Sunday, May 16, 2010

Two OLD supersedure cells + Eight NEW supersedure cells = TEN CELLS!

If anyone ever says that honey bees are not industrious creatures, they're liars. I know they're a helluva lot smarter than me and they know what they're doing in their own house, but I can't help but wonder why they do what they do. Maybe a part of it is my years in law enforcement and I know much of it has to do with my fascination with these little creatures.

I decided to give the bees in the new lime colored hive (a split from the yellow hive) a week free of any interference from me so they could adjust to their new surroundings. As you recall, when I first moved the frames from the mother hive to the lime green hive, they had four swarm cells on the bottoms of the frames. But a week later, the bees tore two of those down and made two sealed supersedure cells in the middle of the frames instead. That was last week, so I figured I would give them a week and check on them.

Fast forward to Saturday.

So I decided to get inside the green hive and see how things were doing and if anything had hatched from the two supersedure cells. And the answer is no, the two original supersedure cells were still intact. But there was something new that had popped up in the last seven days. Eight, that's right, eight NEW supersedure cells joined the previous two cells -- so now this hive has a whopping ten cells. Apparently the girls thought two may be seriously lacking -- so they made a whole bunch of new ones to fall back on.

I didn't make the picture to the right, and I didn't carry my own camera with me (honestly I didn't think I would need it) but the picture shows you what classic supersedure cells look like. On one of the frames in my hive, it had three cells; another couple had two cells each and one just had a single cell like the others from last week. All of them were very prominent and jutting out from the middle of the frames. While I was a little shocked to find so many new cells, I remembered that Richard Underhill of the Peace Bee Farm told me that it only takes four days for bees to make and cap queen cells. So while this colony is queenless, they have still been busy building new queen cells -- and they have been bringing in some nectar and pollen too. 

I took the one frame that had three queen cells and cut them off. My mother hive is in need of empty comb so the queen can have room to lay, so I removed every queen cell, shook all the bees off, and put it in the yellow mother hive. The bees in the yellow hive are making honey like crazy and they have made it in frames that I prefer the queen would use for laying eggs. So while they make comb in the shallow supers, and they , I added more deep frames for the queen to lay.

While I was at it in the yellow hive, I removed two frames of old honey that the bees made last year but didn't use over the winter. I scraped the dark honey and comb completely off the frames and then put the frames near the hive for the bees to clean off. Once the frames are clean, I'll put them back in use again -- thus rotating them and keeping cleaner, newer comb in the hive. 

Just what will happen with the lime hive, I just don't know, but it should be interesting. While I'm toying with the idea of letting them raise their own queen, I've read that emergency or supersedure queens are pretty much substandard and weak -- so maybe allowing them to raise their own may be a big waste of time. I will have access to a mated queen or two this coming week, so I may cut all the supersedure cells down, leave them queenless overnight, then put a caged queen in for slow release. I have several days to think about it and mull it over and that's what I plan to do.

By the way, I think it may be time for yet another split from the yellow hive. I have a brand new hive from Brushy Mountain that I've painted orange, so that will be the next hive that I fill with inhabitants. And since I will have access to mated queens soon, I may just go ahead and get another and just make the split now.

More later. Until them, bee happy ya'll!  


  1. Gosh! You're certainly being well tested on your beekeeping theory and practical knowledge. Can you believe this is only your first full season? Great posts full of detail and wonderful photos.


    P.S. Just noticed your side-bar requesting swarms.

  2. " I've read that emergency or supersedure queens are pretty much substandard and weak"

    Are you saying there is a difference between emergency or supercedure queen?
    I am not sure i follow the logic of either being a weak queen. All hives make them as a natural process. if they were weak the hives would get weaker or die. I may be missing something in my reasoning but I think there is no reason to expect them to be weaker. I just got my copy of Complete Idiots Guide to Beekeeping.. the natural way. I will have to read it and see what it say... Just looked, page 26. "Although some beekeepers have a prejudice against emergency queens, the truth is given enough nurse bees and food to raise them, emergency queens are every bit as good as any other kind of queen."

    I will say your are much more venturesome than I am. Good luck with the queens.

  3. Hey Dennis! Always good to hear from you.

    Nope, I'm not saying that emergency queens are bad. Not at all. I'm saying I've read that in many cases, they're less than perfect. And that was for the most part, those opinions were spouted in the forums. But as I've said before, you really have to be careful about asking questions and expecting straight answers in the forums. I would agree with you that the bees have been doing it their way for a gazillion years, and way before man got into the beekeeping world. I was reading an opinion that Ross Conrad has in his book that bee raised queens (naturally help from man) are better because the way I read it, he says that man-made and inseminated queens have more problems.

    And I have a feeling I am going to find out really soon whether or not the supersedure queens are good or not. The apiary I had been dealing with just told me Friday they can't get a queen to me for another two weeks...and that was after telling me two weeks ago they would have them ready. I wish they would have said from the get-go that they can't help me. So anyway, I plan to watch this new hive carefully to see what they do and if necessary, intervene.

    Take care!

  4. Cliff: Thanks, my friend! Always good to hear from you! Yep, I am definitely being tested with my bees. But I'm having a ball and I can't complain. Yes, I wanted any stray swarms around my area and so far, three calls -- I got one, gave another away, and the third never materialized (I think it may have been yellowjackets instead of bees). But if anyone calls, I'm packing up my cardboard nuc and heading out! Take care!



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