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Honey cell capping pattern?



A newbee here.

I just did my first extraction over the weekend and I am glad I did a frame inspection first as I would have extracted the wrong frame. My intent was to extract one frame from the middle of the super, but I ended up extracting from an outer frame.

Just a few questions on how the bees cap the cells. It looked like the bees worked the inner frames first then moved to the outer frames. Below is picture from Mar 6 notice that they are working on the inner frames

A week later they were working on the outer frames (March 14) image below

Then on then Sunday (March 20) all cells from this viewpoint looked full. I did a frame inspection by lifting each frame and noticed that only the first frame (next to the observation window was fully capped). The other frames had a strange pattern of what was capped and not capped basically, this patterm was the opposite of what I would expect. The edges and top of each frame was capped but the lower middle was uncapped.

Picture of inner frame.

Is this normal?

Would these cells have previously been capped and then uncapped for feeding the brood?

Harvesting question

It is normal. Bees never do what we want them to do, and they rarely do what we expect them to do. You did the right thing, checking before harvesting - I always do that, because you just can’t tell unless you see both sides of every frame.


Looks normal, they generally cap the cells from the top down and in this pattern.


Hi, that bottom frame looks like a frame I would typically take to extract honey from. It appears & it happens to me a lot, that the cells that are uncapped could be completely empty of honey. If that is the case, all the cells that contain honey are completely capped & ready to harvest.

The reason why those cells are empty is because the bees don’t know that the queen can’t fit through the QX. They have left those cells empty for the sole purpose of the queen to lay eggs in. They want to make more drones. You’ll find at certain times of the season, the bees wont leave as many drone cells empty for the queen to lay in.

Your doing the right thing by inspecting the frames before extracting in my books. There’s no substitute for physically inspecting the whole frame before harvest.

Sometimes you might only need to take 2 frames out to confirm that all the rest are ready to rob.

Good luck with everything, bye for now.


Thanks JeffH

I guess it makes sense about the bees leaving space for the drone cells. I just have never seen this before in the club hives.

I will do another inspection over Easter and check if the cells are truly empty.


Hi Michael, I see that all the time, I mainly see it like your photo on drone comb. You’ll also see it on worker comb where the bees have left a semi-circle empty above the QX for the queen to lay in.

Sometimes with wire QX’s the queen will find a gap & lay to her hearts content in the honey super. If that happens I bring the QX home, find the gap & fix it. It’s a bit of a pain because you have to wait for that brood to hatch before the bees fill the frames with honey.

Any drone comb, I cut out before the beetle gets a chance to lay in it. It it happens with Flow frames, every egg laid will be drones, so you’d have to keep an eye on that if it ever happened & give them an exit so they don’t die trying to fit through the QX, giving the beetle another place to lay eggs in.

Good luck with it, cheers:)


Hiya Jeff, would you still cut out the drone comb if you didn’t have shb?


Hi Greg, I never used to cut it out until the day I saw evidence of shb damage in 2 lots of drone comb in one day, then the penny dropped.

If shb disappeared tomorrow, I’d probably still cut it out, especially above the qx because all you get is a large area of dead drones trying to get through the qx in a couple of weeks time.

In the brood box, I’d leave small areas of drone comb, (as I do now) but cut the large areas out. The bigger % of worker comb you have in the brood, the stronger your hive will be. Also, you’ll get away with only needing one super for brood.


@skeggley - only one problem cutting out loads of Drone comb - the Queen will lay more and spend time laying Drones when she could be laying Worker Bees - Forgers, Guard and Nurse Bees - apart from cutting down on bee DNA and gene diversity- A small amount of Drone culling is used in IPM (integrated pest management), but you have to weigh up the pros and cons.

If everyone by you cuts out that much Drone comb on a regular basis then it is not doing Bee survival any great favours, it is putting a strain on bee diversity and good future Queen insemination and laying longevity


Just for any new beekeepers on the Forum, a worker bee usually goes through all of these roles in her life. When she first hatches, she will be a Nurse bee. Her job is to look after the brood and the queen. She also feeds larvae and makes a lot of wax for combs, she ferments bee bread and produces royal jelly. As she gets older, she becomes a Forager - going out to find nectar and pollen. Towards the end of her life, she becomes a Guard bee - the most dangerous job in the hive is assigned to the oldest bees! Very efficient management of hive members. A hive is a beautiful thing.



Dawn that is why it is important the first thing new Beeks need to learn is the life cycles of the various bees - Queen, Drone and Worker


No question, of course… :wink:



That’s great info … I even keep reviewing it … Been a lot of years since I actually pulled active frames … That’s soon to change. New n review here is always GOOD !

Thankz n Cheers.
Gerald with my glasses on now :mag_right:


I think you will find that the Queen measures the size of the cell and lays a worker or drone depending the size. The workers decide on how much drone comb to build. So if you leave drone comb in the hive…she will lay in it again. Although, in the UK, beekeepers are encouraged to use drone culling as IPM for varroa control…leaving some in the colony is Ok as we don’t have SHB.
In a large colony it is noticible that drones will congregate on the outside combs…the workers don’t want them on the brood comb. So this leaves quite large areas which are not patrolled by the workers. SHB take advantage of this and can get a strong hold on a colony especially a colony which is weak in terms of worker bees. So removing drone comb is a good idea for management of colonies which are subject to invasion by SHB.
Even removing 75% of drone comb throughout the season will still leave a lot of drones to service the queens…which mate with 15-20 drones once in her life. Queens will go to drone collection areas…so they are mated with drones from other colonies…not usually from their own colonies.


That is normal and why it is necessary to physically look at the frames before extracting.


Hi Guys,

I did another inspection over the weekend and also harvested another 3.2Kg of honey from the other outside frame.

The inner frames still have that empty section in them.

The first frame that I harvested from last week is filling up nicely and looks like it could be harvested again in a week or 2 time (about 3/4 full).


Is the center uncapped or empty?


mostly empty in the center, partially filled around the the boundary

Black - capped honey, grey - some nectar/honey, white - empty.


Just going through some older posts[quote=“Dawn_SD, post:10, topic:5842”]
most dangerous job in the hive is assigned to the oldest bees
Just the opposite for us humans. We send the young out to defend and protect. :confused:


Looking at that pattern I would be inclined to let it ride for awhile. It is SO annoying when the girls don’t fall in line with the program!