Queen Cell Locations and their Meanings

A queen cell located at the bottom of the frame is usually indicative of a swarm cell. A hive may prepare to swarm for a variety of reasons:

  1. The colony has outgrown its space. In this case, you may wish to consider splitting your hive. To split your hive, place 2-3 frames of drawn brood comb with worker bees and the old queen cell into the center of a nuc box, with extra drawn or empty frames on either side. Leave the new queen withdrawn brood comb and workers in the old hive. After birth, the queen will take her mating flight – Breeding with area drones and continuing to grow her new colony. The surviving queen from the original hive will raise her new hive, ensuring the continuation of your original colony. Note: A virgin queen will mate with drones of her choosing. Therefore, you may contract a new strain of honeybees. It’s important to monitor the young hive for mites and evidence of disease from the bred colony.
  2. High mite load. A hive with a hive mite load will swarm or abscond entirely. Symptoms of a high mite load include visible mites on worker bees, high mite counts identified through sugar roll or alcohol wash, temperamental bees during routine checks. Beekeepers can prevent a swarm due to high mite counts by consistently checking mite counts and treating them appropriately. Visit our article on Treating + Preventing Mites here.

A queen cell located in the center of the frame is indicative of a supersedure, or replacement queen. If you find a queen cell in the center of the frame, take no action. It is likely that your current queen is sick or failing, and the hive is looking to replace her. The new, virgin queen will need to go on a mating flight to ensure the health and prosperity of the hive. Do not disturb the hive for 3 weeks. After 21 days, check the hive to see if a new brood is present. If no new brood is present, consider purchasing a mated queen from a local, trusted vendor. 

Finally, bees may raise an emergency queen in the event of a catastrophic, sudden loss of their queen. Emergency queens may be located anywhere within the hive, but are usually found toward the center. Like a replacement queen, this hive should be left alone for 3 weeks to allow the virgin queen to flourish. 

“Queen cell” by Max xx is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


swarm cells
“Swarm Cells” by blumenbiene is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This queen cell, located at the bottom of the frame, is surrounded by a healthy brood pattern. The healthy brood pattern indicates that the current queen is thriving. The cell is likely to be a swarm cell. It is recommended that the beekeeper perform a split. 


Replenishment Cells
“Replenishment Cells” by blumenbiene is licensed under CC BY 2.0

These queen cells are located in the center of the frame and are considered replacement queens. While the brood pattern surrounding the cells appears healthy, beekeepers are advised to trust the bees, as the queen may be ill or old. This hive should be left alone for 3 weeks, allowing the virgin queen to mate with a local drone and begin laying. 

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