Last year I installed my first package around June (NY, USA). Due to other learning curves during my first year, I realized I wasn’t going to be harvesting any honey. Thankfully, my bees made it out of winter strong in their 1 deep hive set up. I added a second deep and fed them. They filled out the second deep in 3 weeks! At that point I added the flow super.
Last week I inspected the hive and I saw quite a lot of queen cells with eggs and royal jelly. I realized my hive was preparing to swarm. My beekeeping mentor told me they were planning on swarming because they didn’t have enough room in the hive for more brood, my queen was busy busy laaaayyyying.
I crushed and threw away all the queen cells (along with three frames of drone brood that had mites). I added another deep with frames to give them more space for brood. I also started preparing equipment for a second hive so if they were still adamant about swarming, I would be able to split them. At this point my hive is practically a leaning tower of deeps, it has 3 deeps and the flow super on top!
I opened the hive today to find that the 3rd deep I added to give them more space for brood is being filled solely for honey! I spotted eggs in the 2nd deep with other brood and honey. I combed through every frame, saw 2 empty queen cups (destroyed them). Looks like they aren’t planning to swarm any time soon now.
I know getting rid of queen cells in only a temporary fix, a way to buy some time before they swarm. But now it seems that they are staying put and instead of laying more brood they are focusing on making a lot of honey, each frame in the third deep as some amount of uncapped honey.
Is this indicative behavior of pre-swarming? Did getting rid of the 3 drone frames switch their gears? Now I have foundation frames for brood filled with honey, which is fine, I guess. I could use it to feed other new hives, wintering, etc. But it just seems like they are never going to get into the flow frames ahahahah.
Any advice or perspective would be much appreciated.
Like with everything, there’s a limit, and I’m thinking your colony has just reached their limit of brood production. Perhaps for reasons such as time left in the season (shorter days = fewer eggs being laid), strength/genetics/age of queen, forage quality and availability, pest/disease pressure in the hive.
I recommend observing what’s happening in the hive from the perspective of the colony and ask why they’re doing what they’re doing so you can manipulate the hive by working with their strengths, resulting in better outcomes. I realise this approach may not be suitable for everyone’s circumstances though.
If your colony is still expanding, I would personally split the hive and place the Flow Super on a single brood box to take full advantage of the Flow Frames and honey flow. 2 colonies is better than for any beekeeper and in particular beginners, as you’re able to pilfer resources to save a struggling/dying colony and it creates a huge advantage for learning as you’re able to compare the two colonies and get a better idea of what’s ‘normal’, speeding up the learning process.
Thanks! I’ll keep a close eye on them. I’ll probably end up splitting them when the weather improves.
Hi Tamar, I’m not sure why your mentor advised adding another deep rather than splitting your colony using those queen cells. Double brood hives are already a lot to manage. Bianca’s point about having two colonies is a really good one, and you could still do a split now.
The deep brood box without the queen gets the deep with honey, and the one with the queen gets the Flow super. That way, the one without a queen will make a new one - making sure you’ve left frames of eggs & young larvae - with no immediate construction projects to deal with while they wait to get back up to speed.
Then the one with the queen can devote energies to waxing up & filling your Flow super. It’s still fairly early in our region’s nectar flow - clover just started blooming here in southern PA, so perhaps there’s a decent window for progress. I say perhaps because weather & other factors might create barriers. Also, sealing up new Flow frames can take up much of the nectar gathered during peak flow, before any can be stored.
Then, you’d monitor both for health & growth - maybe removing a frame of honey here or there later on once the queenless colony has a laying queen, & replacing it with an empty or foundation frame to make room for more storage. If the queenright deep manages to get storage in the Flow frames, great - you might be able to harvest some this year. You could save it to feed back to them or plan to feed them 2:1 syrup/fondant/dry sugar come fall.
Also, if you’re seeing mites on drone brood, you should make a treatment plan and do it sooner than later. Just cutting out drone brood isn’t going to protect the colony from infestation that will weaken & could kill them in late season when the populations crisscross (bees down, mites up).
Thank you so much for your advice and input! This past Tuesday I split the hive per your instructions.
The hive without the queen contained several frames of eggs and a few with queen cups was placed on the other side of the house with the entrance facing a different direction. It is two deeps and contained a good number of frames with uncapped honey and pollen.
The main hive with the queen received the flow super and remained in the exact location, I don’t doubt that some of the foraging bees from the new hive will fly back.
Surprisingly, the deep that I thought contained just honey ended up having eggs in it! I think the comb wasn’t drawn out enough when I inspected and just saw honey so that’s probably why the queen didn’t lay yet.
I was planning on checking in on them this Sunday, but I’ve been reading I should just let them be for a few weeks. I’ll keep looking into post hive inspection articles.
Update: It worked! I split the hive and the new hive is making their own queen and the Flow Super is full on the other hive. They are about to finish capping the outer frames. I would like to harvest this week. After harvesting, I’m going to start treating. I feel if I remove the Flow Super, the hive will only be just one deep which seems pretty tight for the amount of bees in there. I was thinking of at least adding a shallow with new foundation for them to use for brood/honey. While the treatment is one. Does this seem like a good idea? They’ve been bearding a lot and I know it’s normal during this time of year but just in case.
Fantastic!! So glad things worked out so well
Your idea to add a shallow while treating is reasonable, but you might as well go for a medium if your colony is that strong. And a medium is more versatile. Since it will be on during your treatment I guess it would have to remain a brood box, so you could stack it with other mediums, add it to your deeps, or make a deep out of it with a 3” shim in a pinch.
I run deep + mediums for overwintering, which is just right for my area and how I use my Flow supers: towards the end of the nectar flow, when it’s getting more humid I put a medium on top of the Flow - this helps the bees circulate air to finish off and cap the honey in the Flow, and start on their winter stores in the medium. After I harvest the Flow, it comes off and the medium goes on the deep without the QX.
Two key parts of that strategy are that I use slatted bottom racks, which also help with circulation and create space for big populations, and for mite treatment I use oxalic acid sponges. They go on in spring and stay on all season. Before switching to sponges, I vaped my hives with oxalic acid. OA doesn’t taint honey, so supers can stay on.
Another idea that is more straightforward than reconsidering your treatment plan would be to see if this colony can be split again instead.