Queen Cups With Eggs! – Crocus Hive Inspection 5-26-12

Queen Cups With Eggs!

Crocus spent the end of April and beginning of May ditching and evicting drones when they reared new bees faster than they could feed them.  Then we were hit with cold rainy weather which prevented the field bees from foraging.  I was worried this hive may be starving.

I checked them briefly on 5-13 and they were doing much better.  Without any feeding and despite the rain, they had deposited three frames of nectar and some pollen.  There were still many empty frames in the bottom super and room for the queen to lay, although the hive was filled to the brim with bees.

On 5-26 I checked them again.  Both supers were overflowing with bees. It was hard to manipulate frames without touching bees or smoking them.

Top super full of bees

The bees were calm and gentle as normal.  Despite being mostly empty, the bottom super was just as full of buzzing little bees as the top.  Every single frame was absolutely covered in them.

Bottom super with frame removed. Look at all the bees on the frame inside.

A few bees were carrying red pollen which was interesting to see.

A bee carrying red pollen.

The girls had eaten much of the 3 frames of nectar they had during the previous inspection. There wasn’t any capped honey and only a few frames which were half full of nectar and some pollen.  There was not enough food in there for all the bees in this hive.  They just didn’t seem to be gathering it as fast as they consumed it.

Nectar in the cells.

The queen was laying mostly in the top super and the bottom was filled with 9 empty frames of comb with only one frame in the middle containing some capped brood and queen cups.

Queen Cup With Egg

Then I spotted it!  Staring right at me inside a queen cup and below some drone comb was a white glistening egg.  It was still standing upright so I knew it was only a day or two old.  A newly deposited egg will slowly lay down until it is resting on the bottom of the cell when it hatches on day 3 to a larvae. Further inspection of the hive revealed another queen cup with a day old egg standing upright in the cell.  Despite the lack of food these bees were beginning swarm preparations.

The queen cup is on the bottom of the frame near the drone comb. I had to tilt the frame sideways to get a picture of the egg inside it.

Now I had to make a decision. Do I split this hive to prevent swarming or cut out the queen cups?  There were more empty queen cups the bees could use to raise a queen and they could always rebuild the ones I cut out.  As a rule, I hate cutting queen cells and try not to do it so I don’t end up queenless by mistake.  It’s still a possibility the bees are only trying to replace the queen and not swarm, despite the location of the cups. 

I really didn’t want to split this hive but didn’t want swarming bees in my neighbor’s yard either.  I decided splitting was the better option.  I had to put together more equipment first, since I used my only extra setup for my swarm call the day before.   I would wait and split the hive the next day if the eggs had hatched.  Hopefully this would give the bees more room and stop their swarming preparations in time.

Read my next post to find out what happened during the split and if I was able to stop the swarm.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. Crocus Hive Check 4-13-12
  2. First Honey Super Of The Year Added To Crocus Hive 4-16-12
  3. Crocus Hive Inspection 4-25-12 – The Uncapping Of The Drones
  4. Ditching The Drone Pupae And Local Swarms Abound
  5. Bee Swarm Call 1 – “There’s A Bee Swarm On The Power Lines”

Author: Anita Deeley

Anita Deeley is a biologist and former state bee inspector who maintains 100 honey bee hives. She is the beekeeper, writer, owner and creator of BeverlyBees.com. When she is not spending time with her girls (the bees), she enjoys being a wife to her beekeeping cohort, Brian and mother to 3 little boys (the beekeepers in training). Read more about Anita here >> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Connect with Anita on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Facebook here.


  1. If I was your neighbor I would not complain of swarming bees! Good luck on the split.

  2. I never knew that about the position of the egg!

    Eagerly awaiting the next installment…

    • It’s good to know. You can use the egg position to determine how long ago the queen laid the eggs which is really helpful in a variety of situations. In this case using the egg position I can predict the exact day the new queen will hatch out. Also if I see brand new eggs, I don’t even bother to look for the queen because I know she is in there somewhere.

  3. The exact same thing happened to me last week! Just 2 months after installing my first package of bees I discovered queen cups (empty) and got a swarm call that same day where I used my (only) other bottom board and lids. I rushed out to get more equipment on the chance that I’d need to do a split but my local store was sold out. They ordered what I needed but I didn’t get it in time to paint it. To my relief the queen cups still looked empty this past weekend and I haven’t had to split yet.

  4. I’m always running out of bee equipment it seems. Just when I think I have enough set aside I end up using it for whatever reason and need to get more. It’s funny how bee hives just seem to multiply at times.

    I have used a piece of plywood as a temporary lid in pinch and a Snellgrove board as a bottom board. Sometimes you have to get creative until a proper home can be obtained!

    The bees will build Queen Cups just to have around. They will also take them down and put them back up. If you cut them out, they will rebuild them so I usually just leave them. Just check them during your inspections to see if they have anything in them. Once they start elongating the cup to a queen cell that’s when you really know they are serious!

    This hive ended up taking down the queen cups by themselves even though they had eggs in them and I didn’t have to split them after all. 🙂