Beekeeping Information

Swarm Cell vs Supersedure Cell – What’s the Difference?

Bees are fascinating creatures that have a highly organized social structure in their colonies. Within these colonies, different types of bees perform various tasks that contribute to the overall function and success of the colony.

One of the unique aspects of a bee colony is the creation of different types of cells, including swarm cells and supersedure cells. In this article, we will explore the differences between these two types of cells and their purposes.

What are Swarm Cells?

Swarm cells are a fascinating phenomenon in the world of bees. These specialized cells are created by worker bees when colonies become overpopulated or when a queen is preparing to depart along with a portion of the colony in order to start a new hive. This chapter delves deeper into what swarm cells are, their purpose, and their significance in the life of a bee colony.

Overview of Swarm Cells

Swarm cells are unique cells that are created by worker bees in order to produce queen bees. The workers build these large, elongated cells in which a new queen will develop. The life cycle of a queen bee is remarkable: she emerges from the cell as an adult, mates with drones outside of the colony, and then returns to lay eggs for the rest of her life.

Purpose of Swarm Cells

The primary purpose of swarm cells is to ensure the survival of the bee colony. When a colony becomes too crowded, a portion of the colony will leave with the old queen in order to establish a new hive. The swarm cells allow the newly formed colony to have a new queen, ensuring its survival.

Significance of Swarm Cells

Swarm cells are significant in the overall health and longevity of a bee colony. They provide a way for the colony to expand and flourish, leading to the creation of more honey and more bees. However, the formation of swarm cells can also be a signal of problems within the colony, such as disease or environmental stressors.

How to identify swarm cells in a hive

Swarm cells are different from other cells in the hive. They are larger and hang vertically. They are usually located on the bottom of the frames and look like elongated peanuts or tear drops. Swarm cells are also sometimes called queen cells.

honey bee queen cell

What are Supersedure Cells?

Supersedure cells are specialized cells that are built by worker bees when they perceive that the queen bee is no longer capable of laying enough eggs or producing healthy brood. These cells are typically larger and elongated compared to the regular brood cells found in the hive. Supersedure cells also differ in their placement within the comb.

Location and Design of Supersedure Cells

Unlike swarm cells, which are found on the bottom or edge of a comb, supersedure cells are usually located in the center of the comb. This is because worker bees build them with the purpose of replacing a failing queen. They need to ensure that the new queen will have ample space to move around and lay eggs.

The shape of these cells is also unique. They are elongated and point slightly downwards, allowing the new queen to develop without disturbance from other bees. Unlike swarm cells, which are sterile, supersedure cells contain royal jelly, signaling that they are meant for a new queen.

What Do Supersedure Cells Mean for Your Hive?

If you come across supersedure cells in your hive, it generally means that the current queen is underperforming, and the colony is attempting to replace her. As a beekeeper, this can be a useful sign to look out for.

It’s important to note that supersedure cells do not necessarily mean that the colony is in crisis, but rather that the bees are proactively ensuring the health and productivity of the hive.

 Differences Between Swarm Cells and Supersedure Cells

Now that we understand the characteristics of each type of cell, it is important to discuss the differences between the two.

The following are some of the key differences between swarm cells and supersedure cells:

  • Swarm cells are larger than supersedure cells.
  • Swarm cells are typically found on the edges of the comb, while supersedure cells are found in the middle.
  • Swarm cells are created when the hive is overcrowded and needs to find a new home, while supersedure cells are created when the existing queen is no longer able to support the hive.
  • The process of creating a new queen in swarm cells involves the new queen killing the existing queen, while supersedure cells create a new queen without killing the existing one.

Implications for Beekeepers

Understanding the differences between swarm cells and supersedure cells is important for beekeepers. Knowing when each type of cell is created and why they are created can help beekeepers manage their hives more effectively.

While both types of cells are involved in the reproductive cycle of the hive, they serve different purposes and have distinct characteristics. By understanding these differences, beekeepers can ensure the continued health and productivity of their hives.

How to Manage Swarm and Supersedure Cells in a Hive

How to Prevent Swarming

Swarming can be prevented by:

  • Providing Adequate Space

Bees require enough space to prevent congestion in the hive. Ensure that the hive is of the appropriate size to accommodate the colony’s growth. Add supers, boxes or frames during the honey flow to accommodate increased brood and honey production capacity.

  • Removing Queen Cells Early

Identifying queen cells early can help prevent the bees from swarming. Remove all queen cells except one that’s less likely to swarm.

  • Performing Regular Inspections

Regular inspections of your hive can assist you in identifying and correcting potential swarming issues before they occur. Inspect your hive every 7-10 days during the swarm season (April- June) to determine if there are queen cells present in the hive.

How to Manage Supersedure

Supersedure cells can be managed by:

  • Identifying the Existing Problem

Determining the underlying issue behind supersedure can aid you in solving the problem. This could include a lack of adequate nutrition or the presence of disease.

  • Queen Replacement

One of the most straightforward remedies is replacing the queen with a new one.

  • Stimulating the Queen to Lay More Eggs

By providing supplemental nutrition, such as pollen patties, you can help the queen lay more eggs. This helps to keep the bee population well-fed, healthy, and happy.

queen cell bees

Potential risks and consequences of mismanaging swarm and supersedure cells

Here are some of the potential risks and consequences of mishandling swarm and supersedure cells:

1. Loss of Honey Production: Swarming and supersedure cells lead to a loss of worker bees that would otherwise be gathering nectar and pollen. This can reduce honey production and result in less honey for beekeepers to harvest.

2. Spread of Disease: Introducing new bees to the colony or disturbing the hive during a swarming or supersedure event can spread diseases and parasites between colonies. This can lead to colony collapse disorder, which is a significant threat to bee survival worldwide.

3. Queen Absconding: If a colony’s queen is lost or removed during a swarming or supersedure event, the remaining bees may leave the hive in search of a new queen. This is known as absconding, and it can result in the complete loss of a colony.

4. Superseding Weak Queens: Supersedure cells are created when the colony detects a weak queen. If a beekeeper fails to replace the queen or remove the supersedure cells, the colony may become queenless and eventually die off.

5. Aggressive Behavior: Bees can become more aggressive during a swarming or supersedure event. This can result in stinging incidents, which can be dangerous for people and other animals in the area.


It is crucial to understand the difference between swarm cells and supersedure cells when engaging in beekeeping. Swarm cells signify burgeoning populations, and beekeepers are advised to take appropriate steps to manage their colony’s growth. Supersedure cells, on the other hand, indicate a decline in performance by the existing queen bee, and beekeepers must exercise care in handling them to prevent any damage to the overall health of the colony. With a little knowledge and care, beekeepers can maintain a healthy and thriving bee colony.

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