Lots of drone cells on one frame! Is this normal?

Hello! I’m a fairly new beekeeper so please forgive me if I’m asking a silly question. But, I inspected my hive today and noticed an entire frame was full of very neat drone cells. The other frames had were full of worker bee larvae in different stages. I couldn’t find the queen today but it’s a very busy hive in there. I wondered if this could be because it’s spring now in Australia and getting warmer, so maybe they need their drones again? But also google told me it’s a sign they’re about to swarm. I recently swapped to a slightly bigger hive so put in an extra frame to accomodate for it, which is not full yet so they can’t be running out of space, I would think. But I could be wrong! Just curious and hoping all is ok. Otherwise the hive looked ok- a few hive beetles but I’ve put traps in, and lots of activity.

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The bees do start producing drones in the spring and it is a sign of a prosperous colony that could be making swarm preparations - were there any swarm cells?

A healthy hive “likes” to have 15 or so percent drones at your time of the year, if you give them a foundation-less frame they will build drone comb there. If you don’t, they will try to build drone cells as burr comb or at the edges of plastic worker cell foundation sheets.

You can decide if you want to fight their tendencies by not providing them space to build drone cells but you will end up scraping away more burr comb. Or, you can let them do it and they will take care of themselves as they have for millions of years.

The drones are mostly considered free-loaders and, as @JeffH preaches, they don’t do anything to defend your colony from beetles or other challenges. Not sure if I read it here or somewhere else but some people say that letting them make their drones keeps the colony happier.

Check your hive for other signs of swarming and make preemptive swarm control splits as needed.


Hi Rosie - seeing that many capped drone cells in early spring usually prompts me to do a preemptive split, as @chau06 mentioned. It’s important to scan for any queen cells so you take the right steps, but if it’s still early enough and drone buildup is the only sign, you can simply take out 2-4 worker brood frames that contain eggs and young larvae and put them with whatever combination of frames you can get into a new hive to to fill it - honey frames, drawn comb frames or foundation frames, and make sure the split has enough food to get started with. Not too much or too long, given your nectar flow seems to be on the upswing.

For those ‘right steps’ re swarm prevention, please put Wally Shaw in the search bar and you’ll find a wonderfully informative booklet with everything you need. Don’t hesitate to ask more questions too - they’re never silly! :blush::honeybee:


Hi Rosie. I advise against large areas of drone brood, especially a whole frame of it. Apart from what @chau06 said, large areas of drone brood will lead to larger areas of freshly emerged drones. Beetles can crawl unchallenged under masses of drones, creating an opportunity for them to lay eggs in drone brood that is yet to emerge.

They’re sneaky, they tunnel through the comb, before laying eggs in the base of the brood. That allows the beetle larvae to consume the brood, while leaving the cap intact.

During spring, colonies produce lots of drones, on account that virgin queens will be about. It is also a sign that swarm preparations are imminent.

Each colony produces lots of drones in the natural world, because the more drones a colony produces, the greater the chances that colony will pass on it’s genes.