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I have read and been told that you can tell the bees' intentions by the placement of the queen cells. Queen cells at the top of the frame are supercedure cells and cells at the bottom of the frame are swarm cells. Sure enough, I have found many swarm cells at the bottom of comb from cutouts.

Question: I have found some queen cells located right in the middle of the frame, halfway between the top and the bottom. Generally they are located to one side of the frame or the other but always halfway up the frame.

Are these swarm cells or supercedure cells?
 

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Don't take that too literally. In my experience:

1. 1-5 cells in the normal brood area indicates a supercedure. The queen is probably still there and laying but they want a better one.

2. 5-40 cells in the normal brood area indicates an emergency replacement. Something has happened to the queen and she can't lay more eggs. They only have this one chance to start a new one.

3. 5-50 cells in the normal brood area, on the bottom bars, in tiny corners of the frames, and any other place that you wouldn't probably think to look indicates swarming.

They normally won't do any of these at the same time.
 

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Along the lines of what Beedeetee said.

Here is a bit of info Walt Wright shared with me on a simular subject.

Clues identified before:
...SS cells are normally less in number than swarm cells. SS cells can range from 1 to about 10. My rule of thumb is 6 or less on any level as the brood nest expands upward, but have occasionally seen more.
...Swarm cells normally exceed 20, but sometimes are less in hard times.
...SS cells are normally roughly about the same stage of devopment, while swarm cells will often range from egg to capped. Expanding on that just a bit, the colony in SS is in a hurry. Having decided that the Q needs replacing, they move out smartly and populate cells in a short period. The swarming colony will stretch out population of cells to provide backup cells in the event of primary Q loss.

Adding a few more notes: (See article in POV on the subject)
SS cells are generally built on bases built in advance of the need. And provided for just that purpose. Those advance bases for cups are not normally provided within the existing Q travel areas. A favorite place is on the bottom of the feed pollen frame. (within the warmed cluster area but outside the queen's traveled area)

Although it may not be universal, normally SS cells are built on the left side from the back of hives that face south. (warmed by morning sun)

Tilt the box with Q cells and get an accurate assessment. If the frames with cells are filled with brood, think swarm. If the frames with cells are mostly pollen, think SS.


What it mentioned is based on a "normal" started hive. On a fresh cutout I would almost always think SS. They have been thru a lot of stress. Typically they blame the queen for this stress and SS her.
 
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