Saturday, July 25, 2009

What Queen Cells Look Like

If you're a new beekeeper like me when you lift out frames of comb and see bumps sticking up you probably ask yourself, what is that?

The drones (male bees) are usually laid in cells along the top and bottom of the frame. I'm not sure why the queen chooses that spot, maybe because the centres of the frame are focused for the workforce of the hive - the female worker bees.

When I see a row of drone comb along the rop edge of a frame I don't seem to have a problem recognizing it. But when I saw only two cells like the ones on this photo, I wasn't so sure.

This photo is a frame of honey with a patch of brood comb and within the patch are 2 drone cells. I had this confirmed by an experienced beekeeper and friend, Henry Heimstra, who looked at my hives.

Then I saw these two very large cells on the bottom of the frame.

The cells come out from burr comb so this time I was really unsure... were these 2 cells drone comb or queen supersedure cells? The cells just looked so huge and domed that it was really hard to tell.

Henry confirmed that the two large cells at the bottom of this frame are drone comb.

He said that queen cells are always directed downwards, not across.

(Don't hesitate to click the photos to see the enlarged version)

See the photo at left how the cell goes upwards? That's what makes it drone comb.

On Hive #2 though we did find a queen cell located at the bottom of the frame. See the photo below.

Dad managed to grab a photo looking straight into the comb where you can see the white puddle of royal jelly. If you click to enlarge the photo you can actually see a tiny white crescent shaped larva sitting in a pool of the white royal jelly.

The cells is on the bottom of the frame, turned up for the photo so you can see it.

You'll notice that the direction the cell is being built is downwards.

On closer inspection there was a larvae inside the queen cell.

So my bees have decided they'd like a new queen.


PhilipH said...

Brenda, Superb article and photographs again. Terrific stuff.

My wife and I are going to visit a honey farm about 20 miles or so from our place. It looks as though it will be a good place to visit.

It's called the ChainBridgeHoney Farm. Website:

Regards, Phil

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

Your visit should be very interesting. The flavour of honey is determined by the flowers the bees feed from. I'd be really nice to try heather honey.

Monika said...

I am enjoying your posts and photos. What kind of camera are you using to take these amazing pictures?
Milton FL USA
2 hives

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

Hi Monika. Thanks for your comments. I'm using a Fujifilm Finepix digital camera for the photos. It has a macro setting which I can use for closeup shots. Half the time though I get too excited and go too close and end up with fuzzy photos. So when one works out it feels more accidental than deliberate :)

Kathleen said...

I'm new to beekeeping and have a question..... I. Have a cell formation in a hive and would love some info... I have a picture of it and would like to send it to u...... Kat....

Beekeeper Barbara said...

Hi Kat. You can email me at

Queen cells always point downwards and are either situated on the bottom of the frames or in the middle section.

The big muffin top, bullet-like cells that go side to side are drone cells and are usually along the bottom and top edges and on top of the frames between the boxes - bees love that space to put drone comb.