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An odd hive - Is it weak or will it recover


I inspected the whole hive (brood and super) today and found an odd mix - not much honey, but two frames - one in the brood and one in the flow super, on the 6-7 frame in the brood i found 6-8 swarm cells located on the bottom and half way down the outside edge of the comb, quite a bit of chalk brood, some drones, and almost no capped brood. One half of the first frame had capped brood and there was no signs of live SHB. there were a few dead one so they must have been there. I am not sure what to do. We’ve had a lot of rain this past week. the bottom board looks like it did get wet. I’ve only the one hive so hopefully, the queen’s on her way back in and the rain holds off for a few days. There was no pollen in any of the frames - which i thought was odd. The hive smells okay, i cleaned it up, and while there was no obvious sign of SHB i did put a trap in.

There may have been a mini swarm in the past 10 days.

We have lots of foambark and a blue quondong in flower at the moment, although i am not sure if they are rich in nectar or pollen.

I don’t want to lose the hive and at the same time, do not want to leave the flow hive on and risk any spore based infection.

Any suggestions.


How many bees in the hive? If it was depleted in number of bees, I would consider taking the Flow super off. It definitely sounds like they have swarmed. What did you do with the queen cells? Any signs of laying workers?


Hiya Dawn,
It was 3pm when I opened the hive and some of the girls should have been out foraging - I heard them in the foambark and the blue quondong tree.

There was less than half the usual number of bees. Generally when I check the corflute at least three of the guard come and check me out. Today not even one. So I’d say less than half the number. There were a lot of bees a week ago. Perhaps even three days ago.

I left the queen cells alone. I tidied up the hive, put in an apithor trap for SHB (I didn’t see any live SHB), and put it back together.

The capped brood that was there did not look plump. This is what is worrying me. It may be my poor eyesight and i missed the eggs. The sun was off the hive so it was difficult to see through the comb. Today I plan to buy a large magnifying glass and add it to the kit. The phone is great for photos but a big magnifying glass for use in real time (when you’re inexperienced) could help me.

I have another box ready to take a split or a swarm but missed it. Is the lack of pollen anything to worry about. The hive smelled okay. The hive is well situated, it gets the morning sun and faces north east.


I would definitely take the Flow super off in that case. Harvest and store any unripe honey, but meanwhile they don’t have to defend it.

Certainly sounds like a swarm or an absconding, but if the cells were emergency queen cells, maybe your queen died for some other reason. In all cases, if there is no laying queen, the hive will take around 6 weeks or more to start to recover. In the mean time, you need to “baby” it by reducing space, giving food as needed, reducing the entrance, etc. Lack of pollen means it is hard for them to make brood, but swarms don’t usually take pollen.

I would make a definite effort to look for multiple eggs in cells (signs of a laying worker population). If you find that and you only have one hive, I would consider letting it die out and start again next year. Hopefully that isn’t the case, but sometimes that is what nature deals in their “hand” to us.


I agree with @Dawn_SD, if you have the super on, take it off. Looking for eggs is the best way to confirm your queens status, but you may have a young or virgin queen in the hive if you definitely found swarm cells, any chance you could take a few photo’s for us?
A small torch works really well for inspecting cells for the presence of eggs.
Regarding your Apithor trap, if the bottom of the hive is wet then place the trap on top of the brood frames, the last thing you need is fipronol being washed out of the trap across the bottom of the hive. I place apithors across the tops of all my hives for this reason… just in case.
If you have chalkbrood, this may explain the low bee numbers, its not fatal but it really doesn’t help your situation, just be very careful not to cross-contaminate your other healthy hive… e.g. don’t share frames from the chalkbrood, make sure your tool is washed and clean, use separate gloves for each hive, etc


Hi Dawn and Roderick.

I am just home from work and it’a dark already.

I’ve taken the torch and opened the observation panels on the super and while i can smell honey or nectar i can’t see anything. It was warm today and the sun was out for part of the day. There were a couple of showers.

The corflute had some wax on it as if it had been tossed out of the hive. Perhaps cleaning house in preparation for the new queen? No SHB or wax moth lavae. I crept under the hive to take a peek. There were not the usual, high number, but there were some. I take your point about removing the super, If I remove the super I’ll take one of their full frames of honey (although i could feed it back to them), If i have time i could whip it off in the wee hours of the morn, and other than that i can’t see myself getting back to them until Saturday.

Roderick the apithor trap is on top of the queen excluder and well out of the weather.


Well. I inspected the hive - flow and super - and surprised by what I saw. actually to tell the truth i don’t understand what i saw. Is anyone able to tell me what this is.Brood8Apr18


looks like capped and uncapped honey on a langstroth brood frame with a handful of bees on it…


and one more…any information welcome. The brood box looked full but not crowded. More honey in the flow super than there was last week.

Hopefully the pic attached.Brood5th8April18.

Another pic of the same. No capped brood. No SHB and no wax moth lavae… and more honey in the super. a half dozen queen cells and some drones buzzing around. Go figure.

No idea where to go from here. Have friends looking for a swarm for me, just in case this one gives up the ghost. I had thought the very white stuff in the cell was chalkbrood, but pollen makes sense.


Could that uncapped honey be brood?


No, I can’t see any brood in there at all.


Looks like honey, nectar and pollen on the frame, where were these located in the hive, outside frames? any more frames?


To get useful information the pics are a help but just as important is their position in the hive box and if it is from the brood or a super. Even an idea about the hive, the number of boxes and where the QX is positioned is a help to understand what you have. Just showing a single frame with no information can get you misleading information.


Hi Peter,

I’m not too good with the photography stuff yet, so i rely on naming my files. I have an 8 frame langstroth. The pix are titled Brood 5th (fifth frame from the rear left) and the date of inspection etc. I should have added that the 8th frame was full of honey.



judging only by those photos- it seems your hive may be queenless? There are no eggs, brood or larvae visible. Also there are not that many bees visible. You need to inspect all frames closely looking for brood in any stage- if they are all like the ones you showed here- then it does indeed appear you have no laying queen.

Did you shake bees off those frames before you photographed them? If not I would be concerned that you don’t have enough bees to make a new queen- even if you gave them a frame of eggs and brood to make one with. Do you have access to a bee keeping mentor? You might need some help at this stage- and you might need to work quickly to save that hive.


I am not seeing any brood in any of the pics so the first thing you need to establish is whether of not there is brood in the hive. What you are looking for is the eggs or lave in the bottom of the cells, seems you are not able at this stage to pick between sealed brood and sealed honey cells which can maybe a bit confusing on old comb, so lets get back to basics.
I really think you need someone from your local bee keeping club to have a look as to what is happening, if the pics represent the bee population you have a problem.
You should have now removed the flow hive and down to just one deep hive now, but beyond that you need to know if the hive is queenless.


I am concerned that you mentioned your capped brood doesn’t look plump. Yet, you have not shown us a picture of a frame with any brood to look at.
It appears your hive is broodless, and considering your location at this time, it shouldn’t be.
Best you can do is get a timeline of your latest inspections from your notes, when you saw queen cells, when you think they swarmed, when you last saw the queen and brood at what stages in which frames.
Make sure you have no virgin queen in there, then try to requeen or add a frame of brood. I doubt there is a queen.
If you do nothing, they might start laying drones and die out in a few weeks.

Best you get an experienced beekeeper to have a look with you to assess the situation.


Thank’s Peter and Jack.

You’re right, it does appear queenless.

I’ve inspected twice in the last two weeks. on the first inspection at 3pm in the afternoon there were no bees (say 100) in total, two frames of capped brood and swarm cells further the bees had eaten every drop of honey in the comb that was on the lid. I may have inspected immediately after a small swarm.

On the second inspection also around 3pm there were more bees about half capacity and you are dead right no capped brood at all. There were a dozen drone cells. The 7th frame was full of honey. I was looking for an egg, any old egg would have done. And there appeared to be more honey in the flow frames.

There is no-one within easy distance to pop over and have a look, i will go to bee club later this month.



It is not likely that you had a swarm because your bee numbers are low so there would not be a ‘crowding’ issue. More likely the hive has been queenless for a while. Next is to check for queen cells in which case leave any you find and you might find the hive will do what comes naturally. Worst comes to the worst you will need to introduce a new queen and your bee club might be able to give you help and advice, but remember your hive will have an aging population without a queen.


I’ve been responding to your posts via the email, I am on the forum now and realise that the file names i gave to the pictures of the frames are not shown on the forum.

Live 'n learn.