Queen Cup in newly established hive

Good Afternoon,

Im a first year bee keeper with a flow hive in the south of the U.K. I received a 5 frame NUC about 4 weeks ago all the bees have settled in nicely the queen is laying a good number of brood workers and drone cells are present and in good formations on the frames, There are quite a few drone cells present but not sure how many is too many! I saw the queen yesterday and new lava. Lots of young bees have hatched and there is a good nectar flow and lots of pollen and honey being produced. They have filled out two new frames with comb and the super box has been added which they are starting to coat with wax.

Yesterday while inspecting the hive i noticed what I can see as two Queen cells on different frames in the bottom middle and left of the frames.The bees seem to have plenty of room and are healthy i just wondered wether i should be expecting a swarm soon or any ideas you think on the course of action I should take. Bellow is a picture of one of the cells, This is the bigger of the two its in an awkward position so difficult to see inside it for any lava but will go back in a few days to have another look.

Thanks in advance for any ideas you may have.



1 Like

That is definately a queen cell and with a worker head into the cell says it has a future queen in it. You have a couple of option available and if you have a spare nuc box and the hive is strong I would take the frame with the queen cell, making sure the queen isn’t on it and make up a split adding another frame of brood, one of stores and fill the nuc out with frames, even frames with foundation is better than empty gaps. Add new frames checker boarded into the hive. Doing that the bees will think they have swarmed if you do it early enough. Make sure the hives queen remains in the hive.
Welcome to the forum Kevin, lots of nice folk here happy to help you along your journey.

Welcome. Nice looking queen cells developing there. Time to do some swarm management. You have a few days but not a week.


Thanks Peter, and I’m looking forward to learn a lot and use the resources at hand to better my knowledge.
I have a wax cardboard 5 frame Nuc, I currently only have one hive and I understand that they shouldn’t stay in a closed nuc too long. what would be the best option for the new nuc colony would I have to sell it on do you think if I can’t get a brood box in time.also there is a smaller queen cup on another frame would you transfer to the nut or leave with the old queen?
sorry if the questions seem silly just trying to gather as much info as poss.
Thanks for all your help its so useful
is is the frame with the other queen cup you can’t really make it out


What I would do is transfer the small queen cell to the nuc, but I can’t see it in the pics.
Bees in a nuc become cramped for space quickly and could abscond completely. You could sell a nuc easily but having a second hive has a heap of benefits needing only a little extra time from you doing inspections.

Hi Peter,
Thanks again for the quick response. Unfortunately the picture wasn’t very good the bees decided to move over the cell. Its located next to my glove on the bottom left. I was looking into the benefits of a second hive and would love to get one. Im only worried that In the current climate (Covid) i wouldn’t be able to get one in time before the bees outgrow the box, Im guessing I would have to leave the box alone for two weeks to let the new queen hatch and do her mating run?
I think Im going to try to get another hive and split the colony as you suggested with a checkerboard style and see if that works. fingers crossed ay! thank you for your help and ill let you know how i get on.

Not interfering it is very likely you will end up with a swarming situation with the loss of your present queen and about 1/2 of the bees in the hive.
What I do at my apiary is to always have spare hives on hand and do preemptive splits at the first signs that the hive is heading into swarming mode. Basically I con the colony into thinking it has swarmed but at a time that suits me. I don’t take a nuc, I divide the hive into two equal hives, it is called a walk away split and both hives remain in my apiary.
If you allow the hive to swarm then you have lost 1/2 the bees unless you are lucky enough to gather the swarm and have a spare hive handy.
Having a second hive has many benefits, like you can take frames of brood from a strong hive and donate it to the weaker hive, If you have a queen die then adding a frame of eggs from the queen rite hive then the queen-less hive can produce a new queen.
Inspection time with a second hive takes a little longer but you are already suited up and the smoker going so it isn’t a long time.
Be careful mate, bee keeping is very, very addictive and you might not be able to stop with two hives.
Happy to be of help Kevin

1 Like

Hi Peter always good to keep your opinions coming not interfering at all, learning!
So my plan is as follows. Ill be heading to the hive tomorrow ill check the queen cups for any signs of eggs. If, which its looking likely that it is a swarm cell then i will split the hive into a NUC with some brood pollen and honey stores on three frames, including the queen cells. i will add two frames to make this NUC a 5 frame and ill position it a few meters away from the old hive. I will leave this alone for two weeks to let the queen hatch and go on her mating flight, by this time my new hive would have arrived and i can transfer the new colony into their hopefully new home!
I will checker board the existing colony with new frames to simulate the swarm and keep an eye on their progress. making sure the queen is still there!
Hopefully that is the best solution all round and I can have another hive to watch.
Hope that all sounds good,
Thanks again Peter

1 Like

That is the preferred option I would pick. When you start the nuc don’t disturb them much, bees are easily stressed by being disturbed, more than a lot of bee keepers realize, so when you need to inspect work slow and smooth and the bees will stay calmer.
Please keep us updated. It is nice to hear positive updates.
Cheers Kevin.

1 Like

So Yesterday I went to my hive to do my split. It all went well, figures crossed. When I opened it up I noticed a lot more queen cells and two or three of them were sealed. maybe 8-9 in total. I also couldn’t find the queen to start with and was worried that she had already swarmed! think I was lucky with the bad weather and I managed to find her. with the queen found i managed to do a split so now its a waiting game to see if a new queen takes. can’t wait to see in a few weeks the outcome. Ill keep in touch.
Thanks for all the help its a real treat to find such a welcoming community of patient and passionate keepers.

1 Like

Glad to be of a help Kevin. Leave the split to settle that has the queen cells for 4 weeks, in that time the new queen will have emerged, hardened up and done her mating flight and returned to the hive and began laying. Just a slight risk that she falls victim on her mating flight to an insect eating bird.
Please keep us updated.

Hi Gang, Hope all is well, Quick question if anyone can help. I recently did a split (see above for more details) Basically taking the old queen into a new hive. Its been 9 days since the split the old queen hive seems to be building up comb and settling in well. I have left the original hive alone so the new queen will be able to do her mating flight and return to no disruptions. Today I noticed a rugby ball size swarm in a cherry tree about 10m from my hives, they were there and the original hive was bustling with activity outside. Around 10mins later I came back out and the swarm was nowhere to be seen and everything had settled down in the hive.
My questions are would the bees swarm that early after just making a new queen in a split?
would they leave the swarm site that quickly, could they have gone back to the hive?
should I open up the hive to see whats going on or still leave it for the 14 days recommended?
Thanks for your help! x

There are a few possible things that have happened so I’m going to play the percentage game of what is likely to have happened and forget that swarm possibly being from a totally unrelated hive – unless you want to bet on a three legged donkey winning at Epson. :grin:
So the swarm is more likely to have originated from the old queens hive, the new colony hasn’t produced a queen yet and if you did an even split they should be thinking along the lines they have already done it.
So we are left with the old queens hive to consider, a possible is that there was still a queen cell that you missed noticing so a good chance that the hive swarmed with the old queen.
When a swarm happens it is common for the swarm to cluster somewhere nearby for an hour to six hours while the scout bees look for a more permanent home, then the scout will let the cluster know they have new digs and off they go.
In your situation I would leave the new hive alone, assume that they are doing fine, the colony will be stressed enough with a new queen having emerged or about to soon. Doing an inspection down into the brood isn’t a good idea no matter how tempted you are.
The old colony I would leave it alone also, let nature do her thing, if there was a queen cell in there you missed then that would account for the swarming coming from it so I would leave it alone as well and wait to check after a few weeks. And look for new larvae in the hive then. The swarm could have been a secondary swarm.
It could have been a ‘practice swarm’ which would have returned to the hive, this can happen a day before the colony swarms for real, but not always. If your not sure what has happened then doing nothing isn’t a bad option.
I’m very into doing preemptive splits to prevent swarming, it takes a while to learn the signs and time it right but it is better than loosing half your bees that will in the future will be foraging the same area, so reducing your honey yield if you have many swarming events. Better to have a spare hive and do a split at a time of your choosing and if you don’t want the split then sell it as a full hive when the new queen has mated and laying.

Hi Peter
thanks again for stepping in and giving me your advice. these are great points. there are around 15 hives in the area so they could have come from any number of them.
I haven’t touched the new colony and won’t for another 8 days or so. The old colony and queen were transferred into a hive from a NUC box a few days ago, they looked healthy and were building comb on the frames i had put in. the queen was present and laying. There didn’t seem to be enough bees present to warrant a swarm. I thought it might be a practice swarm but found it strange that the new queen would take off that early on. I will keep an eye on the hives over the coming days and make sure it isn’t a practice swarm. I have a spare 5 frame NUC box ready incase we do have a swarm coming.
thanks again and i will keep in touch with progress.

Just a quickie Kevin, it has gone after 2am. Swarming can happen if the bee numbers is too big for the hive they are in, a nuc can swarm much quicker a a 10 frame double brood hive. When I do walk-away splits they go straight into an 8 frame brood box only hive and often a super is added a couple of weeks later.
Up early tomorrow for another full day at the apiary changing colonies out of wooden hives into poly hives and bringing boxes of honey home to extract tomorrow night so the stickies can go back onto the hives the following morning, whatever day of the week that is. :grin: :grin:
Catch you maybe tomorrow night.

Hi Peter,
Hope the apiary went well and the moves into poly hives and honey extraction went well. Just a follow up really and some advice, Im going to list everything I have done up to this point and see what you think.
So brood box installed with a 5 Frame nuc and queen put into brood box filling up with empty frames,
1 Week later lots of new comb on frames and lots of brood, Added the flow frame super,
1 week later Queen cell found, uncapped. decision made to get ready for a split.
1 week later lots more queen cells found two capped, original queen still in hive, Moved the queen and half the colony with brood and stores into a NUC while waiting for our second hive to arrive. destroyed all but two queen cells in the original hive and left them alone.
1 week later transferred the NUC into a brood box with extra frames added.
2 days later a rugby ball sized swarm appeared for 10 mins then went back into the original hive,
2 days later (Today) bees were flying round original hive and then half just up and left into the woods where we lost track of them, No resting or landing took place, lots of activity around the hive then just gone.

Sorry for the info overload, hope that all makes sense, So I believe we have had a cast off swarm or secondary swarm with a virgin queen. My question is do I now go into the original hive and destroy the queen cells bar two uncapped queen cells like before and hope she settles or do I leave the hive and hope they don’t do it again, if I leave it when should I check it 14 days, I haven’t been in there in nearly two weeks as was due to inspect soon for the new queen before she buggered off!
so sad to have lost the bees and I believe I have gone through the right processes and split at the right time. Its hard to know if I’m doing anything wrong as I’m very new to all this. any help would be grateful as usual.
thanks x

It sounds like you have done everything right Kevin. I suspect a secondary swarm happened.
I would be tempted to do an inspection of the original hive to verify a valid laying queen and check for capped queen cells. If there is a valid queen and there is a good brood pattern and the bees are not on the hot side then I would knock down any queen cells that are capped, but if the brood pattern is patchy or the bees on the hot side then I would terminate her and allow new queens to emerge.
I do my inspections every 14 to 21 days weather permitting. I do my splits as preemptive swarm control, before they make queen cells. Basically I split before the bees are thinking about doing it. Signs I look for is a sudden building of comb other than in the frames, especially in the roof, an increase in brood and bees, the frames really packed with brood, pollen, nectar and honey, in other words the hive is getting to small. It took me years to understand what I was actually seeing on inspections but knew I was getting it right with the reduction of swarms lost.
Yesterdays the swarm that returned to the hive after 10 minutes was probably a practice run and a warning that the next day it will be a full on swarm. But at that stage it is too late to intervene except to offer a trap hive which they might use.
Hope that explains.