TCs combined.

Next time I split TH’s, I’ll do it well away from my TCs.

uhm, what is TH and what is TC?


I have a suspicion that the gentlemen above are discussing stingless bees, and the “T” stands for Tetragonula

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Hi Jack, Plop is correct. Sorry about that. Tetragonula Carbonaria & Tetragonula Hockingsi. The Hockingsi are 1/2 a mm longer than the Carbonaria & have a completely different brood pattern. The Hockingsi are renowned for taking over a Carbonaria nest. They engage in “fighting swarms”, then they eventually take over a hive.

In the fighting swarms, two bees lock in battle where there are no winners, apparently. Apparently both die locked in battle on the ground by the hundreds or even thousands. I’ve never had it myself, however I tell people: if it starts to happen, move the hive away because it happens for many days running. A native hive only needs to be moved 1km because their range is only 500m max.

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