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I did a hive inspection....questions and concerns

2502 Views 13 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  sqkcrk
So I have two hives that I started out end of April, all mediums. I added a third box on each of them around mid June. The first hive I checked looked like it was doing well. In fact, it is almost ready for a fourth box. I did notice though that only one of the frames had eggs, and the rest of them are all nectar. I was relieved to see the eggs, so am assuming there is still a queen. Since very little of this box is working on brood, does that mean that everything I add from now on is going to be all about the honey?

On to the second hive - this is where I am really concerned. I was expecting the third box to be like it was in the first hive. However, the bees have barely drawn out anything in this box. There are about four or five frames that have some comb drawn out in the center areas, but it is barely developed, and very few bees are in this box. There also is nothing in any of the cells because none of them are drawn out enough. So I felt I should inspect the box below it. In this box there were plenty of bees and brood....but I couldn't find the queen or any eggs. There is a lot of capped brood, exposed larva, and a lot of empty cells from where bees were born. There is also nectar and some capped honey. I did notice on the bottom of one of the frames what looked like a swarm or supersedure cell. But would there be a swarm cell with so much space in the top box? Is it possible that there could have been a swarm already since the top box had so few bees and so little going on? I am also worried I could have harmed the queen cell because it may have ripped a little from the frames in the box below it, where it seemed to be attached. Though it may have not ripped at all as there was other comb that ripped too, and I could see a large exposed larvae on the top of the frames below. Perhaps that was also a developing queen? I am not sure what I should do, because it seems like there is no queen. Maybe there is and she just stopped laying? I don't know what to make of this. As well, in the top box there is a powdery white fluff, like mold all along the side of one wall. I wiped it off, but am frustrated because I am having condensation problems. Both hives had watery condensation on the tops of the boxes when lifting the lids off. Is that normal? I recently purchased inner covers that are just screens, to allow for better ventilation but have not used them yet. Being so close to the ocean there is a lot of moisture here. Could I use these screened inner covers year round? I also have been having problems with the Brushy Mountain boxes. A lot of them have warped and cracked, and some of them were rocking quite a bit. Brushy Mountain sent me a few new boxes, but they are not all equal in size with some of the original boxes that didn't rock and one of the boxes sticks out from the one on top of it, leaving a quarter inch platform where water could collect. There are gaps in between some of the boxes enough that I can stick my hive tool all the way through. Do others have this problem? I am actually considering starting all over with new boxes from a different company but no matter what I do I am turned off by the idea of spending extra money or going through the hassle of painting and changing everything. Sorry, I didn't mean to go into so much detail about my equipment, because I am mostly concerned about what is going on with my hives. Any input is appreciated!
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290 Posts
I might have missed something, but are your brood boxes on screened bottoms? We've been having skanky hot, humid temps here, and mine are handling the humidity fine except for one older hive that's on a solid. Have had to vent that one like crazy, and it's getting a screened as soon as I can get one built.

Also, if you think you might be queenless, you might grab that frame of eggs from Hive 1 and swap it out. Pull a frame of brood up from Hive 2 and see if that gets them interested in drawing out more comb. Are you feeding them?

That's the big advantage of having more than one hive. Both comparison and resources.

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24,666 Posts
Sorry about all the questions! The one on the top of my list would be about the second hive. Is there anything I should do about it?
Could you edit your post down tosomething less verbose? Mostly, if it looks like what yours looks like, I don't read it. I don't know how many others are like me in this regard, but short and simple questions are more likely to get response. Then we can ask for more info. Have a conversation.


· Banned
2,322 Posts
Mostly, if it looks like what yours looks like, I don't read it. I don't know how many others are like me in this regard, but short and simple questions are more likely to get response.

I agree. Are people trying to tell a story, or are they interested in finding answers to their question?

Short and simple questions are often not enough for me to comment. Lose all the unnecessary storytelling info, and make sure you provide enough relevant info for folks to be able to answer your questions. If someone is interested in telling a story, they are too busy to listen to our answers.

Just to be nice, I slogged through the post. Given the information you provided, and ignoring all the unnecessary info, the answer to every one of your questions is 'maybe'.

· Registered
891 Posts
pics are worth a thousand words....

as to the question about swarm/queen/queencell...
id look for your queen first. Methodic frame by frame search. A second set of experienced eyes will be a great help. Ask around in your area, put a shout out to your local beek club/community. Evaluate further options after the results of the search.

Not only will the experienced eyes help with the queen question, it will also be able to advise of the other issues such as moisture.

(nice leadinto moisture issue) for summer most use either a vented top cover with entrance or simply prop the telescoping outer cover up with a stick/block of wood. (you can search the forums for this with pics) In addtion a SBB will greatly improve ventilation especially during high humidity times of curing honey.

As for issues with boxes/supers.... its not to terribly important that the boxes fit perfectly tight. The bees will seal it up quick enough with propolis. As for slightly diffrent sized boxes again an issue with weathering but not really an issue with getting addtional mosture in the hive as the bees will seal it out with propolis.

As for warping, check your "stands". a full super is very heavy and if your stand is warped/croked then your supers are likely to sag and match that warp which then if you swap boxes will make the box look warped when placed on a flat surface. Not saying it isnt bad wooden ware, the pine material used for them can be sub-par especially for the inexpensive grades/kits.

oh and like others said... paragraphs for topical questions are your friend

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5,184 Posts
It can be hard to find the queen, and it can also be quite hard to see eggs. You have a mixture of capped and open brood so, most likely you have a queen as well. When you see a patch of open brood with "empty" cells around it very often those empty cells actually contain eggs that you can't see. Very young brood looks like an empty cell with a bit of cloudy/milky film in the bottom of it - that's royal jelly. Look again in a few days and most likely those empties will contain visible brood.

If you really think that one hive is queenless give it a frame of open brood/very young larva/eggs and check back in a few days - if they are queenless they will start queen cells on it. If they do that try to leave them alone and in 3-4 weeks you should have a new laying queen.

Your equipment may or may not be all that great, but most likely it isn't so bad that it will really matter to the bees. If you don't like it use another source next time, but don't worry about it too much right now - Unless it is falling apart it will be alright.

I think everyone obsesses a bit their first year. Try to relax, refrain from opening the hive too often, and they will probably be just fine. If you took a months vacation they would probably be doing great when you got back. Of course - no guarantees.:D

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24 Posts
Since very little of this box is working on brood, does that mean that everything I add from now on is going to be all about the honey?
The only way to make the next box all about the honey is to add a queen excluder. If you put on a 4th box without one, chances are she'll put brood up there.

A few thoughts about the second hive:
-- Sometimes colonies are reluctant to get to work in a brand new box for no apparent reason. When adding a new box, I often pull a couple frames with lots of bee activity up into the new box to encourage them to spread into the new space.
-- You mention what's going on in boxes 2 and 3. Did you inspect box 1? If not, you don't have the full picture of what's going on in the hive. The queen could've moved back down to box 1 to lay eggs after filling up box 2's brood area.
-- Can't answer the question about the queen cell damage without seeing it. But since it's at the bottom of the frame, it's a swarm cell. The hive may have swarmed already, or it may not. How full of bees are boxes 1 and 2 -- crammed, or a bit on the thin side compared with your other hive? If they haven't swarmed, they're preparing to.

Hope that helps at least a little.

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1,640 Posts
Will a hive swarm if they have not moved into the top box, YES

A hive only has as much room as drawn comb. One thought would be, when the bottom box is about 70% full, pull a few frames from the bottom and place in the upper brood box, adding new empties to the bottom box.
As well bees will only draw comb if either a flow is happening or you are feeding 1:1 syrup.

Queen cells
Center of the frame and only one or two in each brood box....usually one...this is a supercedure cell. This means the bees know something you do not. DO NOT knock this down until you assess your hive.

Bottom of the frame or top of the frame...swarm cells...bees are figuring they are close to being out of room and need to swarm.

Center and all over cells, in a small grape like formation on the frames...emergency supercedure cells. Basically the queen died suddenly.

Bees are not born, they hatch at day three or 4 and emerge when mature

As to your first hive, if i got the jist right, the bees will constantly work on brood. That is the nurse bees job. If they have no room in your brood chambers to do this, you need to make room by moving some of the honey frames to the honey super and giving them some empty frames to make more brood. Add honey supers when the flow is on. I like the use of a queen excluder to keep the queen in her place.

Boxes are fine, the bees will fill the holes in with propolis. You are luck you can get a hive tool in there. It will make it easier to shift apart when everything gets stuck together

A queen stops laying for a couple of reasons
1. a dearth
2. it is going into winter
3. just before she swarms

You probably have a virgin in there. If not, one is on the way with all the swarm cells. If you have more, you need to knock them down. Here is the dilema. You have a 50/50 chance that there is a queen runnning around in there. If you knock all the swarm cells down, you risk not having a queen. If you keep one swarm cell, you risk an after swarm

As to ventilation...I will not answer, as i live in a different part of the world, so what works for us, might not be your answer.

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thank you all for your advice, it was so helpful. I also am sorry for my long story....I do hate it when people do that and will often skip over those posts myself. I did consider posting several threads with each question but could not hold back. I hope that is not a swarm cell! The middle box was pretty packed with bees. I am going to do a very thorough check of every box. Is it ok to do it the next day after I just checked?
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