I am a new beekeeper as well, installed my first nuc at end of May. (Thanks to the help of a helpful family friend who has kept bees for 40 years) We have found some strange things in the hive yesterday, things he has not ever seen:
1- a huge mass of drone cells on top of already developing worker cells. (like a duplex of bees!) Mass took up about 1/4 of the frame, in the second super. Within this mass were (2) 1/4 inch gray "rocks".
2- also found several new queen cells in both supers.
I use a top feeder and we just installed a slatted rack yesterday. I have cork sized holes in the supers as well as slide them back a little for ventilation.
Other than the queen cells, my friend thinks the patterns look fairly normal and there are eggs and larvae.
Questions: Is the first problem a sign of a failing queen? Would swarm cells form towards the top of the frame? Is just the fact that there are queen cells an indicator that the queen is failing? And what is my next step-one book says to buy a new queen and others say to let them make their own.
I just joined this forum and find it so informative so far!!
When you were inspecting this hive, did you see the queen? Yes, drone brood in worker cells can be indicative of a failing queen. The queen cells can indicate the bees attempt to replace her. If you cannot find the queen, she may even have been lost. Since they have queen cells, I'd go ahead and let them finish raising a new queen. If that doesn't turn out satisfactory, you can always replace her then.