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Understanding supersedure from swarm


So last Tues I hived a swarm. Wed AM I very quickly grabbed a frame of mixed brood from another hive and added it. Wasn’t sure if their were eggs on it as I struggle to see them and it was a rush job. I was doubtful I had the queen in this swarm as it was a nightmare to catch and bees were left behind (they absconded 3 times back to the tree despite the queen being in the nuc box, my queen clip broke and I couldn’t trap her there :weary:). Anyway, popped my head in on Sat and there was the beautiful queen in all her glory. She was HUGE. Then I noticed they’d built a queen cup on the frame of brood I’d added (def wasn’t there before). I literally saw the queen lay in this cup. So I’m assuming they’re going to supersede her? Would this be your assumption? Thanks for any info.


I think differently than the vast majority of bee keepers about placing swarms in brood boxes. My reason is that, say, for example, the swarm has come from an 8 frame hive and the swarm is caught and housed in a 5 frame nuc. Also assume the swarm is 50% of the original hive. Look at the maths and the nuc will be close to its bee capacity. So you could reasonably expect a queen cell very soon, or for the colony to abscond.
I would treat a swarm in the same way I do splits. I use 8 frame boxes, no nucs, and start off as a brood box only and when the colony is big enough and the brood box becoming a tight fit for them then add a QX and a super.
By doing that with my hives I have not had any issues like absconding or swarming, touch wood.(my head) :laughing:
I often hear of a colony having several swarming episodes in quick succession, it is commonly because of overcrowding and yet beeks don’t seem to understand the need to keep a colony small enough for the hive size.
Regards Nat


Thanks Pete! Didn’t explain myself very well, I generally put swarms straight into 8 frame full depths, I don’t even own a nuc box. This one was really tough, and kept absconding from my super, long story but in the end I borrowed a nuc box from Katrina and some ended up in my super, some ended up in the nuc. They were recombined as soon as I got them home, into the 8 frame super. They’ve been extremely happy since. I was just a bit suprised to see the queen cup so soon, and then to see the queen actually lay in it. I guess I thought they created supersedure queens from already laid eggs, but she definitely reversed herself in there after checking it out for a few seconds. It was amazing to see, if not a little sad. She’s laying her replacement :confused:


Congratulations, you’ve witnessed something that is hotly debated, whether the queen lays in the supersedure cup or the workers place an egg into it.
I’ve wondered before how many people have suddenly found themselves with a queen less or failing hive because of the habit of destroying queen cups.
One of my recent walkaway splits which in my view has a great queen has on the last inspection built a q/cup. I’ve left it intact with the hope that if they decide to use it it’s because as a collective they feel that a planned queen is better for the hive than an emergency queen.


Thanks for the explanation Nat. You are so fortunate to see a queen laying in queen cell. Must have taken your breath away to actually see it.
Cheers Nat


I think this is what Peter is describing, I picked up my 5 frame nuc early this morning and placed it at my new apiary ,inside were two frames with a starter strip and three with waxed plastic foundation.
My mate caught a swarm from his apiary and has been holding it for a few weeks until I got a site organised, when I opened it the bees spilled out and just kept coming !
So tomorrow I’ll put them in an 8 frame poly hive providing they haven’t left the building Uploading: IMG_2114.JPG...



Hello Brian. Your bees sound very much like they have outgrown the size of the nuc and you should be moving them to an 8 frame box as that is what you are using. I have had issues with plastic foundation and much prefer going for frames that are wired and have bees wax foundation, the bees will take to it faster and I believe will produce more worker bees. They are cheaper in the long run, if you can get them on KI.


Hi Peter,
Unfortunately we do not have wax foundation available on Kangaroo Island so can only use plastic which we coat with kI bees wax or let the bees draw natural comb.
One of the local beeks is talking about buying a foundation making machine which would be good
Regards Brian


you could also try foundation-less frames- which often work well with swarms- who tend to draw out the frames mostly as worker comb- and very fast. I have had good results just using a wood strip. If you place one of these between two plastic wax coated frames you will get nice flat combs drawn out very fast by a big swarm.


Hi Jack,
I actually followed your advice of using the starter strips in combination with plastic foundation frames when the swarm was added to my nuc box.
Opening up the box today had me amazed at how well the bees had drawn out all 5 frames and filled most with brood and stores.
The roof of the nuc was choccabloke with honey …yum
Interestingly these bees are from a swarm in my friends apiary which is located on K I on a few acres and these bees are direct descendents from a feral hive on that property from over 25years ago…he has nearly 30 hives from that original feral colony


I think he would have a ready market for KI wax foundation and hope he goes ahead with a machine. His only problem would be getting enough wax if he is thinking of a supply to the rest of us that are very nervous about guys selling Chinese so called bees wax foundation but they omit to add it also contains paraffin wax.


Thanks Brad. Yeah, everything I’ve read seems to indicate the bees move the egg or build from a laid egg, but my first sighting of the cup was because many bees were fussing around it, then I saw the queen walking across the frame to the cup, the workers kind of backed away while she stuck her head in, walked around it, walked over it then positioned herself in front if it, backed in, kind of crouched (like they do when laying) then walked out. Then there was a frenzy by the workers around the cup again. Couldn’t believe my luck with the timing of that!
I’ll stick my head in again today and see if it’s capped.
I never destroy queen cups or cells either. I figure they know better than I do :smile:


Hi Snapper, maybe you could all throw in for the foundation press and share it amongst yourselves and sell the extras (if you have any) or hire it out to other beeks. Just a thought. (And wishing someone up here did that :laughing:)


They’ve dismantled the cup. Hmm. And have built out 5 frames, heaps of pollen and one frame filled with different stages of brood. Go girls!


You are going well with so much progress in the hive.

A foundation press is something that has interested me. I might have time to discuss it with Jeff tomorrow.
Regards Nat