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Discussion Starter #1
I apologize if this is anything obvious. I am a new beekeeper.

I did an inspection on a hive that we started three weeks ago from a nuc that we bought. I'm pretty sure that the hive is currently queenless. We have never seen the queen (but then again, we're the typical new beekeepers that have a hard time identifying the queen bee, so take that with a grain of salt). I also didn't see any freshly laid eggs in any cells.

The first thing that struck us when we installed the hive three weeks ago...there were 5 times the number of drones as we'd seen in any other hive. We suspected laying workers, but we took a wait-and-see.

I am wondering if the spherical cells in the picture below are drone cells. It doesn't look like the supersedure cells that I've seen online.
DSC_0052.jpg

The hive seems healthy as far as honey production and the number of worker bees...from every other aspect it seem to be thriving. In general, the wax structures in the hive are bizarre. See image below:
DSC_0040.jpg

So a few questions:
1. are the cells in the picture drone cells (or what are they)?
2. if these are drone cells, would a typical queen lay that many drones or is it definite proof of laying workers?

Thanks,

Michael
 

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5 ,8 ,10 frame, and long Lang
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So a few questions:
1. are the cells in the picture drone cells (or what are they)?
2. if these are drone cells, would a typical queen lay that many drones or is it definite proof of laying workers?

yes to #1 it id drone brood.
to #2 depends , could be either.

what do the other 3 or 4 frames look like, This one IMO is junk, the bees did not draw the foundation, instead added in drone comb off frame.
these bees for what ever reason do not like that plastic.

GG
 

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If you have laying workers there will be multiple eggs laid in single cells. That is usually a pretty good indicator although new queens will sometimes lay multiple eggs in a cell too. So, if there are no eggs at all, then you don't have laying workers. The presence of drones and drone cells alone does not mean anything conclusive. Gray Goose is right about that being one ugly frame. I would cull it ASAP.
 

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It looks like only drone brood. Are you seeing normal brood on any other frames? You need to answer the important question: "Is the hive queenless?" Hunt and hunt and hunt until either you find a nice field of cells with mostly one egg per cell or until you find the queen.

If after you have hunted high and low for signs of a queen, you cannot find the queen then remove the box from the bottom board. Place an empty box on the bottom board and place a queen excluder on it. Now place another empty box above the queen excluder. Shake all the bees from the frames over the box above the queen excluder. Smoke the bees a little to get them to go down. You should find the queen on top of the excluder if she is there. If the hive has gone laying worker then it is unlikely that you'll be able to introduce a new queen. Did you see the queen when you picked up the nuc? When I sell a nuc I have the queen caged and I show her to the customer.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
roddo, Thank you for the reply. When you say to cull it in, does that mean removal of the ugly wax? How about for the wax on the other picture that I have above? It is very uneven, do I remove it and have them start over or just hope that they will smooth it out over time?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
So a few questions:
1. are the cells in the picture drone cells (or what are they)?
2. if these are drone cells, would a typical queen lay that many drones or is it definite proof of laying workers?

yes to #1 it id drone brood.
to #2 depends , could be either.

what do the other 3 or 4 frames look like, This one IMO is junk, the bees did not draw the foundation, instead added in drone comb off frame.
these bees for what ever reason do not like that plastic.

GG
GG:
Thanks for the reply. Regarding what the other frames look like, they seem like they can't figure out what to do with the plastic frames. See image below...they are building skyscraper structures to the next frame rather than building on the plastic. Just to be clear, when you say it's junk, you would suggest removing it entirely, correct?
DSC_0026.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #7
It looks like only drone brood. Are you seeing normal brood on any other frames? You need to answer the important question: "Is the hive queenless?" Hunt and hunt and hunt until either you find a nice field of cells with mostly one egg per cell or until you find the queen.

If after you have hunted high and low for signs of a queen, you cannot find the queen then remove the box from the bottom board. Place an empty box on the bottom board and place a queen excluder on it. Now place another empty box above the queen excluder. Shake all the bees from the frames over the box above the queen excluder. Smoke the bees a little to get them to go down. You should find the queen on top of the excluder if she is there. If the hive has gone laying worker then it is unlikely that you'll be able to introduce a new queen. Did you see the queen when you picked up the nuc? When I sell a nuc I have the queen caged and I show her to the customer.
JConnolly: thanks for the detailed instructions. I've read a bunch of books, watch a bunch of youtube videos and podcasts, but it's the first time I've heard of this technique, so it is greatly appreciated. Regarding the queen, we did not see it when we go the nuc, but the vendor did not mark any queens and there were so many drones that we we were like, "maybe that's the queen...no, maybe it's a drone?" I have not seen any cells with multiple eggs in it.

Regarding eggs, I did see some newer larve in some burr comb at the bottom of an original nuc frame. See image below. It could be that the workers can't figure out the plastic and the queen is not satisfied with the quality of junk they're building on the plastic foundation.
DSC_0044.jpg
 

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GG:
Thanks for the reply. Regarding what the other frames look like, they seem like they can't figure out what to do with the plastic frames. See image below...they are building skyscraper structures to the next frame rather than building on the plastic. Just to be clear, when you say it's junk, you would suggest removing it entirely, correct?
View attachment 55881
So do all your frames look like these? The Pic in the reply to JConnolly"looks" normal, but only see a bit at the bottom..
SO IMO they do not like this foundation. I DO NOT use plastic for this exact reason. I guess you could try yo recoat it with Beeswax, for the 3 bucks i would not but at time this can help.
So If it were mine I would scrape this off the foundation and let them try again, And if they do the same then remove it from the hive.
You do not need drones to start with , so they are not helpfull, is there normal brood in the frame in the reply to JC?
Are you feeding?

GG
 

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roddo, Thank you for the reply. When you say to cull it in, does that mean removal of the ugly wax? How about for the wax on the other picture that I have above? It is very uneven, do I remove it and have them start over or just hope that they will smooth it out over time?
These bees do not like that plastic for some reason. Did it look like this when you purchased the nuc? Are there any frames of relatively smooth evenly-pulled comb? If it all looked like this at the time of purchase, you have a legitimate complaint to make with the seller.

Anyway, by culling it, I meant to remove it from the hive. All of that drone brood will not help the hive to prosper and by culling it you might reduce the mite load too. I practice foundationless and I can tell you for sure that wonky comb leads to more wonky comb, and, no, the bees will not straighten it out over time. Wonky comb does not bother bees and it does not hurt their health or well-being either, but it is not easy to work around for the beekeeper and you usually end up making things worse rather than better if you let it persist.

Maybe the bees would accept it better were it taken out, scraped, and given a fresh coat of wax like Grey Goose suggested.

It looks like you were sold a problem hive to me, and one that won't be easy to fix. If there is no good looking comb in it, I would go back and have a talk with the seller. In the meantime, try to find evidence of the queen, and if she is there, you can work on fixing the comb. If she is not there, it might be better just to cut your losses, but that is a judgement decision. If there are laying workers, it's pretty much game over anyway.
 

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Since I am dealing with a related issue, you may also consider whether you have a drone layer. Need to see if you are having single or mutliple eggs in the cells to make that determination.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
So do all your frames look like these? The Pic in the reply to JConnolly"looks" normal, but only see a bit at the bottom..
SO IMO they do not like this foundation. I DO NOT use plastic for this exact reason. I guess you could try yo recoat it with Beeswax, for the 3 bucks i would not but at time this can help.
So If it were mine I would scrape this off the foundation and let them try again, And if they do the same then remove it from the hive.
You do not need drones to start with , so they are not helpfull, is there normal brood in the frame in the reply to JC?
Are you feeding?

GG
GG:
Yes, I am feeding them sugar syrup in a top feeder with a little Honey B Healthy as well. The picture of the burr comb that I sent to JConnolly is pretty normal. I was just showing it to show the larvey if you zoom in.

I will scrape the drone cells off tonight. thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
roddo:
The frames from the nuc are very nicely formed. The plastic foundation that we provided is where they're having all the troubles. I agree with a lot of what has been said here about plastic foundation in general. I grew up with my parents as beekeepers and we always used the wax foundations and I was surprised to see the plastic foundation. Unfortunately it was all that I could find at a reasonable price on Amazon when I purchased it. Lesson learned.

I do like the idea of going foundationless, but I'll need to learn more about the technique of doing it as I've never done it before. I've seen some of the strips that they sell and I guess that some people just paint the top of the frame with wax and let the bees do the rest. Again, I'll need to do more research on how that works. I will scrape out all of the drone brood and maybe I'll paint on some extra wax to the plastic foundation to get them interested in using the frame the right way.
 

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Ahh, there's hope!
I'm not advocating foundationless, but it can't get much worse than what you already have. They just need a place to start -- no need to paint the top of the frame with wax. Just get some popsicle sticks or Jumbo Hobby Sticks from Wal Mart and use molten wax to glue them in the foundation slots in the top bar of the frame. Cycle an empty frame in between some of the nicely pulled frames that came with the nuc. The two straight combs on either side of the empty new frame will encourage them to pull it out straight. Remember -- I said encourage, not guarantee! As that one gets pulled out, cycle in another. Leave empty frames on the outside of the brood nest and they may or may not pull them straight -- but the one in between frames of brood will get most their attention first. Bees will normally pull brood frames pretty straight without foundation. They usually make a mess of it in the honey supers. I try to get most of my frames pulled in the brood nest. I do get wonky comb as any foundationless beekeeper does. So do beekeepers with plastic, as you already know.
Otherwise, buy some decent foundation or apply a coat of wax to what you have.
Still, you need to verify whether or not there is a queen by findings eggs or the queen herself. I hope things work out for you and these girls.
 

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Maybe try to take out that foundation on 2 frames and leave it empty and see if they like FoundationLESS to work on?
 

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and there were so many drones that we we were like, "maybe that's the queen...no, maybe it's a drone?" I have not seen any cells with multiple eggs in it.
A nuc typically does not have a lot of drones in it unless the queen is a drone layer or it has gone laying worker. I would contact the supplier and explain the situation. But first, post pictures of the frames that came with the nuc. If it was already drone layer or LW, it will be evident in the shape of the emerged cells.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Ahh, there's hope!
I'm not advocating foundationless, but it can't get much worse than what you already have. They just need a place to start -- no need to paint the top of the frame with wax. Just get some popsicle sticks or Jumbo Hobby Sticks from Wal Mart and use molten wax to glue them in the foundation slots in the top bar of the frame. Cycle an empty frame in between some of the nicely pulled frames that came with the nuc. The two straight combs on either side of the empty new frame will encourage them to pull it out straight. Remember -- I said encourage, not guarantee! As that one gets pulled out, cycle in another. Leave empty frames on the outside of the brood nest and they may or may not pull them straight -- but the one in between frames of brood will get most their attention first. Bees will normally pull brood frames pretty straight without foundation. They usually make a mess of it in the honey supers. I try to get most of my frames pulled in the brood nest. I do get wonky comb as any foundationless beekeeper does. So do beekeepers with plastic, as you already know.
Otherwise, buy some decent foundation or apply a coat of wax to what you have.
Still, you need to verify whether or not there is a queen by findings eggs or the queen herself. I hope things work out for you and these girls.
roddo:
I'm definitely doing this tomorrow. I just looked up how to do it and found the following (in case anyone else wants to try this, I have URLs for instructions on how to do the popcycle stick method below).
https://brookfieldfarmhoney.wordpre...hive-foundation-experiment-none-and-½-sheets/
https://fitzpatrickfarm.com/foundationless-frames/

Again, thanks for all the great ideas.
 

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A nuc typically does not have a lot of drones in it unless the queen is a drone layer or it has gone laying worker. I would contact the supplier and explain the situation. But first, post pictures of the frames that came with the nuc. If it was already drone layer or LW, it will be evident in the shape of the emerged cells.
JWPalmer:
You are right, I'm going to contact the supplier. The hive definitely seems like it was weird from day one. I think in the future, I'll always get a hive with a marked queen. We've inspected our hives and 90% of the time is spent just staring at hundreds of bees trying to determine if it is a drone, a queen, or a worker. As a new beekeeper, it is definitely my least favorite part of the hobby. Thanks for the advice.
 

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Maybe try to take out that foundation on 2 frames and leave it empty and see if they like FoundationLESS to work on?
Tigger:
I wasn't originally going to do it, but I am going to go ahead with the foundationless popcycle approach that was mentioned above. It is obvious that the bees are struggling with the plastic (which isn't a shocker honestly). Thanks.
 
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