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Limited breeding activity in peak season

in ballarat we have a good season of blossoming vegetation and my hive comprised of two brood boxes is full of bees. sadly they are not doing much, only 3 or 4 frames have more than 70% cover of capped cells. I have been inspecting the hive regularly and nothing is changing. I am suspicious chalk brood may be affecting some frames as I notice a dull white substance at the bottom of some cells giving a definitely unhealthy appearance. This is however only in very small areas. The remainder of the cells contain some honey, and brood, capped and uncapped, but many are simply vacant, the greater majority in fact.

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Hi Tony, I’m thinking that you probably should have your colony in a single brood box until the bees are ready for a second one, or alternatively a honey super.

I would limit the entrance to no more than 15 sq.cm., while blocking off any added ventilation. Make sure your roof has no leaks. Hopefully these measures will reduce the incidence of chalk brood.

I make sure that all of my brood frames are predominantly worker comb.

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Thank you Jeff. I agree a single brood box would be best given the low level of activity. Is that possible to achieve at this stage? I can imagine picking out the best frames and putting them in the one box but would feel uncomfortable about abandoning frames with any capped cells. Can a small incidence of chalk brood lower substantially the activity of the rest of the hive, and so provide an explanation for what is happening for me?
Your advice about reducing the entrance size and shutting off any air inlets I guess is directed towards stopping the temp dropping which is apparently a cause of chalk brood. I wonder whether that is still the case in the middle of summer.
appreciate your advice.
regards
Tony

Hi Tony, it would be good to see some photos. A lot of factors, including chalk brood can lead to your present situation. #1 could be a queen with poor performing progeny. Then there is prolonged bad weather, or a honey/pollen dearth.

There could be more chalk brood in the hive than you think, & that will contribute to the problem because every chalk brood mummy is one less bee in the colony.

I think it is damp air, more than cold air that contributes to chalk brood. Having said that, allowing brood to chill will lead to chalk brood. That occurs mainly during prolonged inspections, with exposing brood to cold windy weather.

With what you describe, & knowing bees, I doubt if you’ll have much brood left over after filling one brood box with the best looking brood frames. If there was that much good brood there, that you risk having to abandon some, you probably should leave them in 2 supers.

thank you for your valued advice Jeff. I am including a photo of the suspicious cells with the white matter at the bottom of them. also a photo of my set up with the level of bee activity usual on a warm sunny day.
the weather has been good recently and there is a mass of flowering plants available for foraging bees.
Your idea of the queen getting tired has merit I reckon. the colony is 3 years old and she might be slowing down. Any hints on getting a replacement?
I am picking up that you think it is ok to take out the best frames to make up one brood box, as long as not much brood is abandoned. I guess you think this is a good enough time, season wise, to be making such a move.
regards
Tony

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Hi & you’re welcome Tony. Merry Christmas also.
All I’m seeing in that photo is pollen. That other photo indicates to me, a strong healthy hive.
Any time is a good time to do hive manipulations, as long as it’s not too cold, especially cold & windy or wet.

Just a little bit of personal background: I like my brood frames to have a high percentage of worker comb, therefore the brood frames containing that high percentage of worker comb would be the ones I favor when it comes to consolidating the brood frames into a single box.

It’s easy for a new beekeeper to recognize drone brood as good brood, it is in it’s own right, however I would exclude it when it comes to consolidating brood frames.

When doing brood inspections, it’s important to not only observe the strength of the colony as it stands, but also the strength of the colony going forward, based on how much sealed worker brood there is. Your colony may or may not be ready for a population explosion in the coming weeks. If a population explosion is imminent, then reducing the colony down to one box might not be a good idea.

I hope this helps, cheers

Hi Jeff,
I dont want to trespass on your time unduly of course. But I do value your comments on my situation, my bee keeping skills being very limited, of three years standing and not having any local knowledge base to rely on.
I have opened the hive again and inspected all frames and this time there appears to be more activity. However all the frames bar one still only have a minimal amount of capped and uncapped breeding or storage activity. This frame curiously is a new one, inserted in november and it is doing best of all. A photo is attached. the other frames are much less covered than this one. I have attached a photo of one such frame which while well populated with bees has very little capped brood. I would not hazard a hive consolidation down to one box at this stage, given the level of activity going on.
I had naturally hoped to place the super this year after missing out last year with a slime problem, but dont want to do so unless it is going to work and from what I read all frames should be majority covered before the super is placed. In Ballarat it will remain warm until the end of march in a good year leaving me a bit of a window if breeding levels increase.
I would appreciate your comments.
regards
Tony

Hi Jeff,
I dont want to trespass on your time unduly of course. But I do value your comments on my situation, my bee keeping skills being very limited, of three years standing and not having any local knowledge base to rely on.
I have opened the hive again and inspected all frames and this time there appears to be more activity. However all the frames bar one still only have a minimal amount of capped and uncapped breeding or storage activity. This frame curiously is a new one, inserted in november and it is doing best of all. A photo is attached. the other frames are much less covered than this one. I have attached a photo of one such frame which while well populated with bees has very little capped brood. I would not hazard a hive consolidation down to one box at this stage, given the level of activity going on.
I had naturally hoped to place the super this year after missing out last year with a slime problem, but dont want to do so unless it is going to work and from what I read all frames should be majority covered before the super is placed. In Ballarat it will remain warm until the end of march in a good year leaving me a bit of a window if breeding levels increase.
I would appreciate your comments.
regards
Tony

Hi Tony, there looks to be lots of activity, going by the bottom photo. You probably wont see any activity (as you already know) in a Flow super until the 2 brood boxes are full. If you have had anywhere near the amount of rain that we’ve had up here, you wouldn’t be likely too see any more than what you are seeing now.

I would still be inclined to reduce the brood to one super while adding the Flow super at the same time. If you have any worker brood in frames that wont fit in a single brood box, you can place them in the middle of the flow super, in place of some flow frames, until all of the brood has emerged. That will help to encourage bees into the Flow super.

That’s my thoughts, cheers

Thanks for your good advice Jeff. The idea of placing brood frames into the flow super is an interesting one.
Happy NY
regards
Tony

Hi & thanks Tony, happy new year to you as well.

Placing brood frames above a QE is something that I regularly do & recommend, if the occasion arises. Place them in the middle, directly above the biggest concentration of bees in the brood box. Then flank them with Flow frames, leaving a gap, if any on the sides.

The brood frames above the QE in a Flow super is only a temporary measure until the brood has emerged. Then you can decide whether to allow the bees to fill those frames with honey, or remove them, & replace them with the rest of the Flow frames.