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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
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    Redwood City, CA
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    79

    Default Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Today I revisited a yard that I inspected on Saturday. I don't usually inspect so often, but here's why. I work with the 4-H as the project leader for beekeeping, and in return I get to use the space for my hives. Upon inspection, an open cell caught my eye that we had accidentally torn pulling one of the frames out. It had enough royal jelly to feed a queen, and I was certain it was a queen cell. I didn't mention it to the kids because we were long into the hive and it was time to close it up. They had had enough excitement (bees and kids) for one day.

    Sure enough, today I found a few queen cells, so I needed to deal with that. But as I ran through my colony, I wasn't finding any eggs in worker cells. Lot's of drone larvae and some eggs, and for a while I didn't know what to think. I think the worker cells had been back-filled with nectar and there was nowhere for her to lay. Then, as I was pretty tired + frustrated I saw my queen in the freshly added medium I provided on Saturday. It was the top box. There was quite a bit of nectar in the comb, but there were 2-3 frames with eggs everywhere. I thought, "OK, there's my queen, but I still have the QC's to deal with." I decided to place the queen with bees, brood, and food in a new medium. Something around 3-4 frames of bees. They'll be fine, but here are few questions I've got:

    I am sort of puzzled by the queen cells. Were they supercedure or swarm cells? There were only a few of them, but they were on the bottom of the frame like a swarm cell. The colony is solid with lots of bees. I would think there would have been more swarm cells. I found the queen laying eggs in the top box I had added a few days ago, and there were eggs everywhere - worker cells. A ton of drone brood in the bottom brood chamber as well. She seems like she is still laying well. I am guessing they were going to swarm. Any ideas on that?

    Also, as a new-ish (4th season) beekeeper without anybody showing me the ropes, sometimes I just do what I think is best in the moment, but then I hear someone with experience and have an "Ah-Ha" moment. What would you have done with this situation? Kept the queen in the mature colony? Moved the QC's to a new nuc/hive? Crushed the QC's? Nothing? Would love to hear what some of you would have done.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Grand Rapids MI USA
    Posts
    321

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Supercedure cells are (generally) on the comb, swarm cells on the bottom. What you did is what I would've done, make an artificial swarm.
    Last edited by rwlaw; 03-06-2014 at 06:18 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    Location
    Isle of Wight, VA
    Posts
    436

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    When you have that ah-ha moment, be sure to let me know. I've got the same scenario going on, except they already hatched a virgin queen mid February. Old queen is still there and I have 2 capped queen cells. Since tomorrow is supposed to be 60's, I'm gonna split into 3 colonies. I'm still puzzled whether it was swarm or superseedure since the old queen is laying like crazy. They are building more comb just to accommodate her. My brood area was also backfilled with nectar, and I wonder if that could have something to do with this kind of behavior.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Loup City, NE
    Posts
    178

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Beetastic, You did alright. Sounds like they were definitely going to swarm with cells at the bottom, and fortunately
    you found the queen and moved her with brood and bees to head off a swarm. Crushing Q cells or leaving the Queen
    would have left you with a swarmed hive. Good luck, you now have 2hives instead of one.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
    Posts
    79

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Good luck, you now have 2hives instead of one.
    Indeed! Back up to 9 hives. 21 more to go.

    When you have that ah-ha moment, be sure to let me know. I've got the same scenario going on, except they already hatched a virgin queen mid February. Old queen is still there and I have 2 capped queen cells.
    Wow, you have a lot going on in there for sure! Sounds like you are on the right path with your game plan. It's nice that you've had a bit of time (me too) to think about it. Seems like when I am faced with a decision in the yard, it's always when I'm hungry, tired, dehydrated, and my bees have had enough.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Victoria, Australia
    Posts
    660

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Supercedure cells can be anywhere on the frame. Not unusual for them to be at the bottom or side edges of comb. You need to look at the number of queen cells as well. 6 or less per brood box is typically supercedure. (Average of 1 or less per brood frame.)

    But note that some hives will do a supercedure and swarm too. I've seen a hive ball the queen when the queen cells were capped - supercedure, then filled up the broodnest with nectar over the next week. So because of the extra queens and no open brood they decided to swarm with the first virgin queen.

    Also, with Supercedure they may keep the old queen around for months if the new queen doesn't kill the old one.
    Last edited by MattDavey; 03-07-2014 at 03:41 AM. Reason: Clarification

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    1,318

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Ruthie,
    Saw your efforts to get an answer to your question on other threads. Didn't get an answer you liked? My answer would be: Let them supersede. It's too early on your bee's season schedule for a repro swarm, and they come first.

    Beetastic,
    You happen to be in that near-tropical, coastal strip that runs up the west coast into Oregon. Your bees may have had some brood and wax-making through the winter. That would account for their status this early in the season. I believe yours are superseding also. What you describe does not meet the typical format for reproductive swarming. Forget that stuff about "bottom of the frame indicates swarm cells." Just is not true for a colony overwintered in multiple boxes. Almost true for the first-year starter operating in their first box.

    Have never seen an established colony swarm that was working in a recently-added box at the top. Because we have not seen it does not mean it could not happen, but we are inclined to go with the odds.

    Walt

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,797

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Usually it is stated the swarm cells are on the bottom and supersedure cells are in the middle. I don't find that to ALWAYS be true, but it is a nice general rule.

    While this may be a good generality, you need to look at the entire context of the situation. I would assume that queen cells on the bottom were swarm cells if the hive is building up quickly and is either very strong or very crowded. On the other hand if they are not strong or crowded and building, then I would assume they are not swarm cells. If the cells are more in the middle and conditions otherwise would cause me to expect swarm cells, then I would tend to view these as swarm cells. If the hive were not building and not crowded I would assume they are supersedure cells or emergency cells. Also swarm cells tend to be more numerous. A "few queen cells" is usually not swarming.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Redwood City, CA
    Posts
    79

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Have never seen an established colony swarm that was working in a recently-added box at the top. Because we have not seen it does not mean it could not happen, but we are inclined to go with the odds.
    The box was added on Saturday, and that was the day I ripped a queen cell but didn't have time to finish inspection because I had a gaggle of kids around me. So that means the box was added after they had decided to build the QC's. Going back on the following Thursday I found that the queen was laying very well in the new box I provided on top, but the QC's were capped. The hive has a good population and lots of drones. I am all foundationless, and I feel like bees draw way more drones than with foundation starter, so it seems I'll always have more drones?

    Michael, in the context of the situation, the lack of many queen cells makes me think/wonder supercedure, but the general crowded nature of the hive + lack of open cells makes me think swarm. Maybe they were blaming the queen for poor build up when she had limited space and decided to replace her? Either way, I've moved the queen to a new residence and will let the queen cells hatch out. Thanks for all your advice everyone.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Chattanooga, TN USA
    Posts
    685

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    You mentioned that you found the queen in a top super?

    How big is the hive, and how far away from the bottom box is that top box? I've read (have not personally seen yet) that the way the workers know they need to start making new queens is that the pheromone given off by the queen becomes weak. Could be because she's sick or old, or because she's flat out gone and no longer there to produce it. If you're looking at something like double deep brood boxes and then three supers on top of that with the queen up in the top box, that might be too far away for her scent to reach back down to the bottom, so the bottom bees think they're queenless and are trying to make another one.

    Might not be the case, but its something I recall hearing once and sounds like it could be of use here.
    Beekeeper since 2013. Read my bee blog at:
    http://harrisonbayhoney.blogspot.com

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    1,318

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Be...,
    If the cell you fractured was a single cell, and the only one in sight, that's even more evidence of supersedure. Although it sounds risky to us, some colonies will supersede with a single queen cell.

    Walt

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    45,797

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    > in the context of the situation, the lack of many queen cells makes me think/wonder supercedure, but the general crowded nature of the hive + lack of open cells makes me think swarm. Maybe they were blaming the queen for poor build up when she had limited space and decided to replace her?

    Sometimes it is difficult to say.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  13. #13
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    2,751

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    It's supercedure in both cases from what I can tell from the descriptions. Don't be surprised if the original queen in her new split or nuc goes msising in a few weeks. I've been there and done that, the bees know what's going on more than we do with the queen and still laying well is a poor indication of how the bees perceive their queen. I don't understand why so much emphasis is put into the location of the cell either. With a still laying queen, supercedure right in the bottom of the frame makes sense to me. Most observed supercedures I think tend to fall under the queen failed suddenly/got squished category and the bees had to make the cells where there was larvae or eggs available, but with a laying queen and a planned supercedure they make a nice queencell where it's easy and convenient, in the bottom or side of the frame.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Elkton, Giles, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    1,318

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    JRg13,
    You beat me to it. Couldn't agree more.
    Walt

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Beetastic,

    There are a lot of more experienced folks on this thread than I, but we're not that far from each other and it looks like the girls have started swarming here in the valley. I suspect your not to far behind if it hasn't started already.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Ash Grove MO. USA.
    Posts
    533

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    I'm gonna throw out another scenerio. I saw you mention lots of eggs. I didn't see you mention any capped worker brood only drone brood.

    I've seen this a couple times in the past. The queen lays lot of eggs in worker cells but their unfertilized. The bee police drag them out. When I checked back in a few days it was the same. Lots of eggs, drone brood but no larva or worker brood. Same the next week.

    It's possible she could occasionly fertilize an egg that they could make a queen from. It's also possible that the queen cells are not viable.

    If you have capped worker brood then what you did is what I would do. If you don't have capped worker brood I'd suspect a drone laying queen.
    Woody

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Dublin, California
    Posts
    197

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    I am a little confused now... I opened one of my hives yesterday and it is a 2 deep 10 frame broad box.... There was wax connecting every frame between the two boxes with larvae and eggs so are these swarm cells or normall behavior....should I have scraped all this off??? I accidentLy opened a few of the cells when I split the two deeps....

  18. #18
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    2,751

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Cal, that was drone brood.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Location
    Dublin, California
    Posts
    197

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    Quote Originally Posted by JRG13 View Post
    Cal, that was drone brood.
    Thanks and that would explain why they where so big I was taught that you never went I to broad boxes but after swarms last year and all the help from this forum I have been very active...

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Jul 2012
    Location
    Ash Grove MO. USA.
    Posts
    533

    Default Re: Not Sure - Swarm Cells or Supercedure?

    A couple foundationless frames in each box will drastically cut down on bridge comb usually.
    If they don't have a place to draw drone comb they'll make one.

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