Posts Tagged ‘Supercedure cells’

Let’s admit it. Being a new beekeeper is at times confusing and stressful. Here is a pictorial of a variety of things you may see in your hive and what you may have to do when (not if) you eventually find these happening in your hive. Please note: these photos were taking over a number of summers. They are all copyright protected and are only available by contacting me directly. Their use on this website does not give you the right to use these images under any circumstances.

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Her Majesty


Good luck finding this unmarked queen in a hive with 60,000 of her progeny

The queen is what every newbie strives to find. She’s definitely easier to find when marked. In reality, I rarely take the time required to find the queen during an inspection. It’s great when I do see her, however with 16-20 colonies, I do not have time to search every hive for the queen. I do care to find her when creating a nuc or taking brood frames out to help equalize another hive as I do not want to inadvertently move her into another colony. When I’m doing an inspection, what I really want to see is…



Eggs look like small grains of rice. There should be 1 egg in a cell.

When I see eggs, I know the queen has been in residence within the last 3 days. Yes, something may have happened to her during that time but I have found that to be very unlikely. Of course, too much of a good thing isn’t very positive either. Sometimes in a queenless hive, workers will start laying unfertilized eggs. This is what beekeepers call..

A Laying Worker


A laying worker bee will lay several unfertilized eggs per cell in a haphazard pattern, often attached to the side wall of the comb.

A laying worker can occur when your hive goes queenless and they are unable to make a replacement. The lack of the queen’s pheromone allows the ovaries of young workers to develop and soon start laying unfertilized eggs. This makes the hive believe it is once again queen-right. As unfertilized eggs are all drones, left unchecked, this will cause the loss of the hive. This is a royal PITA…Adding a new queen will NOT fix this problem as the bees believe they already have one.

You cannot determine which worker is laying. The only way I know to fix this is to move the hive at least 50′ away from it’s normal position, remove a frame from the hive and shake off every bee. It’s easiest to have an empty hive body to start this as you can shake off the bees and put the frame in the empty hive body as you work through the entire freaking hive!  Yes, that means shaking off every bee from every frame in the hive. Just shake them off onto the lawn. When all of this fun is completed, place the hive back in it’s original position. The non-laying bees will  return to the hive, leaving the laying worker with a small number of attendants where you shook them. Place a new queen or queen cell in the hive using your favorite method of installing a queen. If all goes well, you will soon see they are back to gathering…


Pollen and nectar are needed to raise brood. Bees will often store pollen and nectar in the corners of frames with eggs or on frames adjacent to the brood frames


Notice even the hair on this girl’s eyes are covered with pollen

I love watching the girls bringing in pollen. It’s a great first sign of spring and let’s me know the season is on! Of course, that also means you have to be diligent about watching for a…



Swarm! The colony’s way of replicating itself is a major issue/opportunity for beekeepers

Swarms are mother nature’s way of expanding the bee population. We all know that no honeybee can make it on its own, the colony is really the organism. Swarms can happen in the northeast anytime between May and  October. Take a look at the clock if one of your hives swarms. I bet it’s about 10-10:30. Mine have all been…Of course, if you pay attention to your hive, you will know they are getting ready to bolt because they have made…

Swarm Cells


Swarm cells look like a peanut hanging off the bottom of a frame. I like to make nucs with these.


Here is a hive body resting on the front of the box to show the 7 swarm cells this colony is preparing prior to swarming

Swarm cells are created so the donor colony still has a queen after the swarm leaves. The first queen to hatch will sting the remaining cells, killing the queen developing inside. Swarm cells are found hanging from the bottom of frames, as seen in the above pictures. Again, this is to expand the population. You should know the difference between swarm cells and…

Supercedure Cells


Unlike swarm cells, supercedure cells are found in the center of the frame.


They really must not have liked the queen. The frame is not even fully drawn! BTW, it was a package queen…

It’s great to be the queen until your subjects decide you are not pulling your weight. Remember Marie Antoinette? When a queen is injured, old or has a reduced amount of pheromone, the bees may decide it’s time for new blood. As a gift to beekeepers, they very nicely prepare supercedure cells in the middle of frames rather than along the bottom edge like swarm cells. This tells us the bees have decided the colony is better off with a new queen. I never try to stop a supercedure. The bees know best and my time is better spent trying to protect them from…

Varroa destructor


Note the red oval on this honeybee’s back. It’s a Varroa mite.

I have already written about Varroa mites in September, 2008 so if you want more info  please check the archives. Here you get to see what a mite looks like on one of your bees. There are different methods to reduce the number of mites in a hive. I use small cell foundation and will occasionally also use…

Drone Comb


An IPM technique, the green frames are imprinted with the correct size for drone comb.


Drone cells have more room for the mites to replicate

Drone comb is an Integrated Pest Management Technique to help reduce mite load in a hive. The idea is that the green plastic frame has the proper size cells imprinted on it so the bees will draw out the frame only for drones. Once the frame is drawn, the queen will lay unfertilized eggs in the cells. A female mite takes advantage of the larger cell size and will lay her eggs in the drone comb rather than the worker bee comb. Drones normally hatch at 24 days so when using drone comb, remove the frame fro the hive at day 21. Place it in a freezer for 48 hours and then take a look at what you caught. The red dots on the larvae are Varroa mites. You can let the frame thaw and then place it back in the hive and the bees will clean it out and do it all over again. Remember tho’, good queens come from hearty drones. Don’t overdo this or you won’t end up with bees to make…



For many beekeepers, this is what it is all about!

I simply can’t end this blog writing about dead mites. For many of us, honey is what it’s all about. Here is a beautiful frame of fresh comb packed solid with capped honey!

I hope this helps! It certainly was easier to write with the Sox beating the Yanks tonight!
Good luck and may your bees keep buzzin’.

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