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Ripe Queen Cell

A queen cell that is within a day or two from emerging

We often see or hear a reference to a "ripe" queen cell, but what is it? If you have a look at books or articles you are unlikely to see a definition. Why is that? Is it because everyone thinks that everyone else knows? Is it seen as being obvious? Is it because some of the writers, especially of newsletter and website articles, are simply copying others and may not know themselves? Whatever the reason I will state here what a "ripe" queen cell is, so that beekeepers, especially beginners are in no doubt.

It is a queen cell that is within a day or so of emerging, but it is not easy to tell by just looking at it. There is often a description that worker bees will thin down the wax at the tip of the cell back to the cocoon in the last day or so. This is thought to be so the queen inside can easily chew around the base of the cell in order to release herself. In my experience this happens most of the time, but not always, often catching the beekeeper out, especially with natural queen cells where it is difficult to tell their age.

I like to give ripe queen cells to mini-nucs, because they can sometimes be a little short of bees, meaning the queen's wings may not develop properly due to lack of warmth.

Roger Patterson.