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MASSIVE numbers of Drones? Normal in Spring?

OK- it’s spring- my hives have some foundation-less natural combs- and it’s normal for drone numbers to be up… but:

I have one hive that seemingly has huge numbers of drones in it. The hive has observation windows and on some frames there are solid patches of drones all congregating together. At a guess on these faces I can see at least as many drones as workers.

Is it normal that drones like to congregate on the outer frame faces and on capped honey? Would this explain why I see such a high proportion there?

The other day I looked at the front of the hive and the entrance was choked with drones- at least 4 to every one worker bee. Most times of the days it is a more normal mix- 1 drone to every 10 workers maybe.

This picture has a lot of reflections in it- but perhaps you can see all the drones:

Hi Jack, it is normal for drones to all congregate together. This is why I advise to keep drone comb to a minimum in areas where SHB are active. If you allow bees to build drone comb, they’ll build it.

You can probably see now what I’m talking about in relation to SHBs. Remembering that drones don’t do any defending. SHB can crawl amongst the drones & lay eggs in unhatched (still to emerge) drones without getting chased.

I’ve learned my lesson- this year I am going to cycle out some foundationless frames and start using more foundation. I’ve got some ugly big celled drone combs…

Evenin’Jeff, reading along I can only offer in respect of drone thinking
those words of SanTzu;
“The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.”.
So a force as that one is best to keep in one place, known.
I actively raise drones in hive space extremes for that very reason, so easily dispatched when the time comes.
I digress.
I post to ask your experience in September for Trigona.
I have just been told Trigona swarm in September/October.
Now, I have it on good (reputable) authority Trigona do not swarm as such, being more of a migration phase over time (weeks).
My immediate problem is I have just last month set two transfers up and I notice one is doing major orientation cycles. Your experience? This is swarm behavior begining?



20% drones is normal in the spring.

Hi Bill, I don’t know the answers to those questions. I split one last week. Everything seems to be going well. I took most of the retreating brood out & put that into an empty box. Then I placed that in the original spot to let the returning bees go into it. I placed the original hive a couple of meters away. I also put some of the retreating brood into a weaker colony to boost it’s numbers of nurses in a hive I sold last week.

Yes I also believe that they don’t swarm, as we know it.

On Sunday I moved all the brood from another relatively strong colony into a new box so I could clean the old box up & retrieve the honey. This was after I used a lot of the retreating brood to boost another weak colony.

It’s all fun, I have to watch the Blue Faced Honey Eaters. They’ll eat the bees while cleaning up the honey.

We got a nice jar of clear honey out of it. I’d say there would have been more stored pollen than honey. I’ll give the pollen to my worm farm, maybe after trying to retrieve the wax.

I have another new box ready for the first hive I spoke about. It has a lot more honey in it, being the strongest hive.

Yeh, thanks for the swarming reinforcer, Jeff, it is early in the day (0915hrs)
and raining so they are well settled today.
I am still in learning mode this being only the second September I have tried some fancy (offbeat) manipulations on these little guys.
Having caught your video on the topic I must say your efforts in record are
well appreciated.

My apologies to the OP for the temporary diversion of topic.


They have exactly the number of drones that they wanted :slight_smile:

Hi Bill, you inspired me to transfer the second one this morning. It’s hard to do & retrieve the honey without many casualties. That’s the heart breaking part. Takes them a while to use the new entrance. They don’t seem to fan their scent like honeybees do. After an hour or more they started using it. Not as much honey as I thought. cheers

Hi Jack, have you performed any comb manipulations lately? Drawn comb in the honey super is generally a larger size than than worker comb drawn in the brood box, so if you place honey comb down into the brood you will end up with a complete frame of drones… I have seen it first hand… I am seeing a larger then normal amount of drones being produced this year. Some of my hives are laying down 2 inches of drone comb below every frame in the brood box. I have been removing as much as I can but leaving 2-3 frames.

I haven’t done that on that hive- but many of the combs in their are natural drawn combs with large cell size. I also put some foundationless frames into a hybrid super and the bees are drawing them out all extra large size.

Inspecting all my hives this year there are large patches of drones- and like you many extra drones squeezed onto the bottom and tops of the frames. My mums hive had drones crammed onto on the top of every frame bar.

Also lots of swarming (not mine) I just caught a big swarm today. It was so big they exited the Nuc hive I tried to use and I had to go and buy a 10 frame box. As soon as I was done with that I got another call from a chap who had two swarms in his front yard- I was too tired and out of equipment to get them- hopefully they will still be there tomorrow morning and I can nab them…


Another day another swarm. This one keeps going back to the tree- hopefully they get the picture - I’ve made a nice home for them: