My strongest colony which I thought had a hero queen had 4 supercedure cups and 1 swarm cup on the frame the queen was occuppying. The capped brood on that frame looked spottier than I've noted in the past, but still it was nearly filling the frame. The few open cells I figured had emerged already but I don't know. I didn't see any larvae but I didn't look too hard.
How much of a red flag is just the empty cups? At what point should I replace the queen?
I had planned on replacing her this Fall anyway from one of her own offspring but if they're going to do it themelves fine with me. I'm just a bit concerned that lolligagging about it will be expensive in productivity.
Time wounds all heals.
queen cell cups are fairly normal in established hives. most time I see more cups along the bottom bars that elsewhere.
many time empty cells in a solid pattern mean that the queen did not accept them as being ready to be laid in and simply passed them by. If her laying pattern is solid I would not worry about the queen.
when the pattern becomes more 'buckshot' or you begin to see large number of drone cell relative to workers is the time to implement action.