Queen cells present already...well almost!!!

Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum

Help Support Beekeeping & Apiculture Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


New Bee
May 3, 2009
Reaction score
Hive Type
Good evening one and all.

This will be my first thread so here goes.

3 of my hives, all Nationals, are packed with bees (no this is not an opportunity to brag etc!!). So much so that when I opened the hives for the first time on Friday they were building comb all over the place. The queens were all found (new queens last year which are marked and mongrel) and are laying across 6 frames, if not 7 and were clearly crying out for space. In these 3 hives there were 'play cells'/queen cups. I was surprised by this to say the least and scratched them anyway. Each hive does have drone comb present and a few drones mooching around.

Well today I went to the hives again for a more thorough look as the early start threw me (I have only kept bees for 2 years, this is my 3rd season), especially since the winter has been so cold and harsh. Today there were a few more cups but in one hive they had moved day old eggs into two of the queen cells. These too I scratched.

What have I done? Well I have removed two frames of stores from each hive and added fresh foundation to replace the two removed. The pollen barriers have been checked and moved to the outer end of the brood chamber. I have removed the excess foundation (general tidy up) and left them. Do I now super up? I am led to believe that building comb between the hive and crown board is the time to super up but clearly I am reluctant to do this so early on. Is it too early? I have drawn supers ready to go.

Oh yes, my bees are in the city centre (midlands) and can step out their hive and onto cherry, willow, etc. I suspect the warmer temperatures of the city have speedied things up and sheltered them from the worst of this years weather. They were certainly out flying early.

Thoughts please? Do I now need to prepare to artificially swarm them? Or will the new wax (space and stuff to do) keep them busy? Supers?

Surely its too early for swarms. They caught me out last year, and I was told that it was very early and that was the last few days in April - they did actually swarm late April.

1/ Pretty much every colony of bees on the planet will have queen cups. They mean nothing. However, the fact that the queen has laid eggs in queen cups is of more relevance (workers do not move eggs into them), but this does not necessarily mean that the workers will allow these eggs to develop into new queens.

2/ If your bees are in tiny little National brood boxes, well, they are kind of too small for the prolific strains of bee you typically find in the UK. The term 'swarm box' springs to mind. Many new beeks end up upsizing to double brood or 14x12.

If your bees are indeed in single National boxes, by all means, stick on a super of drawn comb, if only to give the bees more space when they are crowded indoors on a rainy day.
Last edited:
Given that this is your 3rd year and mine to so you may wish not to listen to my advice but if me yes its time for a super things are starting to improve and it sounds as though your bees need the space
Add the supers.
There's likely to be nectar coming in so they need somewhere to put it. Foundation frames are second best in a good nectar flow.
Further, across 6 frames is a bit subjective. Equivalent full brood frames is the way to assess brood space.

You say 'clearly crying out for space'. That is fairly clear, yet you didn't give them more? They need more brood space and possibly a super shortly. I would suggest you either dispense with the queen excluder or put them on double brood soonest.

Swarming will be precipitated if there is insufficient space, whatever the situation at this time of the year and you may already be in that 'window'. You should be able to collect a couple supers of honey before they get so big that they are driven to reproduce (unless they are a very swarmy strain).

If they are building in every nook and cranny it is beyond the time for adding space - I say space as it sounds like brood space is needed. If they have been that active as you say, you should not have been surprised at the development. That will come with experience.

If she is laying at a good rate she will have filled the brood shortly; a super would give them somewhere to move some of the stores they are obviously amassing and make a bit of laying space, but not enough I would think.

As MB says 14 x 12 is a common upgrade these days. Mine are all on 14 x 12 and some will be laying (temporarily) in another super above. In fact, one of my Dartingtons has far more brood equivalent in the brood frames than your boxes and she is laying in a super as well. I have added two extra foundation frames and there is no drone brood hatched, so a way off swarming yet. My other Dartington does not have as much brood but they are both ahead of the others in 14 x 12 Nationals. I expect to drop a super on a couple hives next week.

Regards, RAB
Last edited:
I'd buy 3 new nucs, let them make queens, split the colonies, and have a good night out on the proceeds of 3 nucs!!
Thank you one and all.

The supers are now on.

I am aware that Nationals can be considered 'small' and people upsize. I also know of beekeepers that have gone back to standard nationals. I may well consider the upsize.

Double broods, there appear to be as many pros to this as there are cons. Brood and half likewise. As a relative new comer it is a minefield out there, with so much conflicting and varying information/advice and people waiting to take your cash.

I think artifically swarming them could be the way forward. Lots of people need bees so nucs could be the way to go at this stage, and mine clearly are busy so should build up fast.

Like many hobbies, experience is your best friend.
Now is not quite the time to make up nucs unless you have mated queens ready for them.