HELP! Queen cups - Swarm or supersedure?

Ok hoping someone can help…

I started my hive in Spring 2017 (Southern Hemisphere), but had a die out after last winter (see my previous cry for help here).

I cleaned it out and saved a few frames of honey (both in brood box and flow super) and put them back in the hive with a new nuc to give them a head start. Super went on about 3 weeks later. I’ve moved the hive to a better location and based on my limited experience it seems very healthy.

A couple of weeks ago when I inspected I found 4 queen cells. Because I didn’t know any better and I hadn’t been able to open the hive in 4-5 weeks, I assumed they were hatched queen cells and that my queen had been replaced. There were eggs so I knew a queen was laying. I destroyed the cells so I’d know if there were new ones in future. I intended to open up the hive again asap to check for the queen again, but I had a 7 week-old baby, so that didn’t happen.

Since then I have done some reading and realised that in supersedure and swarm cells the bees prepare them in advance. (For some reason I assumed that, like emergency cells, they just took a normal cell and turned it into a queen cell after the egg was laid.) Anyway, I now realise I probably destroyed the queen cups prior to any eggs being laid.

Fast forward 2 weeks and I opened up the hive again today and found two more queen cups, on either side of one frame. No eggs laid inside as yet. But now I don’t know if these are supersedure or swarm cells?

You can see the queen cups in my photos - on both sides the queen cup is in the top right-hand quadrant. I realise this frame looks pretty sad - not fully drawn and not drawn properly. It was one of the frames with the original nuc and they just can’t seem to get their act together on this one (they also keep building the comb off the frame, which is odd… maybe they don’t like the plastic). Rest assured all the other frames are fully drawn, mostly full, and there are a HUGE number of bees packed in there (sorry this last photo is so blurry), which is why I’m worried about swarming… but I’ve read that swarm cells are usually drawn on the edge of the frame, not towards the middle like these are?

If they are supersedure cells - why are they replacing the queen when she is only a few months old, and the colony appears to be pretty strong?

If they are swarm cells - if my bees need more room, why haven’t they moved honey into the super to make way for more brood? Why haven’t they filled up the super? (There is honey in the super but you couldn’t tell by looking in the windows - all the honey is in the middle of the middle frames, and not a huge amount.) There are bees in the super too, but nowhere near as many as the broodbox.


Appreciate any help!

Hi @Wynnie, those queen cups look like supersedure cells to me & nothing to worry about. Everything sounds normal. It’s a shame the bees aren’t building over the whole of that plastic foundation. If it had a coating of wax over it, the bees might have done a better job on it. I’m a fan of wax foundation. Having said that, there’s some dodgy wax foundation being sold. I’d recommend only getting it from Burnett Beekeeping Supplies.

I agree with @JeffH about them being supercedure cells, I would do no more than to monitor them as it seems to be a bee habit to make a couple for no other reason that they might be going to use them at some time in the future. If you knock them down you may well find they will make new ones.
I also agree with Jeff about using plastic foundation Vs bees wax foundation, only buy foundation from a reputable bee equipment seller. There is some Chinese ‘bees wax foundation’ that also contains the much cheaper paraffin wax, it is lighter in color and doing a ‘lick test’ will help you decide if it tastes oily.
SE Queensland is a big area, Jeff is at Buderim and I’m at Coolum Beach on the Sunshine Coast. Maybe we can help further if your not too far away.

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I would be sitting back and observing that hive. I would also pull that dodgey frame and replace it. Then watch the bees do what bees do, get on with it. Sometimes they can do with a bit less of our “help”.


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Thanks @JeffH and @Peter48. That’s a relief. I am glad they are supersedure cells and I don’t need to do anything drastic… it just seemed odd that they would be planning to replace the queen as I only got the nuc a few months ago from a queen breeder and assumed the queen would be young (she wasn’t in a cage though so I guess it’s not a given). But I didn’t consider that they might just make the cells and not necessarily use them.

I actually only have this plastic foundation frame because it was in the nuc. I have been mostly using foundationless frames (and a few wire ones) and the bees do a beautiful job of drawing them out. (I just learnt the hard way that a foundationless frame full of honey isn’t necessarily strong enough to hold its weight if you lean it against something. That was a regrettable experience.)

I’m in GC Hinterland so not so close unfortunately! But I really appreciate the offer :slight_smile:

@Rmcpb Yes I was thinking of replacing it at some point. Would I just sacrifice whatever brood happens to be on there? And I’m guessing the most ideal time is Spring?


A good lecture that goes into causes of cup and cell formation.


Peter, maybe tomorrow morning I’ll bring the results of dodgy foundation home to photograph. I only got them through swapping frames when selling nucs. I used to tell people to leave the foundation unfitted if it’s not already fitted. I just had the last packet of foundation I used up before starting on my new lot I recently acquired. Upon opening the package, it looked lovely & white, I thought “this’ll be nice”. But not so, THE BEES DON"T LIKE IT!!!

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that dodgy foundation wasn’t given to you by the people with the fake flow hive? I ask because I think I saw some of them sold with foundation for the brood box- straight out of China.

I have foundation that’s made by “E.C. Tobin & Sons. Raglan, NSW” It’s good stuff.

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that’s an interesting video- and at the 6 minute mark he says something that I have wondered about, “what is the minimum number of bees that must be present in order for a colony to survive”. A year or three ago I wondered what that number was- and apparently it still isn’t known. The speaker says he thinks it is about 5-6 thousand.

I was wondering if you could build up a colony starting with only a queen and say 25 workers. Letting them build one tiny comb in a tiny hive with tiny frames and see if they can start from there. Seems like it would be a fun experiment.

sorry for taking this thread off track…

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I found the nurse/forager ratio interesting. It just made finding that balance between a strong hive and a swarming hive that much harder :grinning:

Hi Jack, no it was someone who got quite a few colonies. He gave me a box full of wired new frames with a package of foundation which I didn’t use for a while.

There’s some frames around that I’m not keen on. They have a large gap from the top bar to the first wire. Then a large gap from the bottom bar to the bottom wire. What I started doing lately was tear the wire out & re-drill the holes to my liking.

We put a stop to exchanging frames.

This was so interesting. Thanks for sharing!

The more I learn, the more I realise just how little I know. What a rabbit hole of a hobby this is.