Beekeeping Terms beginning with Q

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queen bees make two main sounds - 'quacking' while still in the queen cell before they hatch, 'tooting' after they hatch. Quacking and tooting are collectively known as Piping.


queens are formed from fertilised i.e. female producing eggs. Any fertilised egg may become a queen, however it is the care given by the workers that determines the outcome. Generally the existing queen will lay a fertilised egg in a queen cup which the workers then extend to form a queen cell. They fill the cell with Royal Jelly after the egg hatches and this is what determines the outcome for the larva. It is given only royal jelly, unlike workers which, after a few days of royal jelly, are changed to a diet of bee bread (pollen mixed with honey). From the egg being laid to hatching takes 16 days but the queen is not sufficiently mature to mate until 4 days after hatching. If she does not mate by the 25th day after hatching she is too old to mate. The queen produces queen substance, a pheromone, which helps regulate the activity in the colony. She is constantly attended by her entourage of workers who groom her and feed  her. She can lay up to 2,000 eggs a day at the height of the season, twice her bodyweight. She may lay a few eggs each day even in the dead of winter if the nest temperature can be maintained. The queen has a smooth unbarbed sting which is only used against other queens, it can be used repeatedly.

Queen Cage

a number of different designs are available. Some are devices used to catch and keep hold of a queen bee until the beekeeper can mark her, or to keep her safe while performing some manipulation of the colony; some are used to house the queen, with a number of attendants who will feed and groom her, for a number of days, eg when introducing a queen to a new colony or when sending a queen in the post, this type is also called a butler cage.

Queen Cell

an elongated cell that looks like a peanut shell, on the bottom or face of a frame. Generally near the middle of the brood nest. It is an indication that the bees feel the need to swarm or are replacing a lost queen or a queen that they feel to be inadequate  - see supersedure.

Queen Color

there is a convention for the colours used to mark queens to identify the year they were born. White Yellow Red Green Blue is the order and white years are those which end in a 1 or a 6; yellow for years ending in 2 or 7; red for 3 or 8; green for 4 or 9 and blue for 5 or 0. 2015 queens will be marked blue. Simple mnemonics are used to aid in remembering the order: (1-5) 'will you rear good bees'  or, (0-4) 'be warned you require gloves', 'begin with your royal girl'

Queen Cup

worker bees quite often make these wax cups on the sides and bottoms of foundation and frames. They can be extended into queen cells. They may be an indication that the colony is considering swarming. Sometimes called play cups as they often come to nothing.

Queen Excluder

a mesh of metal or plastic in which the slots/gaps are large enough to allow workers to pass through but are too small for the larger queen to pass through. A queen excluder is normally used between the brood box and the supers to prevent the queen laying in the supers so that any honey extracted is uncontaminated by larvae. The direction of the slots/gaps should be perpendicualr to the direction of the frames. Queen excluders can be flat sheets, with no bee space, or framed in which case they may have a beespace on one or both sides. Occasionally used below a brood box to prevent a queen from leaving with a swarm.

Queen Right

a colony is described as queen right if there is evidence of a queen, ie eggs and brood. Queens exude queen substance which has a calming effect on the colony. A non-queenright colony is generally very bad tempered and will either be in the process of replacing a lost queen or will need to be provided with a queen if they are to survive.

Queen Substance

queens produce a pheromone that is passed from bee to bee around the colony. When the colony becomes very large the substance is effectively diluted among so many bees and this can trigger swarming. Removing a queen from a colony for as little as 15 minutes can dilute the pheromonesufficiently for them to be visibly seen to become more anxious.