1. was it a smart or dumb decision to move the frame from the strong hive to the weak one?
Depends. If the strong hive has already swarmed, as they often do once a queen cell is capped, then it was the wrong move. If, as you guessed, the queen was in one of those clumps of bees, then the decission was a good one.
2.Why did I see so many queen cells?
You saw 2 queen cells, the others might have only been queen cups. The difference is if it has an egg or larvae in it it is a queen cell, if there is no egg or larvae in it it is a queen cup. Bees make, tear down, and remake queen cups all the time. Queen cells drawn from the brood area of the comb usually denotes a supercedure. 2 queen cells denotes a supercedure, even as many as 6 queen cells can denote a supercedure, a dozen or more queen cells, especially if located along the edges of the frames.
3.These frames were all from five frame nucs that had been recently queened. Coud they have started raising their own queen before the caged queen was released?
Yes, it is possible they started developing queen cells before the queen was released, but they wouldn't normally do that if there were a queen present in the hive at the time the nuc was made up unless the queen's phenomones indicated inaequate mating of a defect of some kind. The queen's being located on the inner cover indicates she has not yet begun to lay. She should in a few days unless the queen cells had eggs or larvae in them which would indicate a dissatisfaction with the current queen and the bees aren't letting her lay.
4. Could the queen cells I see be old cells since they are on pre-existing comb/frames from my nuc provider?
The cups might have been there prior to the creation of the nucs, queen cells are usually erased within 24-48 hours after the queens hatching or death within the cell. It is also possible that the nucs were made up of frames that already had queen cells on them. In such a case the bees will usually opt for the home grown queen over the introduced queen. A hive with live queen cells, absent a queen, is still a queenright hive.
5. Any suggestions from more experienced beeks? I tried to put into use all the advice and expertise that has been given here since I joined.
Thank you all for your comments.
One thing I've noticed this year, something I've seen before is with it being so wet for a week or more at a time, the queen aren't being properly mated and supercedure or being queenless has become cyclic. I have one hive, that after being split, is on it's third supercedure because of the weather limiting the queen's ability to properly mate.
I'm going to purchase a couple of queens, hoping they are better mated than what is occurring in my own yard.