How much is too much drone brood?
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  1. #1
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    Default How much is too much drone brood?

    Basics: Pollen is good now and they are finding a **little** bit of nectar from something as I am seeing it in some comb. Swarming with commence in about 2 weeks and full flow just after that. No queen cells or supersedure cells present.

    Did a complete inspection of my long hive yesterday and the first brood frame (deep) I pulled had nothing but capped drone on both sides! OK, went to the next frame and nothing but drone on one side and half of the other. There was a bit of capped brood. Alarm bells started ringing in my head---laying workers, AKA no queen? Next frame all capped brood, next frame looked more what I would expect, capped in center with larvae and food as you went out from the center. Same for next several frames with very young larvae so now I know I have a queen!

    In my brief time of beekeeping I have never seen any single hive make so much drone brood. I am hesitant to remove and destroy the full frame of drone brood, even knowing it is probably full of mites, since the bees felt they needed that many drones. Just needing a bit of advice from more experienced beeks at this point. I would really like to remove the full frame of drones and feed them to the fish but should I? I always felt like the bees knew their business better than me but this seems a little over the top.

    I really appreciate the knowledge on this forum and have been an avid reader for a couple of years, but needed to ask about this one.
    Thanks!

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Given that we’ve had such a mild winter, it’s their way of getting the quota of the colony’s genes out into the country side. IMO, it would be best to cull the first batches of drone brood. There’s probably a lot of overwintered mites under those caps, good time to see how many are there too.
    Rod

  4. #3
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    I run mostly topbar hives here in Virginia. Since I do not use foundation, it is not uncommon for the bees to have a lot of drone comb in my hives, which I am OK with since I raise queens. If you are foundationless in your horizontal hive, you should be able to see the cell size difference in drone brood vs. worker brood cells.

    Alarm bells should go off if you are seeing drone cappings in worker sized cells. It's not such a big deal if you see drone cappings in drone sized cells. And then if you want to do a bit of mite control, pull it when capped and trash or feed to the chickens.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    Depends on your goals too. If I had purchased a bunch of fancy Russian mite-killing queens, I'd probably go ahead and let them make as much drone brood as they wanted, in hopes that some of that genetics might stick around the neighborhood. If they are just any old bees and pretty susceptible to mites I might consider removing all or most of that drone brood as a way to limit mite reproduction.

    The bees are probably building up for reproduction season and naturally want to have lots of drones out there.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    good advice that I need to remember. Thanks Ruth.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    There’s probably a lot of overwintered mites under those caps, good time to see how many are there too.
    I have been a little worried about the the mites under those caps and even with removing the full frame it still leave 1-1/2 frames of capped drones. Excellent suggestions Rod, thank you!!!
    Last edited by JWPalmer; 03-26-2020 at 06:06 PM. Reason: Fix quote

  8. #7
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    Cclady, I'm a fan of drones. I think the bees make them for a reason. I usually have 2-3 frames of drone brood in my med. Lang hives. 3 rd year beeknhere, so inlet the bees do what they do best. As for mites, I'm like everyone else here. I despise those buggers. I like to treat 3-4 rounds of o.a. a year. And each treatment is 1rounds each, for 4 weeks. For me and my schedule, it's about every 5-6 days. Mite counts seem very low.
    Seems like you have a good handle on things. Keep em, feed em to fish, or chickens. If you have gentle bees, and they winter well. I'd say keep em, and you will always have to do splits. So, good drone stock is always nice around your apairy for your queen matings. Good luck :-)

  9. #8
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    Quote Originally Posted by Richinbama View Post
    Cclady, I'm a fan of drones. I think the bees make them for a reason. I usually have 2-3 frames of drone brood in my med. Lang hives.
    Richinbama, we are close to the same page in our approach by letting the bees do what bees do--at least for the most part. However, I have had mite troubles this past fall and lost three hives to them. I thought I was treating but the vaporizer was malfunctioning (I think it was overheating and burning the OA rather than fuming) and it was awfully late before I realized there was a problem. By the time I got the thing back from my electrician in October one hive had already failed and two others had started to cascade. At least I have a wonderful new vaporizer now.

    After that fiasco I am a little jumpy about mites, which is why I posted my question.

    Thanks for the information!

  10. #9
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    I'd be curious if you get swarm cells this year.

    For eusocial insects (think bees, ants, and wasps) there are generally two ways to maximize reproductive success: flood the area with males or invest in the production of females. At least in ants, the production of females is much more resource intensive. So colonies that are a little weaker, or resource limited, tend to focus their reproductive strategy on production of males. Not sure this holds up in bees as well but a production of a swarm is highly resource intensive.

    What I'm getting at is that I'm wondering if there is a correlation (inverse) between male production and swarm tendency if left to their own devices (foundationless).

    I, personally, would harvest a frame or two if you didn't want to make splits and like the genetics--as stated.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    Cclady, I went into winter with 5 hives. All made it through winter well. In past 2 weeks I've made a serious jump in hive count. I'm at 13 right now. Could be more, I'm just low on equipment. All strong nuc splits. Some are 3 frame, and most are 5 framers. I do keep sort of a journal of my ad entures with bees. If your interested. It's pretty detailed, and I like folks comments on my good points, and my boo boos. Mites are serious problem for most. I honestly havnt posted allot of pics online, as I'm technology deficient... Lol. But I take regular photos, and such of the bees, and hives. Keep us posted on your journey. The ups and downs are what makes us stronger, and better at this hobby. Rich

  12. #11
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    From what I observe in my hives, the drone breeding rate depends on the greater or lesser availability of drone cells on frames.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    Two things make me consider using more partial foundation frames which then remaining space drawn as drone comb. First is that I want to regain my hive counts and am dependent mostly on my own drones for queen rearing so want their numbers high. Secondly it appears that sugar may be hard to acquire due to the Covid 19 related hoarding. With no fall flow I am dependent on feeding if I want to take much of a harvest. The bees quite obligingly fill the drone comb areas which can be left for feed or cut for crush and strain.

    I used to be quite attached to having frames nicely drawn with all worker cells. Lots of eye appeal. The last few years I have come to the conclusion that appearance does not matter. Allowing about 20% dedicated drone area sure does result in much less drone cell construction between frames. Pulling out large expanses of late stage drone pupae has become my main method of assessing mite levels. From the lot below, I think I found only 6 mites.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Frank

  14. #13
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    Quote Originally Posted by crofter View Post
    Two things make me consider using more partial foundation frames which then remaining space drawn as drone comb. First is that I want to regain my hive counts and am dependent mostly on my own drones for queen rearing so want their numbers high. Secondly it appears that sugar may be hard to acquire due to the Covid 19 related hoarding. With no fall flow I am dependent on feeding if I want to take much of a harvest. The bees quite obligingly fill the drone comb areas which can be left for feed or cut for crush and strain.

    I used to be quite attached to having frames nicely drawn with all worker cells. Lots of eye appeal. The last few years I have come to the conclusion that appearance does not matter. Allowing about 20% dedicated drone area sure does result in much less drone cell construction between frames. Pulling out large expanses of late stage drone pupae has become my main method of assessing mite levels. From the lot below, I think I found only 6 mites.
    Frank, By fall the sugar will be back on the shelves, IMO. May need to leave a bit more honey this year if the sugar is not there. Maybe look into restaurant providers, here that would be Gordon foods and Sysco frost pac. Here the restaurants are down so the the suppliers for restaurants, May have supply. Fortunately or unfortunately depends on the side of the coin you look at, I have 100 of so frames of honey from dead outs I am hoping to give to splits 4 at a time or so, when I add the second box.

    On the drones, creamcitylady, I would take the "oldest" frame of full drone capped brood and have a look at it to see if it has lots of Mites. The ditto for a newer frame, If no mites then ok leave most of the rest, If full of mites then you have some decisions to make. Maybe pull a few more and freeze or just feed to the chickens, Also think about a treatment plan. If you take some frames out put back in the center of the Worker brood, 1 frame at a time to get built out, they tend to build same as what is around the frame

    GG

  15. #14
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    Quote Originally Posted by Gray Goose
    On the drones, creamcitylady, I would take the "oldest" frame of full drone capped brood and have a look at it to see if it has lots of Mites. The ditto for a newer frame, If no mites then ok leave most of the rest, If full of mites then you have some decisions to make. Maybe pull a few more and freeze or just feed to the chickens, Also think about a treatment plan. If you take some frames out put back in the center of the Worker brood, 1 frame at a time to get built out, they tend to build same as what is around the frame
    GG
    Thanks everyone! I decided to sacrifice the oldest drone brood frame. They were hatching out while I was removing the frame. Every hatchling had a mite on it---just as I suspected. The younger capped brood just behind them are clean. That would have been my Feb. treatment. All the capped larvae were clean and there was nothing on any exposed larvae. Love, love, love my new Johno Easy Vape! I am getting too old to lug around the generator so I'm thinking about getting an inverter to run the Easy Vape off my car. Has anyone else done this? -----this is probably a new thread?

    Thanks again!
    Last edited by JWPalmer; 03-27-2020 at 04:30 PM. Reason: Fix quote

  16. #15
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    Default Re: How much is too much drone brood?

    Quote Originally Posted by creamcitylady View Post
    Thanks everyone! I decided to sacrifice the oldest drone brood frame. They were hatching out while I was removing the frame. Every hatchling had a mite on it---just as I suspected. The younger capped brood just behind them are clean.
    Thanks again!

    If every hatching drone had a mite, unless there's something I don't know, your bees are in serious trouble.

    As far as seeing the mites elsewhere, it is very difficult to see them until they have reached maturity. IOW, they may be there but you just can't see them in the younger brood.

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