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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Opened up my hive to check and see if the first brood from my queen had started emerging and to open the entrance reducer up to the medium setting, and was surprised to see that the drone population had skyrocketed all of a sudden. From a fresh package with maybe 3-5% drones, I now had at least a frame and a half of pretty much exclusively drones - and my first thought was that I had a drone laying queen and my best laid plans were going downhill fast. But going back over my notes, I don't think these could possibly be from my own queen, she hadn't yet been released on April 10th (confirmed release on the 13th), and the check was on May 3rd - so 23 days at the absolute longest. Also, though I'm new to this, the capped brood really doesn't look like drone brood to me (I have some good pictures if somebody can tell me how to upload a picture bigger than 195kb).


So that leaves laying workers (and the eggs were all singles laid in the bottom of the cells), or massive drone drift. Is drone drift like this a common occurrence? Is there any way to discourage this? It seems like supporting a large mooching drone population could really make it difficult to build up for the spring nectar flows, not to mention being a disease vector.
 

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I think maybe the drones in the package have just gotten themselves organized to hang out together more, so they look like a larger percentage. Perhaps the frames where they are congregating have some factor which promotes that: subtle differences in warmth, ventilation, lack of activity, (maybe the worker bees just elbow them out of the way of the hustle and bustle of their work on the other frames?) food availability, etc. which attracts them. So it's likely you don't have more drones than you did at package installation, it's just that they are more concentrated in one place, so seem more numerous. It's also possible that drones which I think live longer than worker bees are temprorarily increasing as a percentage of the total bee population as the package-era worker bees reach the end of their lives and are not being replaced by colony-laid eggs. I think there is a commonly a short-term dip in worker population about this time. But if you're not seeing slabs of drone comb, don't worry about it.

Drones are not a "bad" thing to have, despite their lack of hive-work. I'm sure that in many ways having drones in the hive population is an important, normalizing, factor to the colony's health and well-being.

Drift, in my observation of my three hives, is not as easy to accomplish as many seem to think. I see considerable challenging of stray bees (from one of my hives to the other) even of young foragers which could theoretically earn their keep by working.

Adult drones don't attract mites more than worker bees (which I assume is what you're referring to by "disease vector"), instead they are more predated by mites as pupa within the cells because their incubation period better-matches that needed by mites. But after they've hatched mites would de-select them as hosts because they don't offer transport back into the brood areas for another go-round. All drifting bees offer opportunities for new diseases and organisms from outside the colony to enter, however.

Drones are NOT moochers, they are necessary for the obvious reason (breeding), but given the intricate (and not totally understood) social and bio-chemical relationships between members of this colonial super-organism we call a honey bee hive, I wouldn't be distressed about their presence as adults w/o clear evidence of the classic laying-worker maladaptation.

Last summer I had an odd arrangement in one of my hives: an empty super with a wire sling mmesh ounted inside it. On a tray on the sling I set large slabs of gnarly comb from the cut-out to let the bees clean them out. After that was done, the drones in this colony hung out there - my husband dubbed this section the "man-cave". Nothing bad happened. In fact this colony (of my three) has had - and continues to have - almost no mites. (And I test more or less contnuously.) I have never treated it, although I have treated the adjacent hives. I'm not suggesting that the man-cave arrangement causes the lack of mites, but I am suggesting that simply having a concentration of drones in the hive doesn't create issues, either. As long as the requisitie number of worker bees are being born, visible groups of drones are beside the point.

Enj.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks again Enjambres, good stuff.

I was sort of worried that a collapsing (possibly laying worker) hive in the area was spitting off it's drones and my ladies had decided to adopt them, bringing with them whatever caused the original colony to collapse (actually thinking nosema more than V.destructor). But if this seems normal to you that puts my mind at least a little at ease :).
 

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Drones do beg in at any hive after making flights, they do travel quite some distance (several miles a a rule) away from the hive. They will also follow a queen quite some distance.

I'd be surprised if you suddenly got a huge number begging in, but my hive is making quite a crop of them this year -- using foundationless frames outside the brood nest does indeed work quite well to make drone comb, I have two solid medium frames, both sides, completely full with only an occasional worker cell interspersed. All nicely capped, should be emerging shortly. Frames of worker brood, while all in a column in every single box in the hive, are almost pure worker, very few drones, and only a scattering between boxes, which is what I wanted. I expect that comb to be backfilled with nectar and pollen after the drones emerge.

Peter
 

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> I have some good pictures if somebody can tell me how to upload a picture bigger than 195kb

If you want to use the Beesource image attachment feature, you cannot upload pictures bigger than 195K.


It is possible to link larger photos by uploading them to an image host like Flickr or Photobucket, then linking them here. If you choose the correct style link (often called 'IMG') you can automatically display those images inline in your post. Note that displaying oversize inline images violate Beesource rules, and you risk deletion if you post grossly oversize images.

You always have the option of providing a clickable link to an oversize image hosted elsewhere - those can be as big as the photo host allows.

There are lots of free tools to resize images. For Windows PCs I like Irfanview. If you prefer an online resizing tool, here is a simple to use one: http://www.resizeyourimage.com/

.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks for the link Radar, here's one of recent brood, with some capped brood. The open brood looks pretty healthy, and though the cells are distinct, it doesn't look to me like they are particularly protruding.
Honeycomb Bee Insect Beehive Honeybee
 

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>a frame and a half of pretty much exclusively drones

Laying workers will lay nothing but drones, so even a few capped worker cells would show that it's not. A drone laying queen might go through a spell of laying a few workers but mostly drones, but they quickly become nothing but drones as well. Make an estimate what percent of the capped comb is droned and what percent is workers. Remember, sometimes a worker cell is SLIGHTLY convex. Drone cells look like a hemisphere on top...
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
@Michael - it's mostly worker brood, just starting to see some drone cells now.

But recent developments are making a drone rich surrounding area a lot more desirable, I opened up the hive quickly yesterday to see that most of the brood from the first round had emerged and my population has increased substantially, but the laying seems to have slowed down and I'm seeing a couple supercedure cells. I'm reasonably sure the original queen is still laying (saw a few newish eggs, will check again in a couple days), so they probably just aren't pleased with her production capability and looking to supplement or supplant. So now I'm all for a drone rich surrounding area that can yield me a well mated 1/2 local queen.
 

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A lot of drones a lot of laying which is now slowing down and now queen cells? What makes you think they are supersedure cells? I'm not there to judge but a hive that is rapidly headed in a growing direction with a lot of drones is more likely to swarm than to supersede...
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
The location of the cells, for one thing - there are only a couple and in the middle of frames when there is ample room on the bottom to build queen cups if they were doing a planned swarm. I know it's not a hard and fast rule, but they don't seem like they are running out of room - just going to have to ride it out and hope for the best, a little luck and I could have a mother/daughter team for a while and a quick expansion.
 
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