Drone cells in the Treatment Free world
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  1. #1
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    May 2019
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    Marinette County, WI
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    Default Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    I am wondering what the TF keepers practice is when it comes to drone cell building. Let em bee, cut em out, limit them, etc.

    I am a first season beek and at five weeks my colony has created between two and three dozen drone cells on two bars (HTBH) out of a total of about ten full size combs and maybe six more combs in various stages of completeness. I'm thinking that's nothing to worry about. I don't intend to manipulate what the colony is doing. The combs all have very nice patterns with all stages of brood. No queen cells that I can see.
    Wisconsin/Upper Michigan Border - Marinette County
    First colony, April 2019

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
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    Aylett, Virginia
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    I am not TF but here is a general take on drones. A couple dozen drone cells on your top bar frames is fine. In fact, almost all your brood frames will have a patch. An entire comb made of nothing but drone cells is a little more disconcerting, but still perfectly normal in the Springtime and should be considered a sign of a healthy hive. Of course, healthy hives tend to swarm, so excessive drone comb is a good indicator of potential.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  4. #3
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    Mar 2015
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    Tallapoosa, Georgia, USA
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    I love them and encourage my best to build them. I want as much influence over the local genetics as I can leverage. I want my neighbor's queens bred to my drones.
    Working to propagate my survivors and staying treatment free USDA Zone 7b

  5. #4
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    Quote Originally Posted by tpope View Post
    I love them and encourage my best to build them. I want as much influence over the local genetics as I can leverage. I want my neighbor's queens bred to my drones.
    +100
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    Hmmm, I like my black drones and darker bees. Maybe I should rethink my plans for next spring and allow the bees a head start on drone production by not removing those predominantly drone comb frames?
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  7. #6
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    Jul 2010
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    jackson county, alabama, usa
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    i would be less concerned about color and more interested in other traits, and perhaps it's these dark ones that have other traits you like jwp, but yes the drone side of the genetic equation in my opinion is as much if not more important the the queen side.

    an easy way to get a solid frame of drone comb is to place a foundationless frame at the edge of the broodnest once the build up coming out of winter is underway. i have one or two in all my hives.
    journaling the growth of a (mite) treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  8. #7
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    Apr 2017
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    ...an easy way to get a solid frame of drone comb is to place a foundationless frame at the edge of the broodnest once the build up coming out of winter is underway. i have one or two in all my hives.
    I can attest to that SP. Went foundationless this year and that is exaclty what happened when I tried Matt Davies' OTSB. Drone comb galore, solid frames. They went back to worker brood comb shortly afterwards.

    This will be my first year to start selecting for desired traits. Last two have been build up. Only two queen lines so figured the selection was not that crucial. After multiple open matings of sucessive generations, I would like to get picky and see if I can get calm, honey producers that are frugal in winter. Good mite tolerance wouldn't hurt either. I have one hive that two years running has left the super full of capped syrup. Just the one hive though. All the others plow through the stores in March.

    Getting back to the OP, TF or not, we do not cull drone brood as means of mite contol. Pretty ineffective in the grand scheme of things and doesn't exactly flood the DCA's with the genetics we want to perpetuate.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  9. #8
    Join Date
    May 2019
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    Marinette County, WI
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    33

    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    OK, good to know everyone.

    At a winter club meeting a couple of folks piped up about having drone cells in their frames. One of them was adamant that he wanted no drones. No one else threw in their two cents worth so I went away from that meeting thinking drones are bad. I better watch for drone cells. After further reading I couldn't fathom why they were so anti drone. Now I am very much in the "Bees know what they are doing" camp. Especially if all other factors seem to be healthy.
    Wisconsin/Upper Michigan Border - Marinette County
    First colony, April 2019

  10. #9
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    Dec 2017
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    Dane County, WI, USA
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    +100
    +1000.

    In fact, I have saved up drone combs from last year partly for this exact reason.
    This year I mean to specifically insert those drone combs with my best breeding queens so to generated as much of my own drone presence as possible.
    Not worried of the drones being the mite feeding stations either - these particular lines so far have not shown any mite concerns.
    I want those drones en mass and I want them flying.

    BTW, I will actually harvest drone brood from the least desirable colonies. Like, for food.
    Former "smoker boy". Classic, square 12 frame Dadants >> Long hive/Short frame/chemical-free experimentations.

  11. #10

    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    Quote Originally Posted by GregV View Post
    +1000.
    +10000

    I have a 5 cm free space under the bottom box where all hives can make as much drones as they want. Plus I put in special drone frame (dark, saved from previous years) in the middle of brood nest in my insemination drone rearing hives. Queens usually lay it full right away.

  12. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2018
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    Northern Lower Michigan, USA
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    Quote Originally Posted by NoWIBeek View Post
    OK, good to know everyone.

    At a winter club meeting a couple of folks piped up about having drone cells in their frames. One of them was adamant that he wanted no drones. No one else threw in their two cents worth so I went away from that meeting thinking drones are bad. I better watch for drone cells. After further reading I couldn't fathom why they were so anti drone. Now I am very much in the "Bees know what they are doing" camp. Especially if all other factors seem to be healthy.
    WiBeek, the old way of thinking was since I order my queen from breeders I do not need drones. And the drones need to be fed, they fly out looking for a Queen to mate. come back "fuel up" do it over, sortie after sortie, the fuel is nectar, so the drones are thought to cause less honey harvest. But in the grand scheme of things, better genetics can easily over come a pound or 2 of honey if the survival rate from over winter for instance is higher. I use to cull if a comb had lots of drone cells, now I do not worry much. Lots for me is 25 to 30 percent. if a comb is half drone it can be a honey extract comb or a decoy hive comb. To me pure worker bees is an out of balance system. Also consider that some hives contribute drones and some contribute Queens, which do you prefer? The queen in this case could be swarm queens too. A few here and there is not much to worry about, you can always move them in to honey supers.
    also keep in mind queens are often superseded, so you may have a queen replacement and not even know it.
    GG

  13. #12
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    Boaz, KY, USA
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    Quote Originally Posted by NoWIBeek View Post
    I am wondering what the TF keepers practice is when it comes to drone cell building. Let em bee, cut em out, limit them, etc.
    NoWIBeek:

    Good thread- I've enjoyed the wisdom shared here. FWIW, I am with you in the 'bees know what they are doing' camp, and have been thoroughly impressed with the results of my trials concerning a move to foundationless.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    Quote Originally Posted by NoWIBeek View Post
    my colony has created between two and three dozen drone cells on two bars (HTBH) out of a total of about ten full size combs and maybe six more combs in various stages of completeness.
    That is a remarkablty small amount of drone cells.
    "Every viewpoint, is a view from a point." - Solomon Parker

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    Someone at a conference I went to described drone cells as the bee-equivalent of a shiny, new fancy pick-up in the garage. Not something a colony that's just getting by will invest in, but something that they will make when they are vigorous and replete with resources. So I see them as confirmation that my hives are doing quite well. In the spring I use partial foundation frames (OSBN) as an anti-swarm tactic and the bees will draw fat drone cells sections on either side of the foundation. This keeps most of my drone cells from being stuck between boxes.

    Nancy

  16. #15

    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    Drone propagation with the intent of supplying superior genetics to the surrounding community is an admirable goal. But donít overlook the fact that varroa are strongly drawn to drone brood and reproduce much more successfully there.
    Years ago one of the pioneers of tf beekeeping, Dee Lusby recommended culling brood frames with excessive drone cells. In my opinion, one of her more rational ideas. I no longer remember the exact percentage but I believe it was either 10 or 20%.
    Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted. - Emerson

  17. #16
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    Algoma District Northern Ontario, Canada
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    The bees know what they are doing alright; reproducing! That is the instinct that supports their existence. Their instincts though may be counterproductive to our purposes which generally is production of honey and pollination. The latter is the biggy. Drones do not make honey or pollinate.

    Now if your operation is the production of bees, that skews the value of drones and you may wish to be selective on which colonies to favor or discourage drone production in.

    If you are very isolated with only a handful of colonies it likely would be good insurance to encourage drones but if you are in high bee population area, not so much.

    Not so easy to come up with one simple answer and claim "enough said".
    Frank

  18. #17
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    May 2019
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    Marinette County, WI
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    ... If you are very isolated with only a handful of colonies it likely would be good insurance to encourage drones but if you are in high bee population area, not so much.
    Not knowing my area as far as honey bees go I think I can say with some confidence that my bees live in an area that is fairly isolated. I know of no other beekeepers in my town , though, there may be some. We're in the northwoods with little agriculture. Last spring/summer, BB (before Bs) I looked at blossoms regularly as I tried in vain to catch a swarm. With that activity I came to the conclusion that I live in a bee desert. Lots of pollinators, Bumbles, black bees, hummers, hummingbird moths, etc., but I only saw one honey bee all summer. Contrast that with this spring with two building colonies and bees are everywhere.

    I'm happy with whatever results from my experiments with being TF. I am saying TF even though I suspect both the package and the nuc I started with are both from non-treatment free apiary. That's another story altogether; the sources both lied about the origins of the bees until I picked them up... If they make it this winter I will be ecstatic. If not I'll continue my swarm trapping efforts until successful.
    Wisconsin/Upper Michigan Border - Marinette County
    First colony, April 2019

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    I originally was probably as isolated as you are. After needing to do a thorough mite treatment on original nucs I only had to do minor treatment; could very likely managed TF as they were fierce groomers. That changed though as other bees have been brought in. Some people encourage drone production and timely culling for a mite control strategy but others are conscientious objectors. I brought in a few new queens for diversity in view of the inbreeding angle but have been told it probably was not necessary.

    I ran some frames of foundationless but found the drone production to be ridiculous. Some people have different views on this but in my cold climate with my bees it did not suit me. It is more practical I found to create dedicated drone space though rather than have it willy nillly over all comb areas. I believe in managing drones. There are naturally no honey bees up here so I dont worry at all about so called "natural beekeeping".
    Frank

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    If NoWIBeek is truly as isolated as he believes, there is a good chance his TF efforts will succeed, even using less than optimal stock. I suspect however, that there are feral bees around and subsequent matings will only serve to improve his chances. In that case, keeping the southern package/ almond bee drones to a minimum might be a good idea for now.
    Thankfully, the bees are smarter than I am. They are doing well, in spite of my efforts to help them.

  21. #20
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    Aug 2002
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    Default Re: Drone cells in the Treatment Free world

    I have a lot of foundationless frames. I have a lot of drone comb. I put it on the outside of the boxes. I never cull it. I never remove it. I never kill drones.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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