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We got our first three hives last spring and so just experienced our first winter. We knew there were bees still in each hive but today was the first nice warm (75f) day and there are bees EVERYWHERE. We were due to remove Apivar today which we did. In looking through the hives one thing immediately became apparent though. There are TONS of drone brood/larvae. Every time we split two boes apart we were left staring at dozens of opened brood where we tore comb apart. They have been build drone cells along the top and bottom of many frames and they tear apart when the boxes are removed.

We typically check hives every 10 days or so throughout the year but it has been two months since we had the hives open, to put the Apivar in.

This image shows a sample of what we have been seeing (you can click on it to enlarge it). Carnage.

IMG_2829.jpg

Am I right in thinking that the number of drone cells indicate they are getting ready for swarm season and we need to be thinking about splitting each hive?? Each hive has a lot of capped brood, honey and bees. We are fine with six hives.

Even though it is early, the bees are bringing in pollen so we were thinking of putting on queen excluders and supers tomorrow to help alleviate the issue. Will this help?

We have never seen this number of drone cells so were a little taken aback. Our first spring and all that...

PS: I should add that I used a hive tool to clean up the tops of the frames to try to keep things from gumming up. Hopefully that was the right move?
 

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Congratulations! All is well (so far).
lol, my wife and i were high 5'ing each other when we realized that all three hives are bursting and then realized "hang on, they could swarm two weeks from now so maybe this strength is not such a good thing?!!"
 

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Lots of drones between boxes is not uncommon in the spring. If most of the hive is worker sized cells the bees will make the empty space between the boxes into drone cells. As long as you also find worker brood/cells you are fine. Scraping off the frames between the boxes is the right idea, otherwise the bees may join the boxes together and make it really hard to get them apart.

If the hives look full I would be prepared for swarms in the near future if you do not do anything to open up the brood chamber. You can split the hives, checkerboard in empty frames, or try several other methods to try to keep the hive from swarming. There are a lot of posts on swarm prevention this time of year, so I would start recommend reading those. I would also start checking for queen cells every 5-7 days, so you know if a hive is thinking about swarming before they do.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Lots of drones between boxes is not uncommon in the spring. If most of the hive is worker sized cells the bees will make the empty space between the boxes into drone cells. As long as you also find worker brood/cells you are fine. Scraping off the frames between the boxes is the right idea, otherwise the bees may join the boxes together and make it really hard to get them apart.

If the hives look full I would be prepared for swarms in the near future if you do not do anything to open up the brood chamber. You can split the hives, checkerboard in empty frames, or try several other methods to try to keep the hive from swarming. There are a lot of posts on swarm prevention this time of year, so I would start recommend reading those. I would also start checking for queen cells every 5-7 days, so you know if a hive is thinking about swarming before they do.
Many thanks, excellent advice. I will read through the swarm prevention threads. We will likely go ahead and add supers tomorrow too to hopefully help them out with space.

All the best,
Paul
 

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I am rendering down all the drone burr comb I just scraped off today. The gross part is all the cooked larvae.
 
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