When a hive is going to swarm they prepare for it so the workers start building out these small, partial cups at the bottom of the comb. These are present most of the time, just not necessarily USED. When the hive makes the decision to swarm, the queen will lay eggs in those partial cups, the workers then build out the cells to accommodate the larger size of the queen.
Supercedure cells, also called emergency cells by some, are in the middle of the frame because the workers are using already present eggs/larvae. So those queen cells are built out "in situ." The workers have made the decision to replace the queen and use the eggs already laid. One day the queen looks over her shoulder, sees those new cells and says "Hey, what the heck is going ON around here??" Not really, but you know...
This is the general explanation but as anyone will tell you, the above information is not a rule.
While supercedure cells are almost always up in the brood nest part of the frame (because the bees use eggs that are laid normally by their queen), swarm cells are everywhere. Not just on the bottom of frames. Finding them on the bottoms of frames usually means that all of the queen cells are swarm cells.
>why is it that swarm cells are on the bottom of the frame and superceedures are towards the top? Is there a specific reason as to why the bees place these differently in the frames?
It seems to be a combination of the concentration of pheromones in the hive (less at the edges) and how they were created. Emergency cells are made from an existing worker cell (as mentioned). Such a cell could be in the middle or on the edge, but tend to be in the middle. Supersedure cells are often purposefully made but under a different motivation than swarming. They are sometimes on the edge and sometimes in the middle. Swarm cells are a specific motivation in purpose built cells that are outside the stronger effects of the pheromones of the queen. This is, at least, a commonly held view. e.g. http://www.halfcomb.com/Hogg_Halfcomb___Publications/ABJ_2006_February.pdf
See page 132 third column paragraph 6
That distinction (location) is pure bunk. It just is not true. Checkerboarding deletes swarming and causes supersedure. Those SS cells are almost invariably off the bottom bars of frames. Typically, the SS cells are located on the bottom of the feed pollen frame in the warmed cluster area, outside the queen's travel area, and there is space for downward growth of the queen cell between frames.
If I had to guess for a reason for the perpetuation of this bum dope, I would blame it on the academics who get much of their information from observation "hives." Those PhD's have a grunt to do the yard work and they are not looking in real hives on a daily basis. Although there is some valid data available in the observation hive, it's not a normal mode for the bee colony.
I have several reference books with pictures of queen cells misidentified. They normally get swarm cells right, but there is much confusion on SS vs emergency cells.
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