Photo of Swarm vs. Supercedure Cells

20 Apr

How can you tell the difference between a swarm cell and a supercedure cell? 

As a new beekeeper with energetic girls, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn the difference. Now predicting what happens when a hive starts building these cells is anyone’s guess…. but here’s what look like and where you can find ’em on the comb.

In a Top Bar Hive:

  • Swarm cells are typically built on the edge, side, or bottom of a comb.
  • Supercedure cells are typically built smack in the middle of the comb.
2 capped swarm cells, built on the edge of the comb

2 capped swarm cells, built on the edge of the comb

Queen cup (left) and capped supercedure cell (right), both built in the middle of the comb.

Queen cup (left) and capped supercedure cell (right), both built in the middle of the comb.

In a Langstroth Hive:

Things are slightly different in a Langstroth hive, but here’s a useful discussion indicating that in a Langstroth:


5 Responses to “Photo of Swarm vs. Supercedure Cells”

  1. Backyard Bee April 20, 2009 at 10:54 am #

    Thanks for the links. I just learned a whole bunch. I think my bees (last year) were very confused. They had an underperforming queen, since they never regained momentum after the July dearth, and they wanted to supercede her.

    But they put the queen cups on the edge of a comb so she never laid eggs in them. We only had a few thousand bees all year long, and she knew better than to swarm.

    This year, we won’t be so timid about inspecting to check on queen performance.

  2. Joan April 24, 2010 at 4:40 am #

    We have found a queen cup at the top of a frame, like the one on the left of your picture. A week later it is capped, still that size. What is the difference between a supercedure cell and a swarm cell please and do you think we should remove the queen cup on our next inspection in a week or before then?

  3. mistress beek April 24, 2010 at 10:46 am #

    Hi Joan, thanks for checking in.

    My thought is NOT to remove the queen cup as it sounds like a supercedure cell. The hive builds a supercedure cell when it want to replace the queen (either she’s already dead or is not producing well), so removing it could render your hive queenless.

    A swarm cell means the girls are crowded or honeybound and ready to swarm. Personally, I don’t usually remove these either because the hive might have swarmed when I wasn’t looking, taking the old queen with them. If I remove the swarm cell under such circumstances, I’ll leave them without a potential queen.

    Now I tend to be rather hands-off, as you might surmise, but it’s much harder to deal with a queenless hive than one that’s swarmed so I tend to leave it up to the girls.

    Hope this helps!


  1. Beeyard news and a footnote – Westphoria | A blog by Sunset - May 11, 2012

    […] daughter of swarmy Betty has plenty of brood, but—oh dear—she has five supercedure cells.  One of those cells houses cell a small pink baby queenbee curled in a puddle of royal […]

  2. A virgin queen on a cloudy day – Westphoria | A blog by Sunset - May 11, 2012

    […] May 4 Hive Veronica was incubating at least 17 swarm and supercedure cells, each one housing a little larvae swimming in royal jelly.  The hive was full of […]

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