Why there are queen cells in a new nuc?

7-FAQ-3Cleo Hogan, one of our favorite beekeepers and regionally known expert (as well as an annual speaker at Kelley’s Field Day) shared that he is frequently asked by people who have purchased nucs (from various sources) why there are queen cells/supercedure cells etc. in them. His answer follows.

Actually it is quite normal to see queen cells, supercedure cells, etc. in a nuc. When a split is made to start a nuc colony, it contains unsealed brood. Often, a nuc is not provided to a new queen for a day or so, (whenever the beekeeper gets to it, or receives queens.) Partly because of the reduced size of a nuc box, bees in a nuc determine very quickly that they are queenless, and immediately take action to make a new queen while the eggs are still viable. Even when the queen is introduced and in her cage, she is of no benefit to the new split because she cannot lay eggs in a cage, and the clock is ticking.

I tell people not to worry about swarm, supercedure, or queen cells in nucs. It does not mean they are about to swarm; it just means they are taking immediate action to ensure their survival. If the new queen gets out, and starts laying, most often the queen cells will be destroyed. Sometimes the bees will allow the survivor queens to emerge, be bred, and return to the hive before eliminating all but one. That’s why you occasionally see two queens in a nuc for a few days. Apparently they don’t want to kill one of the new queens until they are sure the other queen is a good one.

I try not to interfere. However, if you put a real expensive queen in the nuc, and/or a queen with genetics you desire, you might want to kill the queen that emerged from the brood, or destroy those queen cells. Otherwise, that emerging queen may kill your purchased queen, or the colony may do so in preference to the queen they made. Conclusion:  Nucs are highly unlikely to swarm for at least a few weeks, and then only after they have had a chance to build up and become overcrowded.

  • email