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Is there something wrong with my hive?


We did an inspection today of our four main hives and I am freaking out that one of them is diseased! We have one bought hive and 3 caught swarms from this season. Two of the swarms and the bought hive are doing well with a great laying pattern etc. however one of the swarm looks wrong and I’m hoping that this forum can help me work out what is going on.

The swarm was captured at the beginning of October and a look 2 weeks later showed no eggs, which led me to worry and post here, the conclusion of which was that we planned to add a frame of brood the following week so the bees could make a queen. However, the next week when we inspected we saw brood so I happily left them, assuming we had a Virgin queen who was now mated and laying.

Fast forward 2 weeks to our inspection today and all is not

well. There is a scattered brood pattern & less bees in general. I am unsure if it is worker or drone. My first thought was laying workers, but on inspection of the photos we took I am now concerned that they may have some disease. A lot of the cells look quite chewed and there may be a mummy in the photo. All we have here is chalk brood, AFB (which I am praying it isn’t) and wax moth, so I guess they are the only options. We have had a cold snap the last few days, so I’m hoping it’s a bit of chalk brood, but something is amiss.

I gave them a frame of brood before I looked at the photos hoping that they may make a new queen (I know not easy if we do have laying workers), but now I’m concerned that something worse is happening.

Anyway, enough rambling. I’ve posted a pic below of the brood pattern and potential mummy, and any advice would be much appreciated.




How many of the frames are drawn in the hive?
How many frames have brood total?
Are you currently feeding them?
Are the eggs that you have found at the bottom of the cell? (or on the cell wall?)
Do you have cells with multiple eggs?
Do you have any mummies on the bottom board of the hive?


The bees are in an 8 frame box with foundation. There are 4 frames which are mostly drawn, 2 frames of which have (scattered) brood on both sides.

I struggle with identifying eggs, but I think I have found one in the photos that is in the centre bottom of the cell alone.

I have not fed them as they were a reasonable swarm and there is lots of forage around - the other hives have expanded pretty well without syrup.

Unfortunately this hive has a solid bottom board and I didn’t think about a chalk brood possibility until after I had closed them up and looked at the photos.

Hope this helps,

Cheers heaps,



I suspect that your colony is queenless with laying workers. Those brood cells look like drones to me, and there probably is some chalk brood, as you say. If the weather has been cold, and the colony is dropping in numbers from lack of a queen, there may not be enough bees to keep the brood warm. The commonest cause of chalk brood is chilled brood. It doesn’t look like you have AFB, but a toothpick poked into a capped cell might give more information - long brown stringy stuff is bad news. I think the dark cells around the brood are probably dark pollen and bee bread.

If your other colonies can afford it, I would suggest adding a frame of brood every week, as Michael Bush suggests in his “panacea” method.
The only issue with this is that if your weak hive doesn’t have enough bees to look after the brood, you will end up with more chalk brood and lost bees. I don’t see any other solution though. Maybe somebody else will have a better idea. :blush:

One other suggestion. If you have a nucleus box, it may help to “shrink” the colony into this until it recovers. They will have more chance of keeping the brood warm if there is less space to heat.


If you have other hives and seeing how far along that hive is in it’s laying workerisms lol, I would walk each frame 200 yards away and shake them out. The laying workers won’t find their way back to the hive. Freeze the empty frames or distribute them between the strong hives and they will hatch the drones and sort out the comb to their own liking.


Thanks all. I knew the frames looked wrong, but not sure how to tell if they were drones or worker cells - is there any tips for spotting this?

I will check in a week and add another frame of brood if there is no queen cell. My main concern is that there may be not enough bees to cover the brood. The frame I put in yesterday had a lot of capped workers so I guess if they hatch there will be a nice population increase to keep going with.




Worker brood have flatter caps, a bit more like capped honey. Drone brood almost always has a domed cap, like the end of a sausage.

Sounds like a good plan. May still be helpful to shrink down the hive to a nucleus, if you can. :wink:


Hi Julia, the brood looks like worker brood to me, because it is scattered it looks like drone brood. I can see chalk brood disease & a little bit of shb damage, which the bees are cleaning up. I think that hive is desperately low in population, however worth saving… If you had somewhere about 5 k’s away to take it to, I’d put 4 frames with bees into a nuc box like in this video,

I’d take both boxes to the new location, mainly so the uniting bees don’t go back to their original hives.

After the bees are united, I would start to introduce a frame of brood every 7-10 days until you end up with a strong colony. It’s because of the shb that I wouldn’t introduce the frames of brood at the start.


Thanks Jeff. We don’t have SHB here (I hope!!!), so that shouldn’t be a problem, but I do worry the brood will get chilled. I don’t have anywhere to move them to but I could switch their place with a strong hive (they are sitting next to each other on a table) for a little while to increase their numbers (but I guess that would be just be foragers) if you think that will help?

Thanks heaps for the advice - I have learnt that next time we get a swarm I will add a frame of brood & provide them an option to requeen if required. I will check the girls & boys next weekend and reassess.



Please let us know what you find. This is helpful for me too. :wink:


Hi Julia, you’re welcome. That damage to the comb in several places sure looks like shb damage. Yes switching the hives around will certainly help the situation. Do this while there is plenty of stores coming in. In that case you could add a frame of brood to the weak colony because you’ll gain enough bees to keep that brood warm & defend against possible shb damage.

Depending on how close those hives are to each other. If they are side by side, you might think about turning the strong hives entrance away slightly to make sure the bees do go into the weak hive & stay there. Even if you turn it 90 deg. because bees will still be at the entrance fanning the scent out.

While you have that increase of workers, it will be a good opportunity to select frames with hatching brood to add, so you get lots of new nurse bees.

Monitor it daily to make sure the population in the strong colony doesn’t temporarily weaken too much.

Good luck with that, cheers


Hi Julia,
That’s clearly drone brood. You can see the big eyes in one of the uncapped cells. The bees have converted worker foundation to the larger drone cells in some cases, and the cappings are bumped up in others to accommodate the larger drones. Because it’s scattered, there’s likely no queen but a bunch of laying workers. Workers are uncapping and removing some of the pupae bit by bit. There may be a mummy or two, resulting from chilled brood, as Dawn points out. I see no signs of SHB or any other disease.
There are lots of ways a swarm can end up queenless!
Since the colony is so small and those workers are so old, there’s really nothing to do with it except combine it with it’s neighbor. Shaking the bees out will not get rid of the laying workers. The workers are most likely too old to raise a new good queen anyway. Don’t weaken your other hives by taking brood from them that might result in a poor queen at best for the wimpy hive. Combine now and split later if you want.
Three hives are plenty to start with! Try to find a mentor to help you in your first few years. A good one will be mostly reassuring and will be able to tell you what you’re looking at.
Boulder, CO, USA


Hi all,

I thought I’d update on our weekly check. There was enough bees to cover about 2 frames of brood today, and thankfully they have made 2 queen cells, one of which I can see has a larva in (though looks a bit chewed!).

We made the decision to add another frame of young brood in case these two fail and as the bee numbers would allow it. I now plan on leaving them to it for a good 3 -4 weeks to allow the new queen to hatch, mate etc.

I will update when I do my next check, but am feeling cautiously optimistic. I just wanted to thank everyone again for the awesome mentorship I have received from this forum. This has been a great learning experience for me!

Cheers heaps,



Sorry that was the wrong photo:

This is the correct one:


Thanks Kristina,

We are in late spring here & are the trees are about to all blossom so I am in swarm control mode so need to shift brood out of my strong hives anyway. I think this makes great use of them & I am learning so much from our experiment with the whimpy hive too :).

Finding a physical mentor is pretty hard where we live, and I feel very supported from the people on this forum who have guided me very well indeed. My error with this hive was to leave them too long before adding brood, an error that will not happen again!

Cheers heaps,



Learning a lot here as well, Julia! Thanks for posting :blush:


Hi all,

After 4 long weeks of patience we finally opened up the hive to have a look and I am really happy with what we saw!

We saw 2 frames of nicely capped brood (flat top worker brood :)) with larvae of differencing ages & I think eggs (please let me know if you can see any in the photos). The 2 frames of brood and eggs we added from previous frames seem to have hatched fine and boosted bee number & the old drone & chalkbriod comb has been fully cleaned up & there are plenty of nectar and pollen stores :).

Most excitingly - we saw a small but clearly well functioning queen. I am in awe that the little colony managed to make a queen from the first frame, not kill her, and then she must have gotten out quick sticks to mate and started laying almost immediately!

Who knows if this emergency queen will be able to function for long given her little size, but she is clearly capable of laying well so I’m going to leave her to it and trust that the colony will replace her when they need her to.

Thanks again for all the advice I received here. It’s nice to have a happy ending to the story and I’ve learned a lot about bee management along the way :slight_smile:




You got a nice picture of her too! Interesting dark abdomen, looks like she has some Caucasian genes. :blush:


You can only buy Italian bees here, but she was made from a frame from a hive from a local feral swarm. They are a lot darker than our bought Italians. Even different swarms from different trees on our property vary massively in size and colour. Fascinating how selection has led to so many varieties in such a small area.


Bet you were good at “Where’s Wally” :wink: