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My queen is crowded, laying 5-6 eggs a cell, how do I fix this?

6944 Views 31 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  Joseph Clemens
First off, I'd like to introduce Delilah. Productive little thing that she is; I had to make sure I found her before assuming the worst in this hive.

This colony has 4 frames of honey and pollen but only 2 of brood. As such, Delilah has resorted to doubling back on herself and laying 2-3 and even sometimes 5-6 eggs in a cell.

History--I installed this nuc on Father's Day (June 15th). It had 3 frames of brood and 2 of stores. I removed one of the brood frames fearing EFB. Turned out negative for EFB but the comb was pretty cut up so I didn't return it to them. They have since filled in 1 of the other original frames with honey and pollen but built up comb on an all new frame and that new frame now has brood. If you're with me so far that's 1 new frame of brood and 1 from the original nuc. They now have 3 of the original frames of honey and 2 new ones they have built up and stored honey in.

How do I fix this? Thanks!
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Wish I knew, will be interesting hearing the experienced chime in. Will be a learning experience for me. Good Luck. G
My first question is are you still feeding them sugar syrup? If you're still feeding them then slow the feed down or stop. If you stop feeding they'll use what's stored and open the brood nest back up. The queen wants to lay but the brood nest isn't open for her to do so.
You only mention 6 frames where are the others? Drop an empty in the middle of the broodframes and watch how fast they draw it, the way your queen is going she will ha e it layed up before they finish
gorgeous queen you got there! As to the issue, I can't say I have any idea, but she's pretty! I love the dark ones.
That looks like the work of a replacement (Supersedure) queen. SS queens are geared to fill an empty broodnest - playing catch up. They can lay more than 3K eggs in a day. Give them some bees and turn her loose.
Add drawn frames to the brood area if you can get them. Move the honey up into another super.
Are you still in a nuc? It may be time to move her into a full box and let her work like wcubed says.
Slow Drone - I am feeding 5:3 syrup, but I have back way off how much. I refil their quart jar (it's over the whole in the top cover and inside a medium super to prevent robbing) every 4 days. They use it up in 2 days, I wait 2 days without, and then refil.

Harley - the other 4 frames are empty so far. It did look like this:
I moved it to:

If the two empty frames on the outside of the brood nest don't encouarge them to draw her more space I'll put one in the middle of the 2 brood frames!

Dakota - thank you! My other queen is a super light honey color. Imagine my surprise to spot her and see how dark and lovely she is!

wcubed - this isn't a replacement queen. I'm sure of it. I open my hives at least once a week, 2 if I have to. I try to keep it to once a week when I can. But there have been no inspections without eggs, no queen cells whatsoever. I inspect very thouroughly from checking wings to looking for mites on adults and in cells to...I mean, you name it. I am very maticulous. No queen cells or queenless periods in this colony. These are all her bees and she's the original queen. But I like this theory and will remember it if I ever see this in a future year!

I don't have any way to give her bees...unless I take them from my other colony which I don't think can spare them. That lot has 4 frames of brood and 2 of honey. But they're still a small colony and I'm not sure I could take one of their brood frames.

Mr. Beeman - That was the first option that occured to me, but, I don't have drawn frames either. Again, unless I take a brood frame from my other colony.

jsorber - they are in a 10 frame medium box.
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Beautiful photographs! Intuitively, i would have thought it highly unlikely that a queen would lay more than a single egg in a given cell. I'll be following the responses with great interest!

PS: What will happen to those eggs? Will only one egg thrive within the cell, or are they all doomed? I seem to remember reading that they don't move eggs from cell to cell ...
Beautiful photographs! Intuitively, i would have thought it highly unlikely that a queen would lay more than a single egg in a given cell. I'll be following the responses with great interest!

PS: What will happen to those eggs? Will only one egg thrive within the cell, or are they all doomed? I seem to remember reading that they don't move eggs from cell to cell ...
I believe the workers do move the eggs, if I'm not mistaken. They sort it out and get just one into the cells. Here in this area of the frame where the multiple eggs are they haven't had anything realy progress because they can't feed the eggs. They can't feed them because they can't move the extras out into their own cells (because they filled them all with food!). So, they have to wait and do nothing. As such, the eggs in these cells which were here 4 days ago haven't been able to be fed and grow into grubs. Only a handful made it that far as of yet. So, they really need the room! You would think these issues would have those bees building up the comb! :)
That's a false belief that workers move eggs to another cell. When there are too many eggs in a cell workers either remove and discard them or eat them which is another source of protein for them. It's sounding to me like you need to stop feeding for the time being. They will use the stored syrup and open the brood nest back up. Don't worry they will still draw out comb. I would also put an empty frame between the honey and the brood frames. Common occurrence is what you are experiencing when the workers can store honey or syrup quicker then the queen can get to empty cells, once they deposit syrup or honey in a cell the queen no longer can or will lay in that cell. when you resume feeding you must keep an eye on them to be sure they don't put themselves back into the same situation.
Having empty frames immediately adjacent to brood frames is not a good idea. There should be frames/combs of honey next to each frame of brood, in your situation. Also, you could place an empty frame between the present two brood frames, that, in combination with continued feeding, will inspire them to build another comb for brood. Then, as they complete that frame, add another empty frame between combs of brood. If you have access to other hives, obtain a frame of emerging brood, and place it between a honey comb and brood frame, to increase the number of available nurse bees, so they can properly care for more brood. Also, continue feeding, until you are sure that there is a honey flow in progress.

Worker bees do not move eggs or larva, they eat them or otherwise dispose of them, when they are not situated properly. That is, of course, assuming that everything in the hive is proceeding normally. Extra eggs will be sorted out when there are more than proper for each cell.
These are some major conflicting ideas. I guess it's the way we go, right? Ask 12 beekeepers a question, get 20 answers! Ha!

Why, specifically, Joseph, would I not want empty frames on the outside of the 2 brood frames, but one in the middle would be okay? I'm hoping to understand. I ask because the only thing I thought of was access to food...but there is honey and pollen along the edges of the brood frames and my feeders (mason jars turned upside on the whole of my inner covers) is literally right over the frames. So food access is good. And if I keep feeding as you suggested I would leave that feeder right there nearby. Thanks for input!

Slow drone -- interesting that they just eat them or dispose of them. It's not as if they can't reach the bottom of the cell if they are going head first. As of right now they have those two empty frames on the outside of the 2 brood frames and no sugar syrup. I guess it's all just an experiment. If this doesn't work, I'll try a frame in the middle of the brood frames! But I must have read a dozen times not to split up the brood nest too much which was why I went with frames on the outside for this experiment.

My BEEK I got the nucs from thinks I should add another medium box and move at least 2-3 of the honey frames up there. Now...they've only drawn comb on 6-7 of their frames in their current 10 frame medium so I haven't reached the typical 80% before adding a second box. Thoughts? He also says stop feeding until the queen has more room so I'm trying that, so far. Even though I live in a drought stricken desert I have literally hundreds of trees, bushes, and flowers on irrigation over 10 acres so I'm not as concerned about the draught as other rural beekeepers might be in my area.
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Why not to have empty frames outside the brood frames - not only for access to food, but the comb of food acts as a "heat sink" helping to moderate the temperature near the brood - helping to keep the temperature correct. An empty between, two frames/combs of brood, will more quickly inspire them to expand the brood nest, instead of just more storage.

Continue feeding, if there isn't a strong flow, or they won't have the resources/incentive to build more comb. What is already in the combs will not inspire them to produce more wax, or build more comb.

If you could bring in a frame of emerging worker brood, then place it between the two brood combs that are already there, with an empty between each adjacent brood surfaces, that would be the ideal scenario, for me.

H H B E (EB) E B H H E
or if no emerging brood is available -->

E E H H B E B H H E, then, once the central empty frame is grown into a comb of brood, additional empty frames could be moved in, such as -->


- - - -
If you place empty frames between frames containing primarily nectar or honey, the bees are likely to simply expand the existing combs, growing them into the empty space, and locking that empty frame into the hive - where it may never be able to have its own comb.
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No one has yet mentioned that inspecting the colony every week or twice a week is pretty disruptive to the colony. Especially if you're keeping it open for lengthy periods of time. Can't you be happy knowing that you have a queen that's laying, then check on her brood and laying pattern in 3-4 weeks? If you're trying to learn, videos and books and pictures do wonders. Please consider that the bees should just be left to do their own thing.
Why are you feeding when they are putting down so much syrup that they have no place to raise brood?
Uh, there are two frames of brood, four frames of honey and four empty frames in a ten frame box. They won't even build combs in those empty frames, unless they have more nectar (sugar syrup) coming in than they have a place to put it. So, if there is no substantial natural nectar flow, and it isn't augmented with sugar syrup, it will just be a hive with only six combs, four of which are primarily honey, and not enough winter bees reared, to make it through the winter, even if their might be enough stores to do so (there will be no bees around to eat those stores).

Even if they fill the new combs with sugar syrup, as they build them. If the feeding is reduced, the combs will become available for brood, and hence, a "last-minute" crop of winter bees to make it through the winter.
Becky - it's a give and take. If I don't check on them I don't know they're having an issue such as backfilling their brood nest with honey/syrup. Once a week isn't unreasonable especially if the inspections are fast. Seeing as I am inspecting 6 frames at this point...the inspections are pretty fast. If I had left them alone for a month with 2 frames of brood and nothing but stores next to them they'd be in really really rough shape. I caught the problem early. Probably every beginner beekeeper book I've read has recommended once a week, but make it quick. :)

Janne - I would think that the clear answer would be that I wasn't aware they had so much syrup that they "put it down" and didn't have a place for brood. Until I knew, and then I knew :) It's a learning curve. Surely not everything goes right all of the time, especially for a first timer. But as Joseph mentioned, if I didn't feed my little colonies would never build themselves up large enough to survive winter. The same feeding regime is working absolutely perfectly for my second colony who are building up stores and room for their queen and are almost ready for a second box.

Joseph - thanks for all of the detailed information. I'm trying to decide if I can spare a frame of brood from my other colony. Probably not. Even they only have 4-5 frames of brood. I don't want to go back in there just yet to move the frames around again as I just did that, but I'm more than willing to try these configurations on my next inspection!
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I know how you feel, all you hear is, if they are drawing comb, feed them, I had the same thing, sorry I don't have any answers but I just got done combining my nuc with another colony today, mine started a month ago, I installed the nuc into a hive body, waited 5 days and checked and saw that the bees were filling cells with syrup instead of drawing comb, tried coating wax foundation with more wax, that didn't work, stopped feeding, that didn't work, then yesterday I saw the queen outside the hive, put her back in and today she's gone and took 2 frames of bees with her, the only help I might be able to give is that I was going into this hive a lot and started using liquid smoke on my hands and some on a paper towel stuck in my shirt pocket and it worked great and didn't upset the bees, hopes you get better results than I did, good luck
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