Synopsis : Supersedure – the replacement of the queen without a brood break or a queenless period – is an important colony survival mechanism. How is it induced and can the beekeeper take advantage of it?
Supersedure is the replacement of the queen – due to age or infirmity – by a new one reared in the same colony. Significantly the colony is at no point queenless, and may actually have two laying queens during the overlap period. Ted Hooper (in his Guide to Bees and Honey) states that 5% of colonies with two year old queens – at least of the strain of bees he used – actually have two queens in the colony in the autumn and they can often be found laying on the same frame.
I rarely inspect colonies in the autumn and have never seen two queens in a colony, let alone on the same frame. However, I’m well aware the process goes on undetected … or at least undetected until the following spring.
I’ll check a colony in mid-August and find the clipped, marked laying queen I expect. However, the following April – well before the swarm season starts here – I’ll find an unmarked and unclipped queen heading the colony 1.