Monday, April 18, 2011

Making Queens: Supercedure Cells & Swarm Cells

Queen with blue mark
More "spot the queen" fun! In the photo on the left, the queen is clearly marked with a blue dot in the center of the frame. Her large abdomen (which holds all of the eggs she will lay in her life time--and she can lay up to 2000 a day) is one reason that it's easy for beekeepers to spot supercedure cells and swarm cells. These are the cells where queens are raised and they're much larger than worker or drone bee cells.

supercedure cells
In picture to the right, you can see two "supercedure" cells. These are cells the bees build to raise a new queen that will supercede the old queen in the colony. Worker bees build supercedure cells when they sense the old queen is fading: her pheremones become less strong or she doesn't produce as many eggs. To produce a queen, the worker bees feed the female eggs in these cells royal jelly throughout their entire larval development. This rich diet stimulates the development of the queen's ovaries. Like those in the photo above, supercedure cells tend to be located in the middle (or top) of a frame. A fully closed supercedure cell will look like a peanut.

swarm cells
In the photos on the right and below, you can see what are called "swarm cells." Swarm cells are generally located on the bottom of a frame. The two photos are different views of the same frame. If you look closely, there's an elongated cell on the left that is fully closed: a queen pupa is forming there. In the open cell on the right, a queen larva is still growing. The queen cells are large to accommodate the queen's larger body.

swarm cells

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