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Swarm cells vs Supersedure cells

Also read: Queen Cells vs Queen Cups 

If you read most beekeeping books, they explain that swarm cells (queens being raised in preparation for half the bees & the old queen to swarm away) and supersedure cells (queens being raised to replace a failing queen) are easy to spot. Swarm cells are typically located along the bottom & sides of frames, and supersedure cells are located in the middle of frames. While that principle is often true, I’ve seen it fail many times as well. While keeping it in mind, here are a few additional ways to tell the difference:

Swarm cells:

  1. Often located along the bottom & sides of a frame
  2. Found in overcrowded hives, where every box is more than 80% full of bees
  3. 90% of the time found in Spring or very early summer
  4. Hive appears generally healthy, full of bees & brood, with a good brood pattern. (See What does a good brood pattern look like)
  5. Often 5-20 cells 

Supersedure cells:

  1. Often located in the middle of frames. 
  2. Typically found in weakening/dwindling hives that aren’t full of bees
  3. Found all times of the year
  4. Hive often appears weak, with a poor brood pattern. See (“How to tell it’s time to requeen a hive” to see what these hives often look like. 
  5. Often only a few queen cells

In a nutshell, swarm cells are found in healthy, overcrowded hives preparing to swarm. Supersedure cells are usually in weakening hives which need a new queen, so the bees are preparing to requeen themselves. The hive below so full that if nothing is done it will soon swarm.


To see what to do about either, check out “My hive has queen cells & a laying queen, now what?

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