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Queen, Drone and Worker Cells

by Eddie Dillion

Drone and Worker Brood

Drone and Worker Brood

What is the difference between a drone cell and a queen cell when looking at brood?

Thank you very much,

Eddie Dillon


Hi Eddie

It's very important to distinguish between drone cells, worker cells and queen cells. Often new beekeepers have trouble, it's actually very easy to tell the difference once you've seen all three types of cell.

The picture above shows drone cells on the left, you can see the cells have a domed cap which protrudes beyond the level of the comb. The worker cell cappings on the right are almost flat in the same manner as capped honey, although of course the color is different.

Below is a photo of two capped queen cells. Once you've seen queen cells I think you'll recognize them immediately. Even in the early stages the elongated cell, which is turned to hang downward, it much bigger and quite obviously different.
A capped queen cell, clearly much larger that drone and worker cells.

Queen cells which are on the bottom of comb are usually swarm cells. If swarm cells are seen, often a number of individual cells, it probably indicates that the colony is preparing to swarm. New beekeepers are advised to remove these to prevent swarming. However this is not the whole answer, removing the queen cells doesn't remove the urge to swarm.

It's a good idea to at least give the colony more room, but ideally make a split by moving some of the frames into another box. It might be advisable to find and kill the queen, leaving a queen cell to replace her.

Queen cells which are built in the center or near the top of the comb are more usually supercedure cells.

Once a swarm has found its new location, and begun to established itself, it will need to replace the old queen which lead the swarm. An egg, possibly more than one, is chosen and fed royal jelly continuously until it's ready to be capped. Before the new queen emerges from its cell the workers will 'ball' the old queen, clustering around her and raising her temperature until she is dead.

Empty queen cells on a comb from a cut-out.

I recently removed a colony from a sprinkler box and found the comb above, there are 15 queen cells in various stages of building and destruction.

I hope that helps.

The Bee Guy

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