Amateur question about drone cells
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    Santa Fe, TX, USA
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    Default Amateur question about drone cells

    I need some help figuring out the topic of drone cells. I have read up on the importance of keeping the hive tidy and clean; scraping off burr comb and such. The one beekeeping class I took (before I ever got bees), the instructor scraped all of the drone comb off, too. I did it for the first time, yesterday, and was so heartsick I almost cried. Most of the drone cells had larvae and bees in all stages of development, even almost completely hatched bees. I was so depressed all night, knowing I had killed those bees. So, what is the "rule of thumb" for drones and drone cells? If they build drone cells in the regular part of the frame foundation, leave it there? If it's on the top, sides or bottom, scrape it off?

    I'm also thinking about buying the plastic drone cell frames with the built in drone foundation. Dadant's catalog says to just put it in your box, in place of a regular frame, and the bees will build their drone comb there, instead of in other, undesireable places. Is this true? And then, when full, freeze the whole frame, cut the caps off, and put back in the box for the bees to clean and reuse. My beekeeping For Dummies book also says this is a good way to control varro mites.

    Don't we need drone bees in the hive, to an extent (duh!).....and if so, why are we cutting, killing, freezing, etc., all of the drone comb?

    What do all of you experts think on this subject? Any help you can give me would be appreciated.

    P.S. My Italian ladies are so calm and sweet and friendly, and don't have a problem with me doing inspections or anything.....until I started cutting the drone comb, that is. They went absolutely ape $hit on me at that point! I got finished and out of there fast!
    Susan, Extremely New Beekeeper, Santa Fe, TX
    neverbeenstungneverbeenstungneverbeenstungneverbee nstung

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Location
    Chickamauga, Walker County, Georgia
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    396

    Default Re: Amateur question about drone cells

    I'm certainly not a "bee expert," but I will offer the opinion that I don't consider myself to understand the bees' ancient (and successful) ways better than they do. I don't consider a drone-cell, or for that matter a queen-cell, as a thing to be destroyed.

    Stretching my neck out slightly farther, I guess it must be said that I rather fear the mixing of "agri-" and "-business." It's not just a "crop." It is a colony. I listen to and understand those who insist that a beehive must be constantly "managed" and who consider fairly-constant "intervention" on their behalf to be "necessary," but I don't agree with their approaches and don't follow them. Yes, having in some ways created this very artificial situation, you must be "a good and attentive steward," but ... how do I say this well? ... also humble. These are not things of which we have such perfect knowledge, after all. "Conventional wisdom" just might not turn out to be that wise, and there are always things that honeybees can teach us.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    Santa Fe, TX, USA
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    23

    Default Re: Amateur question about drone cells

    Uh....okay. And thanks!

    Do YOU leave the drone cells in your hive boxes? What do you think about the green drone frames?
    Susan, Extremely New Beekeeper, Santa Fe, TX
    neverbeenstungneverbeenstungneverbeenstungneverbee nstung

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Location
    Palm Bay, FL, USA
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    2,274

    Default Re: Amateur question about drone cells

    Bees are going to build drone comb wherever they think they need it. You can scrape off all you want and go back a few days later and they'll have it all rebuilt. You can use it for a varroa indicator by pulling a few larva and checking for mites. As far as the green drone comb I've had mixed results. Some hives use it and fill it with drones, some just fill it with honey. Generally, most of the burr comb between boxes will be drone comb, but if that's not enough for them they'll make drone cells on a worker brood comb and sometimes on several brood combs. Don't get excited about drones; there are always enough of them to do the job!

  6. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Location
    Rader, Greene County, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    10,833

    Default Re: Amateur question about drone cells

    I don't claim to be an expert, but i think fish_stix's comments are 100% correct. And here's some more expert support for that opinion:
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfallacies.htm
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
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    5,453

    Default Re: Amateur question about drone cells

    The drones frames are typically used just for mite management, which is why they're frozen. If you're breeding you could use them for drone mother's but the typical hobbyist really has no need for a frame of drones to be hatching out. If you're really worried about it, cut a few corners out of some of your drawn frames (if you use foundation) and they can make some drone comb there or put a foundationless frame in and they can build their own. I only clean my burr comb off the top of the frames, if there's a little on the bottom I leave it for the bees to put drones in. Just don't let it get out of hand.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Brown County, IN
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    2,300

    Default Re: Amateur question about drone cells

    The only time I've ever scraped off drone brood was when it was built in burr comb on the tops/bottoms of frames. If the colony decides there are too many drones, it will evict them and/or cannibalize drone brood. As fish-stix notes, if the colony wants drones, then you're fighting a losing battle trying to eliminate them.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Charlotte, NC
    Posts
    40

    Default Re: Amateur question about drone cells

    Let the bees be the bees. They will regulate the drone population as needed. It will vary through the year.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Location
    Portsmouth, NH
    Posts
    92

    Default Re: Amateur question about drone cells

    I remove burr comb when it starts to become a problem, sticking frames together, etc. If removing drone comb is going to upset you then I would just leave it be.

    I wouldn't bother to get a plastic drone frame. If you feel like you have to do something. I heard a idea from Randy Oliver (I think) in a lecturer He takes a frame and cuts a extra bottom. He attaches it about 2-3" from the top. He then puts a piece of 2-3" wax foundation on top. The bees draw out "natural" comb in the bottom, typically drone comb. You can then mark the frame. You always know where the drone comb is and it is easy to test for mites with a toothpick. You could also just give them a empty frame with a starter strip it in.

    Drones are good for the hive. Read Bee Sex Essentials by Dr. Larry Connor. You won't mind drones so much after that.
    Backyard beekeeping and honey bees.
    www.BlueLineApiary.com

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    Location
    Kingsport, Sullivan, Tennessee
    Posts
    818

    Default Re: Amateur question about drone cells

    Removing the burr comb with drone brood IS rather nasty but gotta be done. I try to keep at least most of the burr comb cleaned up, myself. It may be my imagination, but it seems to me that my colonies that have one of the plastic drone frames make far less drone burr comb, perhaps less burr comb in general. A very casual observation and not scientific, at all. When removing drone burr comb, I do check for presence of varroa. If the colony has a green drone frame, I will open a few to check for varroa. -js

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Utica, NY
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    13,203

    Default Re: Amateur question about drone cells

    Quote Originally Posted by vonknabe View Post
    until I started cutting the drone comb, that is. They went absolutely ape $hit on me at that point!
    Step away from the hive if you are going to decap drones. They are bees too and the rest of the girls probably like them so they are trying to protect them. I only do it to a laying worker hive where I have already dumped the bees.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

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