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Hi, I have a TBH that is looking really strong, and I went through it the other day and there were 3 fully drawn out bars that were completely full of drone cells, both sides. I think during this time of the year they raise drones in preparation for swarming, and then raising a new queen, but this seems like more than I remember seeing before. This also makes me worry about varroa since they like drone brood.
Was wondering if this is considered normal? And if not, what could be causing them to raise so many drones? Thanks!
 

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Re: Lot’s of Drone Cells. Why?

Bees in the wild will typically have drone brood cover up to 30% of the brood area in spring. On foundation it is closer to 15%. Your topbar hive allows bees to draw whatever ratios of drone/worker brood they feel is necessary at the time. Varroa should always be in your management plans, high drone counts or not. HTH :)
 

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It might be more than you remember seeing before if this is your only top bar hive, because foundationless will result in more drones than foundation, but you most likely already know that.

You can always open the drone cells up with a toothpick or whatever and count mites to see if you think it's a problem.

If you want to kill mites, you can put your drone comb in the freezer for a day and then return them to your hive and let the bees clean it all up.

The cool thing about drone comb is, if you let them keep it, they can pretty much only put honey in it later, since they'll stop raising drones soon and can't raise workers in it.

You can also feed slabs of drone brood to your chickens, but you lose the wax.

If you also have worker eggs/capped brood younger than the drones, you can rule out a laying worker hive.

I see more drone brood in some hives sometimes, and pretty much agree with folks that say they raise what they think they need, and better to let them do what they do. If they think they are strong enough to spend their resources raising drone, I guess I'm happy for a strong hive.
 

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Its perfectly normal if you are seeing worker cells with brood. Drones are a valuable asset to a hive this time of year and i find it almost insane to kill drones off. A world without healthy competitve drones is a world with sub par queen in my opinion. They truly have a great impact on the genetic make up of hive and if they are low on numbers your queen will be short lived.
 

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This... is a great point. I have *seen* it but didn't think about it before. This makes me wonder if the drone cells are an important part of their later winter storage strategy, since they will use them for honey storage.
The cool thing about drone comb is, if you let them keep it, they can pretty much only put honey in it later, since they'll stop raising drones soon and can't raise workers in it.
 

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Re: Lot’s of Drone Cells. Why?

Hi, I have a TBH that is looking really strong,........ 3 fully drawn out bars that were completely full of drone cells, both sides......... Thanks!
You see, this statement does not really say "lots of drone".

You should specify how my bars total and how many covered with bees you have.
Otherwise, a strong hive my have 10 bars total OR 30 bars total.
Either case can be a strong hive (strong just means "packed with bees" but does not specify the volume those bees are taking up).

3 bars out of 10 bars can be said "lots of drone".
However - 3 bars out of 30 bars is not that many drones.

See what I mean?
 

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Re: Lot’s of Drone Cells. Why?

Hi, I have a TBH that is looking really strong, and I went through it the other day and there were 3 fully drawn out bars that were completely full of drone cells, both sides. I think during this time of the year they raise drones in preparation for swarming, and then raising a new queen, but this seems like more than I remember seeing before. This also makes me worry about varroa since they like drone brood.
Was wondering if this is considered normal? And if not, what could be causing them to raise so many drones? Thanks!
Is this on new drawn bars or did they rework combs of worker sized cells? Do they commonly rework a bar or frame to change cell size? In a Langstroth hive I once saw a new frame fully drawn in open drone cells and at the next inspection expecting to see massive drone brood found none of the frames had a high drone ratio.
 

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Re: Lot’s of Drone Cells. Why?

The cool thing about drone comb is, if you let them keep it, they can pretty much only put honey in it later, since they'll stop raising drones soon and can't raise workers in it.
Yes, this has been true for me, too!

If you also have worker eggs/capped brood younger than the drones, you can rule out a laying worker hive.
This is a good point to consider, too. I once installed a package that had a "dud" queen (infertile/badly mated) and she lay only drones...ALL the comb the built was drone comb and filled with single eggs (i.e., not laying worker) but was clearly drone larva/capped brood. It was actually quite shocking to open up to see. So there's that option, too (dud queen). Now THAT was a lot of drones...plus they were completely black, it was so weird. Anyway, we killed her, installed a swarm, and it was like WWIII while they kicked the extra drones out. I hope never to relive that!

So, it is important to rule out laying workers and dud queens, too.
 
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