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Drones in Flow Super

Today, I have seen a lot of drones in the flow super - maybe 30 through the side window and 50-100 on top of the flow-frames. The all seem to be gathering on the underside to the plexiglass (perspex) inner cover and look like they really want to get out !!
I have not opened the hive nor pulled out a flow-frame yet, as I am not sure how to deal with this . . .
I have a good quality metal queen excluder in place since the day I added the flow super onto the brood box, so I have several questions :

  1. How did drones get into the flow super ?
  2. Should I just open the hive roof and inner cover and release them ?
  3. Should I pull out the flow-frames and take a look ?
  4. As well as the drones that are visible through the side window and on top of the frames, is it likely that there are lots more between the frames ? Will they get trapped there ?
  5. Will these drones cause any problem with the flow-hive cells or with the honey ?
    I feel I need to take some action, but I’d like to understand what’s happening here, first . . .
    Any and all advice is welcomed.
    :confused:
    Arthur
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Hello and welcome to the Flow forum!

Sounds like your queen is up there. She can only lay drones (no workers) in the Flow frames, because they are too big and deep to take worker larvae.

Yes, or they will die.

I don’t know how much honey you have, but there will be cocoons in the Flow cells. If this was my hive, I would dismantle the Flow frames, scrub them out with hand hot water and reassemble for next year. You are too late for much honey this year in your climate.

You also need to get the queen down below the queen excluder and change it to a decent queen excluder. The plastic ones break very easily. I would go with a good quality metal one. Perhaps check that the gaps are no more than 5mm - sometimes they get distorted and let a queen through. Less than plastic, but still possible. :blush:

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As you already have a metal queen excluder on the hive the first thing I would do is an inspection to find where the queen is and I suspect she will be found above the QX in the super and that will be confirmed by finding no brood in the brood box.
Finding drones on the window you can assume they are everywhere thru the super and I would release them by taking all the frames out of the super and shaking the bee off in front of the hive, that will be an ongoing task till there is no more drones in the super.
Find the queen and place her below the QX.
Welcome to the forum, there is lots of folks here happy to pass on good advice, Cheers

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Let those poor drones out ASAP by providing a gap between inner cover and super. They will be all out in a few minutes.
Then find your queen and possibly clean the flow frames as Dawn and Peter advised.
Else, remove your excluder. I’m sure queenie will be happy to be able to go down to the broodbox. Then put it back once you find eggs in the bottom box.

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I’d also check your Flow Frames for signs of double eggs in cells as you might have drone laying workers.

A good inspection should give you the answer :+1:

Thanks for all your input and advice.

The latest status is that I think the queen (somehow ?) seems to have made her way into the Flow Super !

No new eggs in the brood-box, so I guess no queen in there now.

In the Flow Super the centre four frames have some spotty drone brood, some larvae, eggs and very little honey.
Of the other four (the two outers at each end), three have capped honey only (no brood), and one is empty.
Someone is laying !; so my guess is that it is the queen who manged to get through my good quality, undamaged, metal queen excluder and into the Flow Super (is this even possible ??).

I think my next step is to find and capture the queen on the Flow Hives. (This will confirm the current theory). Then remove the four frames with drone brood, dismantle and clean them.
I can replace these with four new Flow Frames, for now.

Do you think the workers would clean these and re-purpose them for honey if I just left them in the super until all the remaining brood have hatched ?

Then, I need to get the queen laying again in the brood box.

I welcome any and all ideas, thoughts and advice . . .

Cheers,

Arthur

Thanks for the update Arthur.
The most likely way the queen got into the super is by human error, maybe she was on the QX during the last inspection and she was on the top side when the QX was put back on the brood box, I’ve been there and done that myself. I’ve heard of faulty metal QX’s with a bent wire with the gap wide enough to allow the queen to move thru but isn’t common. I simply don’t trust the plastic QX’s regardless of where they are made or the color.
Once the queen is found and put into the brood box and the drones in the super have emerged and been released I would take the Flow Frames out of the super and clean them to remove the cocoon then refit them smearing on some wax over the end of the cells.
When the queen is in the brood box the bees might move honey away for the queen to lay eggs.
Cheers

They will clean them, but they will not remove the cocoons. That may get in the way of the Flow mechanism and give you big honey leaks into the hive in the future. That is why I would dismantle and scrub any Flow frames which had brood in them. :wink:

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The main honey flow is ending in Ireland about now. I think you should now concentrate on getting the hive established back in their brood box, with enough stores for the winter.

I would shake all the bees back into the brood box and remove the flow super altogether. (I assume you have drawn frames and stores there?) Then I would feed them syrup to help them build out comb again. Come September they will probably be able to gather ivy to further augment winter stores.

There is a bee association in every county in Ireland and it would be well worth joining your local association ( maybe www.waterfordbees.com) and following their classes (hopefully they find a way to continue this winter despite covid restrictions). Even if there are no classes you will receive a monthly magazine and get into contact with local beekeepers,which will be useful if you need bees in the future (locally bred bees are best).

I would also add that you should consider treating for varroa (thymol in august is good). Varroa multiply much faster in drone brood so it would be wise to head off a potential problem now.

Thanks Jim.

I am involved with the local beekeepers here in Waterford and I have a really good local mentor.

I have completed several classes in the Spring, but the pandemic put a halt to any practical classes.

I just got word this week that we will be back doing practical work in the apiary from early August. Can’t get enough hands-on expensive.

I plan to follow your advice and cleanup the hive as you described.

The one thing I cannot figure out is how that queen got into the super in the first place. Lessons learned for the future, I suppose.

Thanks for your note.

Cheers,

Arthur

That’s great. You’re going about things the right way. You cant beat getting hands on experience with good mentors.

I see two possibilities, a fault in the QE or human error. The metal QEs are very reliable, much better than the plastic ones. If there was a kink in the wires which allowed her to move up, it should also allow her to move down…
In my view human error is the most likely, very easy to happen. For example. you take off an excluder with some bees on it and leave it to one side while you inspect the brood box. If the queen was on it and you replace it upside down, or she has walked around to the other side in the meanwhile, she will end up in the super.
Thats the fun about beekeeping. Its a constant problem solving and learning experience :))

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