The week following the conclusion of the FBI’s beekeeping class was their monthly meeting. The meeting was about swarm cells and supersedure cells and the difference between them.
There are many differences between swarm cells and supersedure cells. The differences include but are not limited to why they were created, where they are built on the frame, and what to do with them.
Swarm cells are created by the bees when they are preparing to swarm. Swarming is the natural reproduction of a honey bee colony. Bees make more then one swarm cell to ensure that they will have a queen when the old queen leaves. Supercedure cells are created by the bees when the old queen dies suddenly or when the old queen is failing. Like with swarm cells, the bees make multiple supercedure cells to ensure a queen. Queens that came about when the old queen died suddenly are not always good because the bees may have made her a queen from an old egg or a young larvae.
Swarm cells are built on the bottom of a frame. Supercedure cells, however, are built on the side of the frame. Supercedure cells are built on the side of the frame because the bees did not necessarily plan for a new queen.
In a swarm, the mother queen leaves the hive shortly after her daughter queens have been capped. In a supercedure, the queen is often, but not always, dead before they create the supercedure cell.
When a swarm cell is found in a hive, a beekeeper can do a couple things. He could make a split. A split is when one hive is made into two or more. This is done by placing frames with a few swarm cells, a few frames of resources, and alone with bees in a new hive body. Some frames with swarm cells, resources, and bees are also left in the mother hive. By doing this, the bees think they swarmed because there are less bees in either hive. The hive that does not have the mother queen will raise a queen and the other hive will hopefully keep the mother queen and kill the daughter queen. A hive usually should not be split until there is a strong drone population.This insures that the queen will be able to mate quickly and with enough drones. A beekeeper could also graft the queens into nucs. This more complicated then splitting and hard to explain, but basically the queen cell is removed from the mother hive and put on a frame in a nuc. Bees are then added to the nuc. Supercedure cells should be left in the hive. The bees know what they are doing when they make supercedure cells so it is best to just leave them alone.
Sometimes the bees practice making swarm and supercedure cells. They build the cells, but do not let the queen lay eggs in them. When they are done practicing they tear down the cells.
Bonus Fact: Queens go about a mile away to mate with drones. They do this so that they do not mate with drones from their hive. This helps to keep the honey bee genetics diverse.