During early 2000 I had various Email conversations with
Rex Boys. Some of the following text is Rex's.
Play cells, also known as queen cups, are the little cells
that look like acorn cups, that appear as though the bees started
building a queen cell, then changed their mind and curved in the
entrance to be, what appears to be, the diameter of a worker cell.
These cups are always around and become part of the furniture so it
is easy to forget to look inside them but you do so at your peril
because they are the real thing.
Ask yourself how the queen decides whether or not to fertilise
the egg she is about to lay. There are various theories about how
this is achieved but the size of cell has a bearing on it. If the
cell entrance is a loose fit, nothing happens and the egg
remains unfertilised, producing a drone. If the fit is tight, it
turns on the tap and automatically produces a worker. (Dac comment...
This may be due to the amount of curvature of the queen's abdomen
needed to reach the wall of the wider drone cell. The curvature
causing a gap to open up as the egg passes so that fertilisation does
not take place.)
Rex questions "In that case how do you get a fertilised egg
in a queencell?" His reply "They start building a queen cell and when
it is the length of the queen's abdomen, they bell in the end and
make a worker sized entrance. Then one day, they lead the queen along
to this cell and ask her to lay an egg. She thinks it is an ordinary
worker cell and does not suspect what is really being planned."
The principle behind Rex's idea is that queen cups made on
the bottom of a frame usually have the lip curved inwards. It was
suggested by Rex that the smaller diameter that was created by this
inward curvature was there to indicate to the queen that the cell was
of a size in which a female egg must be laid.
I like Rex's theory... and I have a rather negative test
for it that I will try soon.
I have made a frame, illustrated left, that is only 178 mm deep with sixteen
j/z - b/z grafting cups along the bottom edge pointing downwards. As
the rims of these cups are rigid and are 9 mm diameter... if any
queens are raised in them it will disprove Rex's idea but it will not
answer any questions about the movement of eggs by worker bees.
I have thought that there may be some significance in the
diameter of the curled rim of play cells, if Rex is right, I see
The curled rim diameter is a function of the cellsize that the
bees developed in.
It is a link to the "natural" size of that strain of bee.
It is not relevant.
When the experiment takes place (summer 2001) I will record the