Wax Queen Cups

One of the elements I’m testing in the swarm queen grant are three different queen cups; standard JZBZ cups (8.5mm inner diameter), 3-D printed cups (9mm ID), and hand-dipped wax cups (9.5mm ID). The reason behind these three versions is that there’s evidence that larger queen cups allow for larger queens to a certain extent. (According to information in the 1983 publication Queen Rearing: Biological Basis and Technical Instruction by Friedrich Ruttner, 8-10mm ID is the range acceptable to honey bees.)

While I’m waiting for the grant’s i-s to dot and t-s to cross, I tested making wax cups at home. I can get them commercially, but by making my own I have more control over the final product.

From left to right: JZBZ, 3D printed, and wax cups.

While I don’t love rendering beexwax (taking it from an ugly mess to a heavenly, clean, golden block), I do love working with it! I used instructions in The Hive and the Honey Bee with the addition of printed bases to make them easier to handle the cells, and to insert them into my experimental frames. I turned out 20 of these lovely cups in about 15 minutes or less.*


It turned out to be a super-simple process. I took a 9.5mm dowel and shaved one end in a standard, wall-mount pencil sharpener (three full turns of the handle), then marked a line 9mm from the base (about the same depth as a JZBZ model. This gets soaked in plain water for about 15 minutes. (Hive & the Honey Bee notes soapy water, but I found this unnecessary — plus it keeps doesn’t leave any soap residue that might influence the bees.)


I dipped this in melted wax four times to provide a decent cup thickness. After the fourth dip, i quickly pressed it to the base. This got dipped into ice-cold water for about 5-10 seconds.


You can just see the 9mm mark I made on the dowel – I scored along that line and removed the excess for a clean(ish) cut.


Then I carefully removed the cup from the dowel. Voila! A beeswax queen cup that easily pops into a standard queen cell bar, and which I can pry or relocate easily.


For someone who wants just a few queen cups for personal use this is an easy and economical way to do so. (You don’t need the bases that I use — just tack the cups directly onto a queen bar.)

*Prep time not included (melting wax, printing bases, soaking dowels).

Northeast SARE LogoThis material is based upon work supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, through the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program under subaward number FNE24-102. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *