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Big amount of drone brood?


Hi all,

Quick question: I’ve got a big amount of drone brood in one of my hives (and 4-5 queen cups/cells), is that normal? What does this “mean”/ say about the colony?

Background info: I’m in the middle of France, it’s the spring, and I acquired this colony about 2-3 weeks ago on 5 frames. It was a (big!) swarm from a neighboring beekeeper friend. We put it in a Dadant with 5 additional frames with foundation. No super on top yet. (I’m thinking about placing the 6 flow frames super on top one of these days).



I don’t know about France, but in Germany it’s common to cut out drone brood as soon as it is capped, to remove varroa mites that are in them and thus lowering the infection pressure on the hive.
I’m not really convinced that a this-year’s-swarm will be ready to swarm itself the very same season…(?)


Thanks for the reply. Is there any other reason for intervening with the drone brood, apart from removing varroa mites? (I do not know if there are varroa mites actually present).

I do not know either if a colony will be ready to swarm again within a months’ time…


Rule of thumb is that EVERY hive is infested with mites, wether you see them or not. So you HAVE to treat the hive anyway, and removing drone brood is easy and effective and is not depositing residues in your honey and wax.
Drones are also commonly viewed as useless eaters, although my personal belief is that they are natural part of the colony and just belong there.


That was what I was thinking as well, actually. I mean, fertilization of queens is kind of important :wink:
But so many of them capped drone cells, compared to worker brood…I find it odd.


Do you use foundation? If so, you “force” them to build only worker cells. So they feel a lack of drones and will build all-drone-combs wherever they can. That’s the “secret” of the anti-varroa-tactic: You give a hive, that has all foundation frames, one empty frame. They will fill it with drone cells, so you can “trap” the mites and remove them without losing worker brood.


There are many people doing treatment free bee keeping with equal to better results of people who treat their hives so I think it is misleading to say that you have to treat. Treatments are only one method for managing a hive and every year becomes less and less effective as an option due to over use, adaptation of pests, and “toxic house syndrome”. Synergy is a power tool working against bees right now and is not being tested for until very recently but is not required by most government agencies where it applies to pesticides and antibiotics and diseases. There is independent research being done on how synergy is extremely dangerous to bees, far more then any of the individual substances/diseases by themselves.


If you only have drones, you may have an elderly queen (who has run out of drone sperm needed to make workers) or you may have lost the queen and have laying workers. Where are the queen cells/cups on the frame? Lower edge = swarm intent. Frame face = supersedure or emergency queen cell. How big are they? 1cm = play cups, >2cm = serious intent.

Do you see any non-drone capped brood?


Treating doesn’t only mean to use medication. Cutting out drone brood is treatment, too. Mites can’t adapt to being cut out and killed… We use mainly three organic acids for routine treatment, not the strong pesticides.
What is synergy? I don’t know that.
In Germany we have a special breeder’s section concentrating on creating a bee that can deal with the mites. Mostly they seem to focus on the bee’s cleaning behaviour, meaning that they can indicate the infested brood cells and clean them out before the mites hatch and mate. Seems that young mites that just shed their skin dry out when being exposed to air (uncapped cell).


synergy is the interaction between different antibiotics, pesticides, and diseases/virus that end up being exponentially more dangerous then if the hive only experienced one of them by itself. It is widely unexplored until very recently. Check out the book “Bee Time” by Mark L Winston for some really good insights and information on this.

For example Nosema and various miticides by themselves may not be an issue for a beehive but combine the two and they become deadly instead of a minor issue like they were singly


Oh, THAT synergy effect I do know, of course. I thought it was some kind of chemical… :smiley:


Thanks for the replies!

I do use wax-foundation. I like the anti-varroa-tactic, although I also like to see how well my colonies will do without us interfering much. I like the idea making use of natural selection to select bees who can handle varroa and other stressors, instead of keeping “weak” colonies alive and essentially weaken the gene-pool.

I’m not sure how old the queen of this colony is, but it is probably not very old, as our beekeeper friend has annual swarms at his hives. This queen might be 1-2 years old, I guess.

The location and size of the queen cells/cups… ai… the one time I decide not to film/photograph when working on a hive… Ehm… If I remember well, it was more on the frame face. And some of them looked more like queen cups and a couple of others were clearly bigger. I saw some non-drone capped brood, but not much.

I would have to look again, but I just put the super (with 6 flow frames) on it, so I don’t want to disturb them anymore, today. (There is this one guard bee who is very persistent in telling me to go away, even when I took a photograph of the hive with flow frames on top at about 4-5 meters away from the [back of the] hive)!


My hive has had a couple of bees like that. They “bump” me all around the garden, even 20 feet or more from the hive. Means I have to wear a veil, because I have long hair, and they really hate getting tangled in it… :flushed: