Supersedure – The Apiarist

Synopsis : Supersedure – the alternative of the queen with out a brood damage or a queenless length – is crucial colony survival mechanism. How is it brought about and will the beekeeper profit from it?


Supersedure is the alternative of the queen – because of age or infirmity – through a brand new one reared in the similar colony. Considerably the colony is at no level queenless, and would possibly in reality have two laying queens all the way through the overlap length. Ted Hooper (in his Information to Bees and Honey) states that 5% of colonies with two yr previous queens – a minimum of of the stress of bees he used – in reality have two queens within the colony within the autumn and they may be able to steadily be discovered laying at the similar body.

I hardly ever investigate cross-check colonies within the autumn and feature by no means observed two queens in a colony, let on my own at the similar body. Then again, I’m neatly conscious the method is going on undetected … or a minimum of undetected till the next spring.

I’ll test a colony in mid-August and to find the clipped, marked laying queen I be expecting. Then again, the next April – neatly prior to the swarm season begins right here – I’ll to find an unmarked and unclipped queen heading the colony .

Supersedure is a colony survival mechanism.

It guarantees the colony is headed through a queen that may produce enough brood to be sturdy sufficient to assemble an way over nectar and overwinter effectively, with the aim of swarming the next season. It’s due to this fact in all probability unsurprising that it is regarded as a overdue season match, regardless that it could actually happen at different instances when there are drones and climate appropriate for queen mating.

The time period supersedure seems to have first been used within the American Bee Magazine in 1872:

Best in circumstances of supersedure are the younger queens allowed to hatch, after which ceaselessly the younger and the previous queen stay peaceably within the hive.

Swarming, emergency and supersedure queen cells

Supersedure is fairly poorly understood, no longer least as a result of it’s tricky to reliably induce. Inevitably, as it comes to the manufacturing of a brand new queen, it necessitates the era of queen cells.

There are 3 stipulations underneath which the colony produces queen cells:

  • the swarming impulse, brought about through overcrowding and the ensuing aid within the focus of queen pheromones (and different issues)
  • the emergency reaction, when the queen all at once disappears or is killed. Except beekeeper-induced snafu’s it’s tricky to consider a herbal match that leads to the instant removing of the queen. Then again, as a result of it’s so simple to recapitulate, that is the most productive studied scenario through which queen cells are produced
  • supersedure

Within the first of those a robust colony has a tendency to supply extra queen cells leading to a top swarm (headed through the unique mated queen) adopted through a number of forged swarms (headed through virgins), leaving one queen to get mated and proceed the unique colony. It’s no longer odd to discover a dozen or extra queen cells in a colony intent on swarming … and even on a unmarried body, with extra on different frames.

Against this, all the way through supersedure or the emergency reaction the objective of the colony is alternative, no longer copy, so a smaller selection of queen cells have a tendency to be began.

Queen mobile quantity and place

Then again, don’t depend at the quantity or place of the queen cells as the only real indication of what’s going down within the colony.

You’ll steadily learn {that a} unmarried mobile, situated in the course of a central body, is a sign that the colony is making plans to supersede the queen.

A vintage supersedure mobile … or is it?

It may well be … however I’m much more assured if I additionally to find the unique queen and eggs within the hive.

The colony may be very selective when opting for larvae for queen rearing all the way through the emergency reaction – as an example, believe the former posts on Who’s the father? and Selecting winners – so a lone queen mobile, anyplace it’s situated, may just nonetheless point out the unique queen is AWOL. Glance once more for her, and for the presence of eggs prior to you conclude it’s supersedure fairly than emergency requeening.

In my view I position little significance at the location of the queen mobile.

Against this, I’ve a large number of self belief that the colony make a selection the egg or larvae for queen rearing correctly, so the placement of the mobile most certainly displays the site of essentially the most appropriate larva.

In spite of everything, remember the fact that should you discover a sealed queen mobile it’s most probably that the colony has swarmed, except:

  • you to find the queen and eggs (through which case it’s going to neatly be supersedure), or
  • the queen is clipped and provide (through which case they’ve both attempted to swarm and returned, or will swarm … do one thing!)

Dave Cushman states that supersedure cells are all the time began from eggs laid in (or moved to?) queen cups. If that is so – and I’ve no reason why to doubt it – then the place of the queen cup will decide that of the general mobile.

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Induction of supersedure

Since supersedure is a colony survival mechanism it will have to be brought about when the colony senses that the queen is underperforming to such an extent that colony survival is threatened.

Merely laying spotty brood, or no longer laying 2000 eggs an afternoon isn’t enough … there are literally thousands of colonies in the United Kingdom the place queens are behaving like this and the bulk aren’t going to be outmoded.

The age of a queen additionally has a referring to whether or not supersedure happens, with older queens much more likely to be outmoded. As well as, some lines of bees – specifically local black bees Apis mellifera mellifera – are a lot more more likely to supersede.

My ’Heinz 57 types’ Fife mongrels fairly hardly ever supersede, however ~20% of my local black colonies at the west coast are headed through supersedure queens.

Hopalong Cassidy ...

Hopalong Cassidy …

The damage of a queen, as an example the paralysis of one in every of her fore- or hindlegs, will steadily lead to supersedure. Traditionally beekeepers tried to induce supersedure through slicing off probably the most legs of the queen.

This isn’t one thing I’ve achieved or would condone.

Dave Cushman explains that this ‘works’ through lowering the deposition of queen footprint pheromone, and that this aid is what accounts for supersedure … however, as we will see, it can be slightly extra difficult than that.

Programs and queen supersedure

A ‘package deal’ is a field of bees and a caged queen. You’ll call to mind it as a frameless nuc. In most cases it incorporates about 1.5 kg of blended (i.e. from a couple of colonies) staff in a mesh-sided field, in conjunction with a mated queen in a cage. It’s a handy method to buy bees – simple to send, no brood illness, more cost effective and many others.

Putting in a package deal of bees

I’ve in the past purchased packaged bees for analysis. In the United Kingdom it’s almost certainly a much less not unusual method to buy bees than it’s in the United States or (in all probability) Europe.

You put in a package deal through dumping the bees right into a hive containing frames, upload the queen in a cage from which she will also be launched, feed copiously for every week or two and voila!, you might have a completely functioning colony.

Then again, the queen supplied with the package deal is once in a while in no time modified. Research in america point out that over 25% of queens in put in programs had been changed inside a couple of weeks (Withrow et al., 2019).

This isn’t swarming or because of the queen being killed, it’s supersedure.

Empty containers after putting in bought programs of bees

It’s no longer odd for the lately put in colony to begin changing the queen prior to a whole brood cycle is finished.

And those observations provide a chance for research at the components that induce supersedure.

Brood pheromones

While an underperforming queen would possibly produce lowered quantities of footprint pheromone , otherwise that the colony may just assess her efficiency is throughout the stage of brood within the colony.

If there’s very little brood, or not up to ‘anticipated’ (no matter that suggests), in all probability it’s for the reason that queen is failing?

Necessarily the volume of open brood is a measure of the fecundity of the queen.

Despite the fact that bees can rely they may be able to’t rely upper than about 4, in order that they obviously don’t decide the volume of brood through counting it.

As a substitute – and it is going to come as ‘exactly no marvel in anyway’ to any person who is aware of the rest about bees – they may be able to decide the volume of brood through detecting the extent of brood pheromone. No less than, they may be able to almost certainly decide if there may be some/sufficient and if it is expanding or lowering. Brood pheromone ranges in a similar fashion have a bearing at the manufacturing of iciness bees.

Or, to be just a little extra explicit, brood pheromones, as there are a couple of.

And a package deal, a minimum of when first put in, has no brood pheromone(s) because it has no brood.

The prime ranges of supersedure observed the use of programs caused David Tarpy and associates (Tarpy et al., 2021) to analyze the position of brood pheromone on colony status quo and queen alternative (i.e. supersedure).

In particular they investigated the affect of brood ester pheromone (BEP) which will also be synthesised vs. herbal open brood, on those phenomena.

BEP and colony status quo

The learn about carried out used to be fairly easy. 45 programs had been put in, one 3rd had no prior or ongoing publicity to BEP or brood and acted because the destructive keep watch over (those had been put in in precisely the similar method as hundreds of beekeepers set up programs each season), one 3rd had been uncovered to artificial BEP when the package deal used to be made and for 10 days after set up, and one 3rd had been put in into hives containing a body of (unrelated) open brood.

With regards to colony status quo (velocity of building up and many others.) programs put in with a body of open brood exhibited a statistically vital enhancement in brood rearing over keep watch over programs. Along with beginning with extra brood (through definition, as they had been presented to a hive containing a body of open brood), additionally they ended with extra brood i.e. the colonies had been more potent on the finish of the learn about after the velocity of colony growth had plateaued.

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BEP-exposed colonies carried out higher than controls, however no longer in addition to programs uncovered to open brood. Artificial BEP on my own is due to this fact no longer ready to fully recapitulate the spice up produced through open brood.

It must be famous right here (as a result of I’m no longer going to say it once more) that older larvae produce upper ranges of BEP, while more youthful larvae additionally produce every other pheromone termed risky brood pheromone (vBP).

A body of open brood incorporates a mix of growing old larvae so would even have been generating vBP … this would possibly account for the extra spice up in colony status quo. This may occasionally want additional trying out.

I don’t to find it unexpected {that a} outlined unmarried brood pheromone can’t absolutely exchange – a minimum of in influencing colony growth – for the most probably complexity produced through a hundreds of larvae of a spread of ages.

Then again, what used to be the affect on supersedure?

BEP vs. brood and supersedure

The diversities in colony status quo had been vital (mathematically talking), however they weren’t large (in all probability at maximum ~20% more potent on the finish of the learn about length).

Against this, the affect on supersedure used to be a lot more putting.

Retained (white), early (purple) or overdue (black) queen supersedure and remedy – click on for legend

Of the 45 programs put in virtually 50% of them reared new queens inside 12 weeks.

If I’d paid £180-240 for a 1.5 kg package deal (sure, that’s the going price for 2024 🙁 ) containing a mated, laying queen I’d no longer be happy to search out the queen being changed inside 3 months.

Then again, the destiny of the equipped queen used to be very depending on how the package deal used to be put in. Keep an eye on programs (i.e. no BEP or brood) best retained 33% of the unique queens, BEP-exposed programs retained 53% and the ones put in onto brood saved 87% of the equipped queens.

The Keep an eye on and BEP-exposed queen alternative didn’t essentially happen right away. Over 50% of changed queens had been outmoded after the colony had reared a whole cycle of latest brood (for comfort outlined as 5 weeks after set up).

Unsurprisingly, the adaptation (33% vs 87%) between the absence and presence of a body of brood used to be extremely statistically vital.

For those who’re buying package deal bees subsequent yr why no longer take a look at putting in them right into a hive containing a body of open brood? It might probably’t do any hurt, and would possibly neatly do a large number of just right .

Along with recording queen alternative, Tarpy and associates additionally busied themselves counting queen cells. The quantity produced used to be unrelated to the chance of the queen being changed. On moderate, superseding colonies produced ~5 queen cells (some being therefore torn down), and as much as 25.

Once more, don’t suppose queen mobile numbers permit differentiation of swarming and supersedure 😉 .

Conclusions of the Tarpy et al., learn about

The dramatic aid in supersedure observed within the presence of brood however no longer BEP suggests different brood pheromones (or one thing else to do with open brood) lend a hand retain the unique queen, in all probability along side BEP.

The paper in large part makes a speciality of some great benefits of putting in programs onto open brood, fairly than the mechanism during which those advantages are realised.

The mechanism may well be fairly easy; the presence of open brood merely ‘signalling’ to the employees that the queen is fecund and so does no longer want changing.

Then again, keep in mind the timing of queen supersedure.

Over 50% of supersedures came about after 5 weeks suggesting that the ‘open brood affect’ is much more likely oblique, the place the presence of open brood stimulates the employees to supply further beef up (nourishment, mobile preparation, no matter) to the queen, so expanding her laying price and due to this fact obvious fecundity.

There are different interpretations regardless that I think those are much less most probably and also are no longer supported through different literature I don’t have time or house to study.

The queens used on this learn about had been ’newly mated’. The 87% ‘survival’ price with open brood displays they had been sufficient. Queens from mini-nucs or which have been ‘banked’ for lengthy sessions – each eventualities the place the queen isn’t laying (or laying at a discounted price) – can seem sub-standard and are much more likely to be outmoded.

Supersedure is a really useful trait … it’s just right when it occurs, steadily undetected, ‘within the background’, saving a doubtlessly doomed colony.

Are there ways in which it may be exploited through the beekeeper?

Inducing supersedure the moral method

I typically write about beekeeping issues I’ve achieved, however right here’s one thing I’m in the course of doing. It could no longer paintings, however a lot more skilled beekeepers than me recommend it really works acceptably neatly and I reckoned it used to be ‘value a punt’.

A queen that’s laying neatly, no longer limping (!) and it seems that wholesome is not going to usually be outmoded through the colony.

  • at the beginning, they received’t produce supersedure cells.
  • secondly, if a sealed queen mobile is added through the beekeeper to a queenright colony, the colony will tear the mobile down and kill the creating queen. They’re going to additionally do that should you upload a queen mobile too quickly after eliminating the unique queen, probably because of the presence of circulating queen pheromones.
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This ‘tearing down’ of the mobile comes to the employees chewing throughout the sidewall of the mobile. It sounds as if they pass throughout the sidewall for the reason that pupal cocoon is thinner there than on the tip of the mobile.

JzBz queen mobile protectors

It’s because of this that queen mobile protectors had been invented. I’ve bought quite a few various kinds of those protectors – in plastic (which have a tendency to be slightly at the small facet personally), steel or bamboo. All prohibit get admission to to the facets of the mobile however permit the queen to emerge from the tip.

Apple pies

Then again, a long way more uncomplicated than those business merchandise is a flip or two of aluminium foil. This will also be wrapped across the mobile leaving the end uncovered and the employees are not able to rip the mobile down.

Despite the fact that you’ll be able to keep in mind to incorporate a 50 m roll of Bacofoil to your bee bag I’ve discovered it’s higher to obtain a packet of person Bramley apple pies, each and every occupying a tin foil container.

I’ve eaten the contents

Consume the pie after which use the foil.

Different pies would possibly paintings however I will make it possible for tin foil from Bramley apple pies does 😉 .

OK, again to supersedure

What occurs should you upload a suitably safe sealed queen mobile to a queenright colony?

Roger Patterson claims that during ~80% of circumstances the brand new queen supersedes the unique queen within the hive.

Spare queen cells

After the newest spherical of queen rearing I had a couple of cells ‘spare’ and a few colonies destined for both uniting or queen alternative. Reasonably than eliminating the previous queen and including a safe mobile, or eliminating the previous queen and ready an hour or 3 prior to including an unprotected mobile , I merely added foil-wrapped cells to the queenright hives.

Foil-wrapped mobile

The larvae have been grafted into Nicot plastic cups and the creamy yellow plastic cup holders have handy ‘ears’ to push into comb to carry the mobile between frames of brood. I scoffed a few apple pies, lower the foil up the use of my queen clipping scissors , wrapped the mobile and driven it into the brush. It took not more than 1 minute (together with eating the pies). No want to even search for the laying queen.

It is going to be simple sufficient to decide whether or not the unique queens are outmoded (as they had been clipped and marked 😉 ).

I’ll test the state of the queen cells subsequent week and, assuming they’ve emerged OK, will search for a brand new mated laying queen within the hives a fortnight or so after that.

Herbal and synthetic supersedure

This ‘safe queen mobile “supersedure”‘ isn’t true supersedure as the brand new queen is being imposed at the colony, fairly than the employees deciding to switch her.

In herbal supersedure the older queen is almost certainly in any case ejected through the employees – both actually or, extra almost certainly, via hunger.

What’s the destiny of the previous queen on this beekeeper-induced synthetic supersedure?

Do the queens fight it out? Does the power of the brand new queen’s pheromones be certain that she will get beef up from the colony on the expense of the previous queen? Is the luck of this supersedure dependent upon the older queen being previous (there’s a distinction).

I’m asking the questions as I don’t know the solution.

’No value possibility’

Supersedure provides a survival mechanism for colonies with a failing queen. I call to mind it as a kind of evolutionary ‘no value possibility’. If the colony judges the queen would possibly fail they rear a supersedure queen. If stipulations are appropriate for queen mating and he or she will get mated then brood rearing continues.

Queen mating luck is almost certainly ~80-90% (a minimum of in loose residing colonies the place it’s been measured). Some supersedure queens will fail to get mated (no drones, too chilly or rainy), through which case the unique queen will raise on. She would possibly or would possibly not therefore fail, and if she does the colony will almost certainly perish, however there used to be very little value to the colony in making an attempt to supersede her.

It may well be vital that almost all supersedure happens in autumn. If the queen is from the present season e.g. a forged swarm, however poorly mated, then the long-term survival of the colony is doubtful. Conversely, if an growing old queen is failing, superseding her within the autumn would possibly imply the colony survives to the next spring.

Iciness bees are produced in overdue summer time and early autumn. Those are the inhabitants that reside for a minimum of 5-6 months fairly than the 5-6 weeks of summer time bees. As a result of supersedure reasons no brood damage there will probably be no affect at the selection of those iciness bees (if unsuccessful), and the quantity may well be boosted if supersedure if a success.

Beautiful … however no longer so just right for queen mating

For those who substitute your queens yearly it’s possible you’ll by no means follow supersedure. For those who don’t automatically substitute your queens or – specifically – should you effectively stay bees in the chillier, wetter, windier north and west of the United Kingdom (or, almost certainly, america and Canada) then it’s possible you’ll neatly rely on it.


Tarpy, D.R., Talley, E., and Metz, B.N. (2021) Affect of brood pheromone on honey bee colony status quo and queen alternative. Magazine of Apicultural Analysis 60: 220–228

Withrow, J.M., Pettis, J.S., and Tarpy, D.R. (2019) Results of Temperature All through Bundle Transportation on Queen Established order and Survival in Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Magazine of Financial Entomology 112: 1043–1049

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