Honeyflow.com | FAQ's |

Bees very slow - help!

Hi all,

I’m hoping for some advice. I’ll lay out the facts below, please respond with ideas. All help greatly appreciated!

We caught a swarm in May this year. They are in a nuc box right now with 5 frames. Activity has decreased since May. They are inside working still, though slowly, and we have seen some not many come and go from the box. At first the comb seemed to be building up very fast, but now it seems to have slowed down.

The frames are foundationless and are not built up enough to remove the frames from the box safely.

We fed them at first and then they stopped eating it once summer was in full swing.

We have no idea what’s happening in there. When you look inside there are still quite a few bees and they are all working on the comb. They are silent though when you tap on the box they give a nice buzz. We haven’t found any dead bees around the hive and inside we can only see waste, not dead bees.

Can someone help me figure out what’s happening and what I should do.

Thanks in advance!

Disease or no queen come to mind. You will have to bite the bullet and pull those combs, if you are gentle and don’t tilt the frames you should be OK. In my experience a swarm draws comb really fast. There is something seriously amiss there.

1 Like

Have you joined a local beekeeping club yet? You should ask the local beekeepers whether your area is currently in a nectar dearth. If so, your bees may need more feeding. We are feeding in southern California at the moment, because our summer has dried up most of the nectar flow for now, even though we still have flowers. You definitely should inspect that hive, as @Dee says. In fact, you should be inspecting every week or two, to check for food stores, colony health, brood etc.

Ah! Thanks for the input. This makes me very sad. We will inspect tonight.

Just make sure you keep the frames on a vertical plane so the comb does not bend sideways and you will be OK.


Successfully inspected all 5 frames. Though not good news. We don’t have a queen or any drones as far as we could see. No brood. If we order a matted queen might 3 months be enough to fix this we’ve we’ve made?

If you have other hives you can take a frame or two of resources (eggs/pollen/honey) and give it to this hive. I wouldn’t waste too much trying to save it though as it’s best to have alot of bees to make a new queen. If you’re going to try and save it, a mated queen would be the best way to go at this time of year.

You could also combine those frames with another hive.

You don’t have a queen. Get a premated Italian queen from Apple Blossom http://www.abhoneyfarm.com/beekeeping-supplies-c-3/package-bees-now-available-c-3_15/italian-mated-queens-p-175.html

Install her. Put a few frames of capped brood and nurse bees in there if you have another hive. If you don’t have another hive, get that queen in there right away. You will recover somewhat. Feed them too.

1 Like

Thank you thank you everyone. We are going to do everything we can to save them! !!!

1 Like

We don’t have another hive :frowning:

See if some local beekeepers can lend you a frame of capped brood. It’ll buy you time until your queens new brood hatches.

It’s unlikely but possible that there is a queen of sorts in there. If there is your new bought in queen will not be accepted.
As per previous advice you need a frame of open brood to act as a test frame. They will build queen cells if they have no queen. If you don’t get any then it’s a real “hunt the queen” job.
More importantly…you have old bees there. They will not raise a good queen from emergency cells. The glands that produce royal jelly to feed the larval queen are atrophied. What that frame WILL give you is some young bees while you wait for your queen and some brood to prevent laying workers. A mated queen is the way to go and good luck

1 Like

I am going to go against the grain of this forum and say put some foundation in those frames.

If you are regularly inspecting and can identify drone comb and keep it under control, foundationless frames may work for you. If you are new to beekeeping and attempting to establish a new hive, I can’t stress enough that you need worker comb readily available so they can build up a productive hive and become self sustainable.

Let me rephrase what I think you are saying so I am sure I understand. Are you suggesting we add a frame or two of frames with foundation so they don’t have to work to build the comb so that when the queen arrives they focus more on reproducing?

I think what RBK means is that if you put foundation in it is easier to inspect than free comb.
I have tried both. I wire my starter strip frames with fishing line. I don’t think the bees care what you use. Wired foundation frames are certainly much much easier to handle.


Foundation isn’t just about saving bees work (in fact, it’s not really about that at all). Foundation is provided with a standard worker bee cell size so when the cells are drawn the egg laid in them will become a worker. You need worker bees to create a productive hive. When you go foundationless, the bees at times will build large amounts of drone comb (depends on many variables) which results in the hive never really going forward because it is constantly producing drones.

Looking at your foundationless comb and the available cells, to me it looks like a fair amount of drone comb (happy to be corrected), so even if you add a queen you are going to be producing a high proportion of drones… even a frame or two of foundation will help them along (and if they genuinely prefer the foundationless comb they can still use it).

I think foundationless is fine in a super as the bees are just storing honey in the cells (but this is replaced by Flow frames in a Flow hive). I think it’s interesting how much foundationless brood frames are pushed on this forum then people are concerned about how productive their hives are.

Beekeepers don’t run foundation because they are evil and ‘unnatural’ (which appears to be the theme on this forum), they run it because it’s proven and provides a critical base to build a productive hive. I’d be interested to hear why foundation is avoided so much (general question, not specific to robinbee)?

This is interesting and as you understand beekeeping is a HUGE learning curve for us newbees! There are a million things to know and I SO appreciate the information. I’m sure you feel like you are correcting and fixing us all to no end and I can only speak for myself but I am genuinely concerned about doing the best thing for the bees.

I like the idea of helping the bees especially since they’ll be working their butts off to survive this winter. I didn’t realize it was the size of the comb was variable (newbee card). Glad to know this and I think we will add a few. I’m considering just moving the nuc into the flow brood box when we get the queen. It might be too much space and they won’t like it. Would love the input. I guess my point is I’d like to add a foundation frame but I don’t want to destroy a single one of the honey combs they’ve built.


Not at all (correcting/fixing), I am only speaking from my experience and always like to try out what I am told. I am constantly in the learner’s seat when speaking to beeks because they all have their own experiences and methods (I called JeffH about two weeks ago and got some great info).

January this year I did some of my own testing with foundationless frames in a Langstroth box. This was after some comments from a local beekeeper criticising my use of Langstroth. The foundationless frames in this instance were placed in an existing brood box with standard wired/foundation frames (so there was already a good number of workers). The hive was a swarm so was still in ‘building’ mode. I have a ‘top bar’ style and a ‘warre’ style frame (bottom bar removed).

This is the different frames after 6 days (no feeding)

This is the same frames after 35 days (still no feeding)

If you look at the second ‘top bar’ picture you can see the drone comb at the center top of the frame (it’s lighter in colour in this example).

If you look at the frame with sidebars, you can see just how much drone comb ended up being produced. You can also see this capped in the bottom picture (‘bubbly’ looking cells, easily visible in bottom left of frame on last picture)

I ended up rotating these frames out through the super because the topbar frame was building against the side (this is expected, which is why you don’t run top bar in a square box!) and the frame with sidebars just wasn’t productive.

If your nuc comes with drawn frames, you can definitely place them in your brood box alongside your natural comb and rotate them out later.

1 Like