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How to clean out worker brood from Flow Frame


What to do with a bit of brood created by laying worker in my some of my flow frames. I ended up with a queenless hive due to some traumatic event (possibly foraging in in herbicide-treated flora). Even though I introduced some open brood, it apparently was not enough to create a new queen and now I have a hive full of laying workers.

I’m thinking it is rather useless to trying to correct this situation by introducing open brood…might just weaken my other hives too much. So, if I let this hive die out, how can I best remove the drone brood from my flow Frames. If I switch out these frames into hives that are queen right; will they clean out those cells?


A power washer will do it nicely. A strong water hose might do ok.


They don’t remove cocoons, and those will wreck the honey flow process, plus contaminate the honey with larval feces.

The easiest way to remove them is to try Michael’s suggestion. The other way is to dismantle the frames in hot soapy water and scrub them off by hand.


So, I’m basically going to have to waste all the honey already capped? What about conventional frames of honey. I have some honey supers that now have this laying worker brood in them as well.

What if I wait until the larvae hatch?


You could uncap it and put the frames into a conventional extractor, if you have one or can borrow one from your bee club. For the Flow frames, I would use a scratch uncapper rather than a hot knife - safer for the plastic. I would let the larvae hatch first for sure. If you extract the honey by spinning, the larval poop stays in the comb, because it is on the outside of the cocoons and the cocoons don’t extract with spinning - they hold the poop in place (they will mix with the honey if you crush and strain, of course).

Spin the Flow frames at low speed to avoid them falling apart. :blush: I think @Frederick_J_Dunn suggested spinning when he got drones in his Flow frames too.


You can save the few bees left by uniting them to a strong colony if you have one. Just sit the old bees on top of the new ones with a varroa mesh between them for three days or so then take away. The laying workers will stop laying


Or a Snelgrove board, but almost nobody in the US knows about those… :smile: I suppose a migratory inner cover would work for US beekeepers. :slight_smile: You would have to tape up the side gaps though:


Sorry to hear about the laying workers: Sounds like they swarmed themselves into queenlessness.

When keeping bees, an extractor is an important tool to have in the toolbox, especially with Flow frames since you can’t do the cut/crush/strain method.

As for the laying workers; if you can take the hive a few hundred feet away and shake out the bees and then re-assemble the hive at a different location since you’re wanting to get rid of those bees anyway.


Thanks everyone. Some clarification on a few of the points you made:

Dawn - I do have an extractor, mine just won’t accommodate a deep frame (or Flow Frame) but I can get access to one that will. For my honey supers that have laying worker brood in them, do I understand I can spin those slowly to extract the honey without contaminating it with the larva? Couldn’t I take a hive tool or a putty knife and remove those sections where the worker brood is located, since I use plastic foundation?

Dee/Dawn - I’m not sure what “varroa screen” is but I do have something that looks real close to the Brushy Mtn photo my husband made up to help us move some hives. I’m thinking that might work. I still have a LOT of bees in this hive!

Chilipepper - If I disassemble the hive by shaking the bees out across the bee yard (about 75’) will the non-laying workers move back in if I reassemble it? Or, are you saying I just chuck this hive population (or combine it with another hive) and start over?

And BTW, you are right on about this hive. It has been nothing but trouble this year. It was a nice swarm that really took off. So much so, that it got ahead of me and swarmed (into my neighbor’s yard). They were not happy about that and it caused a lot of stress. Then there was an apparent incident with this and another hive next to it. The bees must have gotten into something which killed off both queens…there were a lot of dead bees outside. More on this one than on the other. But, both became queenless. My efforts to provide open brood so they would requeen themselves worked beautifully for the other hive but NOT this one. So, with one hive I have experienced two nasty situations within a month. I’m frankly, ready to be done with them!


I wouldn’t try to do that. I would use @Dee’s idea of a screened divider board, and put all of the capped larvae above that onto a healthy hive. When the capped brood emerge, and you know that you have no more capped brood, you can now extract in a spinner, as I suggested.

You certainly could, but it is messy, time-consuming and costs more lives than just letting them emerge.

If you use that, with an inner cover above that has an upper entrance in it, like this one, your drones can get out and you minimize loss of life:

Ignore the stamping on the frame around the cover, put it slot side down, cover the center hole and shift your roof to make a space for the small slot exit. The drones will then be able to get out.

The added advantage is that the workers would be fine for several weeks with this setup, as they have an upper entrance. You can then remove the screened board, condense the hive down into fewer boxes if necessary, and have a nice strong hive for next year. :wink:


Thanks Dawn…I think I understand now. And, I have inner covers exactly like that. Well, they are Brushy Mtn so they should be! I’ll try and get these girls sorted out tomorrow. There are still a LOT of bees in this hive, so I may have to divide them up into 2 other hives. Just hoping I don’t overpopulate them!

I guess I’ve been toying with the idea of whether or not I should try a “split” once I get this problem hive cleaned out. As I said, adding to the population of my other two hives may cause an overpopulation…or are these bees so old now that they will soon be dying out anyway. Maybe I’m overthinking this. I’ll just see how things develop. I’m gonna have a pretty tall hive though…3 deeps, flow box, 2 honey supers! Gonna need to consolidate I can see!


There’s too strong of a chance that they move back in at that short distance. I’d assemble it somewhere else or wait a couple of weeks. You’ll know it’s safe to re-assemble when you no longer see bees congregating where the hive location used to be.


Well, your climate is a little different from my San Diego coastal region, but right now my hives are winding down for winter. From 100% coverage of frames (before smoke - in other words not driving the bees off the frames), the bee population is now down to about 70-80% per frame in our 3 hives. The brood laying areas are contracting too. In 2 brood boxes at the peak we had 8 or more frames of brood (eggs, uncapped and capped larvae). We are probably down to about 5 or 6 now. I would look to combine at this time of year, rather than try to nurture a couple of weak nuclei through the winter.

You might be right in splitting in your region. Nothing is ever 100% in beekeeping. Just thinking out loud really. :blush:


Well, folks…as luck would have it, some decisions were made for me this afternoon when we got a swarm call. So, after collecting that, I emptied out a deep and put good frames (some with honey from the freezer, some drawn out, some new) into that deep box and dumped the swarm in there.

That was followed by the screen as suggested by Dee; and then a deep box of bees from the original worker-laying hive (along with their frames of spotty drone brood), followed by the honey super that also had worker brood in it. I topped that off with an inner cover that has an exit hole from the top just under the roof.

As I understand it, after about 3 days (I may leave it longer) those laying workers should sense the pheromone from the new queen and stop laying. I will just have to wait for the drone brood to hatch out before trying to extract those honey supers with a slow extraction. Once the honey is out, I will scrape that comb off from the plastic foundation and recycle it.

Of my 6 Flow Frames, only 3 had drone brood…and 2 of those was just a tiny area. I may explore options for cleaning out those few cells. One frame is going to get the power wash treatment, as there is not enough capped honey to bother with.

Dawn, I should have a pretty strong hive going into winter with this combining. What an experience, though. I don’t want to repeat it! Now I know why people say, “You don’t want to get a laying worker situation!”

Oh, BTW, I ended up moving this hive about 50’ away from where it was. I know this doesn’t stick to the 2’ or 2 mi rule; but it is what it is. If that other population can’t find their way home, so be it!


This shaking out thing seems to be made more complicated than it needs to be. There is this notion that laying workers can’t fly. They can. If you want to shake out, the simplest method is to smoke the hive we’ll so that all the bees fill up with honey. Wait fifteen minutes or so.
Take a flat roof or something like that and put it twenty feet away from your other hives.
Shake all the bees into it and take the hive completely away. The shaken out bees will be accepted into other hives because they bring honey. No bees are lost to annoy passers by because they are homeless. The laying workers will stop laying under the influence of the new hive’s pheromones and any eggs that are laid will be eaten by the house bees.
Do all this on a flying day


Hopefully it’s a big swarm and they seek out all the laying workers and kill them before the lw’s kill the queen.


Well, I will admit my process was probably awkward at best, but I took your earlier advice Dee about combining hives and isolated the two populations in a new location about 50’ from the previous one with a screened board (like a screened bottom board as shown in the picture Dawn provided).

We put the new swarm in a deep on the bottom; then the screened board, then a deep with the old population of laying workers on top of that; a honey super (with brood in it) on top of that. Then I added the inner cover as you suggested with the exit slot on one end covered by the peaked roof (such as on a flow hive).

This morning, everyone seems to have settled down except for a few bees back at the old site that I will try to reroute over the the new hive location today…they are congregated on an emptied out deep frame in a little storage area I have for my equipment, so I will take it over to the new location and let them figure things out.

Chilipepper, I would not think that the new queen will be killed with the two populations segregated by the screen. In a few days, her pheromone should have turned off the laying response and that behavior…am I not correct in thinking that?


That’s what should happen


Idk, I never had any such luck. I only tried that once and she was killed. This was after 3 weeks of giving them eggs to try and persuade them to rear a queen. Remember, all of the bees above that screen think they have a laying queen even though what they really have is laying workers.
The difference here is that she (your queen) has a swarm to defend her where I only had a single deep frame with the queen covered in her own bees.
It wasn’t until I shook them out far away from the hive that they made queen-cells from the 5th frame of eggs. Five weeks wasted though :frowning:


Must give you all an update on what happened with this hive. As I said, my laying worker case seemed to be solved when I got a swarm and merged the two hives. I relocated the hive about 25’ from where the original hive had been; put the swarm in a deep box on the bottom, a screened separator, then the laying worker deep and laying worker medium on top of that. I removed the Flow Box (but then that is another story).

My thought was that the swarm pheromone would soon turn off the laying response in the top 2 boxes and once the two colonies got to know one another it would be safe to totally merge them. I left them for about 10 days with only the small notch in the inner cover of the top for the laying queen colony to move in and out of. As I watched them over the next 10 days, I could see that they acted as two separate hives with little integration.

Then, when I got into the hive a couple of days ago, I figured out why the seemed to be staying separated. There were 2 queens!! One in the bottom (former swarm) that was laying well. One in the top that looked healthy but no brood. There was still evidence of previous laying workers; but nothing new, so that seemed to have been turned off.

However, my question is…how did that colony raise another queen AFTER they had started with the laying workers? I can’t figure out the scenario.

I removed this “new” queen and gave her to a friend who had a queenless hive. I also removed the separation screen to let the two populations fully merge. I reinstalled the Flow box (after thoroughly cleaning it) and everyone seems happy and actively exploring/working the Flow again.