Cell cups, bars and frames

  • Larvae are placed in artificial queen cell cups (grafted). The cups are placed on bars which, in turn, are placed in frames (Fig. 1). Queen cell cups should measure 8-9 mm in diameter at the rim.
  • Cell cups can be produced from beeswax as described by Ruttner (1983) or Laidlaw (1979). Cells should always be rinsed, after removal from the dipping sticks (“cell mandrel”), to eliminate traces of soap. Cups made in advance should be kept free of dust by storing in a sealed box. Most queen producers attach their homemade beeswax cell cups directly to a cell bar with hot wax. Queen producers dip the base of the cell cups in molten beeswax (beeswax melts at 62.3-65.2°C) and firmly push the cup base onto the cell bar as the wax cools.
  • Alternatively, plastic cell cups can be purchased from beekeeping suppliers. The most popular are JZ-BZ Push In and Base Mount Queen Cell Cups from Mann Lake Ltd (http://www.mannlakeltd.com/) in the USA or Nicot in Europe (http://nicot.fr/).
  • Previously used plastic cell cups can be reused after scraping out royal jelly from the base of the cups and washing the cups in warm water with a little detergent (liquid soap, approx. 2 ml for 1000 ml of water). The cups should be left to dry out thoroughly before attaching them to a cell bar. Such cleaning might not prevent an outbreak of black queen cell virus (BQCV), so it is always better to use new ones.
  • Introducing plastic queen cell cups into strong colonies about one day before grafting allows the bees to clean, polish and warm the cells. Plastic cups are attached with molten clean wax as described by Ruttner (1983) or Woodward (2007).
  • It is recommended to dip the rim of the outside four cell cups located at each end of the cell bar into wax to increase the acceptance of grafted larvae.
  • Special push-in queen cell cups make preparing the cell bars simple. These cells have a raised area on their base that snaps into a groove on the cell bar. The bar then can be inserted into the frame. 
  • A frame (wooden, plastic or metal) of standard dimensions that will hold 2-4 cell bars can be used.
  • Usually, 10-20 cells are attached to each bar with 20-60 cell cups per frame


Fig. 1. Different: a. wax; and b-e. plastic queen cups and ways to attach them to the bars; f. frame with bars ready for grafting. Photos: J Wilde.

Figure 1