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Drone Frames Effective Against Varroa?


Drone frame as effective varroa trap. opinions?


Drone trap will trap varroa yes but according to latest research at Sussex university in the uk it actually makes little difference in your total IPM so for the effort both by beekeeper and bees is not worth doing


I saw a video on youtube where they used two foundationless frames in the brood so the bees would only build drones on them. Then after a certain period, they’d remove the frames of drone brood, cut the comb out & stick it in the freezer. Then put the empty frames back in the hive to start the process all over again. Apparently a lot of mites will be attached to the drone brood. We don’t have mites yet in Australia. I guess that’s another challenge we’ll have to cope with when the time comes.


Kill off the Drones and we risk damaging the Bee population diversity - Darwin will tell you it is survival of the fittest, healthy bees make better bees.


Yes Jeff it does attract a lot of mites but for serious varroa control according to Ratnieks it’s not worth doing. For controlling SHB that can annihilate a hive in a few days…well that’s another matter


Valli nobody is talking of killing all the drones. You make extra drones then kill them


Killing Drones puts a strain on the hive’s number of worker bees the will not be laid - the stronger the hive the healthier the hive. To me is it just wasteful and inefficient


Hi Dee, I’ve been doing a bit more thinking about that strategy. You could successfully do it & keep a hive strong at the same time. It would be a kind of swarm control measure at the same time. Based on my own experience, there’s no guarantee the bees are going to build all drone comb in the empty frames anyway. It all depends on how much drone comb is present in the permanent frames.

I’m currently having to weaken the strong hives (not right now, it’s winter) to prevent swarming. I can still see the possibility of using this strategy, say once every 3 weeks & at the same time still have to weaken a hives worker population to prevent swarming.

From memory, the theme of the strategy in the video was “treatment free”.

The down side would be not as many extra colonies.

The upside would be treatment free varroa control, swarm control, extra wax & I’m sure the larvae/pupae would provide good nutrition in a vegetable garden, for example.


Hi Jeff
What some beekeepers do here is put in short frames. One in each colony and cut off the drones when capped, repeating maybe twice. If you don’t see varroa then there’s no point in repeating. I was wondering what the bees would do if you put a frame of drone foundation in the middle of the brood nest. Would they make drones and rear them where they are safer from SHB or would they remodel the wax to worker?


Hi Dee, no not really. No they would still make drone comb on drone foundation.

The problem with drone comb in relation to SHB is not so much that the SHB are attracted to drone larvae. It’s the fact, from my observations that once drones hatch, they tend to hang about close to where they hatch. As you know, it will be drone comb on both sides of the comb. If there is a large concentration of freshly hatched drones in one area of the brood, SHB will be able to crawl amongst them without getting chased. Therefore they’ll be able to chew through the wax & deposit their eggs at the base of the cell onto the unhatched drones.

This is the primary reason why I advocate lots of small areas of drone comb in preference to any large areas of drone comb. It’s to eliminate the possibility of large congregations of drones in any particular area of the brood. It’s only worker bees that will chase the beetles. It would be hard for a worker bee to chase a beetle through a large mass of drones that have no interest in getting out of the way.
It’s to have a more even mix of drones/workers throughout the brood area.


Thanks Dee.


What about Oliver’s citation of the Calderone 2005 study of suppression to 2.5% over the control group?

Does the UK study you reference controvert that finding?



Actually, not too much now that I look at it.
The paper asserts that removing one drone frame every month from June to September has no detrimental effect on the colony and colonies treated thus actually produced more honey than those not culled.
This bit is interesting

Keeping the drone combs frozen between exchanges keeps the brood fresh and provides the bees with a tasty protein meal when they are returned. This may allow the colony to recoup much of its investment in the drone brood, thereby helping to keep the colony strong. Do not feed combs of decayed brood to your bees.

I presume, then that all you have to do is freeze your frames then give them back for the bees to eat the dead larvae and for the queen to re-lay it.

Another bit

Another concern is that this method will reduce the number of drones available for mating. This could be a problem. However, this method does not eliminate all drones from a colony, and if there are feral colonies in the area, there should be more than enough drones for virgins to mate with. However, without further refinements, this method would not be desirable for managing mites in a queen rearing operation.

Here’s is a snapshot I took of Ratniek’s powerpoint

I think his point is that if you sublimate when there is zero brood you get varroa control for a year and up to 1 year 3 months if your bees are hygienic. Having even 500 sealed brood cells when you sublimate reduces this significantly to 6 months. The trick then is to know roughly when your colony is likely to be brood-less and that varies yearly. What do you do? Open up every week right through till you find a small enough brood patch to destroy?

Then you don’t have to do any other fiddly bits, including sacrificing drones, during the rest of the year


Yes, I can see that.
I usually have patches of drones on the periphery of the second and penultimate frames. The outside frames are usually stores. At this time of the year that’s where all the drones hang out. Trouble is that all sorts of drones are there too. I have bees of different colours in different hives, Buckie and Black and I can see both


Sublimate? Gah! I went for Flow partly to minimize the equipment needed to raise bees.
I foresee frenzied, comic fire control as I ignite my cedar oil-impregnated hive bodies.


We have always know that broodless time is the best to treat for Varroa = that is all well and good if there is clustering in winter - this winter the hives were never completely broodless and that was the problem - I had to Vape in December, January and March.

Due to the bad Summer last year my hives went broodless in July-August before the Autumn when the winter bees were being bred.

The combination of food dearth in July,and laying Winter without clustering were contributing factors along with bad mating Summer and some hive becoming susceptible to Nosema - saw a lot of hives off this Winter-Spring - I treated in Autumn and the 3 treatments over Winter-Spring period and was lucky some were not so lucky.

Many by me lost 25% - 30% of their hives.

What it boils down to is instinct and management


Hi Dee, I see much the same thing. I guess the drones are keeping clear of most of the serious activity of the brood rearing & all the comings & goings of the field bees.

I guess I’ll worry about varroa if/when it comes to Australia.

I remember another video I watched of an American bloke who said he can cope with ALL of the challenges of beekeeping (including varroa) except SHB. SHB had him stumped. That made me realize that if I can cope with SHB, I should be able to cope with varroa.

Another comment a bloke in S.America made on one of my videos was that he can cope with all of the challenges of beekeeping except cane toads. I told him to simple elevate his hives off the ground:) Problem solved.


That’s all you have as a novice.

Experience teaches us that bees do all sorts of stuff that we can’t manage and is not in the books. They refuse to put stores in any super you put over, insisting on stuffing the brood box with honey then swarming away. They swarm without capping queen cells. They swarm with just an egg laid in a queen cup.Virgin queens go back into the wrong hive after mating leaving you scratching your head why you have an unrecognisable queen in one box and laying workers in another. They supersede perfectly good new queens. Splits refuse to make emergency queen cells and queen-less hives on test frames. The list seems endless but as you get into a rhythm with the bees you can work with them rather than struggling.

This brood-less notion of Sussex University has me in a quandary. Of course we all know Oxalic doesn’t penetrate cappings. There is no instinct that tells me when my colonies will have so little brood I can afford to fork it out. The only thing I can do is continue 7 day inspections well into late Autumn and early Winter which is OK in an experimental situation but I am not prepared to do that. My broods get left alone when the honey comes off and anyway, each hive is different and shouldn’t we be treating them all at the same time?

I will continue to sublimate every 5 days 3 or 4 times on just the one occasion after harvest and explore these hygienic bees. I’m not prepared to forgo a honey crop if they are not productive. Even my small nuc from last year has built up to a 14x12 full of bees and there must be 70 odd pounds of honey on top.

I want to pay attention to what @JeffH says about drone culling for SHB. Beetle fills most UK beeks with the horror of the unknown. The speed of hive destruction and my inherent loathing of all things maggoty leaves me breathless. When it arrives I need to be fully armed.


G’day Dee, honestly I don’t think you have anything to worry about in relation to SHB. They say that your summer is like our winters. If that’s the case…

What I’m finding right now, 12 days into winter that SHB are very non threatening. (there’s plenty of the beetle to be found, no shortage there) I found one hive that went queenless & died out with no/very little SHB activity. I cleaned up the brood frames this afternoon & there was plenty of food, by way of pollen for them to lay eggs in. It was hardly touched. During hot humid weather they lay eggs in slumgum. I have some of that on my back verandah untouched. The sort of conditions they love is hot humid weather. If you don’t get that kind of weather, I’m sure you’ll be ok.


It seems to me that varroa are attracted by the drone comb…but it’s not very efficient to cull it…but if when you lift a few drone larvae out of sealed brood …you find varroa…then that is a signal to treat…with whichever method you choose. So drone brood has its uses to the beekeeper.
Varroa carry viruses and bacteria…when they are in the drone comb…those bees are affected and can carry disease to all the other hives they visit…so the drones may not be the best ones for mating with a queen. So checking for varroa is important but using culling of drone brood is not an efficient method of control. Raising drones is a heavy load for a colony and they tend to do this as the earliest swarm preparations. Drones are not ready to mate when they emerge and spend some weeks in the hive eating and loafing about with their mates. They add nothing to the colonies growth…only fertilise a queen…if they get a chance.


I think Darwin is a bit…old hat! He made a lot of statements but with more insight and modern information we have a better idea how natural selection is not always best. Adaption to outside influence…climate, resources have a far greater long term effect.
Since we have varroa along with all the viruses and bacterial infection they carry…the drones are in fact, a source of disease as they visit back and forth between hives and meet up with other drones during mating flights. Very few drones are successful and they return to the colony…but not necessarily the original colony.
Whereas I don’t use drone culling nor extra half frames to encourage drone comb as part of my varroa control strategy…I do remove drone frames if the colony has a lot of drones. I don’t believe that it reduces biodiversity …each hive produces so many drones…each beekeeper would have to remove almost all the drone brood to have any effect on numbers and I think that is an unlikely situation.
The beekeeper makes a decision whether there are too many drones and whether the cost to the colony is too great. A colony will eventually make its own decision in the autumn and will throw out the drones.