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My Hive Is "Slow"?


The story so far - I picked up my 5 frame nuc on the 13th December and installed on the 14th. It all went really smoothly. I put three empty frames in between the existing frames to ensure there wasn’t crazy comb making shenanigans. The next day I saw bees already bringing in pollen - and hanging out by our ponds as it was very hot. I fed them a litre of syrup on their arrival and they finished that in 3 days

Then we had some super warm days around 40 degrees followed by some days of showers on and off (3 days max) and for the last 4 days it has been quite windy but I have still seen them leaving the hive. We live in the bush but are surrounded by flowering Box Eucalyptus at the moment (hundreds of acres of them)

Anyway this morning I was able to finally open the hive before the wind picked up again and my hive does not look anything like what other people’s do…it looks kind of empty.

As I am long sighted I was hoping my photographer would be able to capture good pictures so I could check them later. My photographer is still rather nervous about bees it seems (even though the ones I have are sweethearts) and didn’t get really close so the pictures have a lot to be desired. I dis spot the queen in the pictures though which made me happy as she isn’t marked.

Here’s the cropped images - can a nice experienced person (there’s no bee club near me and I didn’t want to pester the breeder as he is 4 hours away and can’t just drop in) please take a look and tell me what’s going on. In everyone else’s pictures there’s masses of brood - on the comb that came with the nuc there appears to be hardly any…then there’s that frame with sunken caps? - people have said that their bees drew down a full frame of comb in 2 days, mine still haven’t finished 2 is 2 weeks and are still to go for the third. Do they still need feeding? Is my queen a dud?


You have old and newly capped honey the pale and dull wax looking ones towards the top. There are not that many bees but you did say it was a Nuc.

The new frames are being drawn out with fresh clean wax - the blacker ones are to original frames from the nuc. So 5 original Frames and 3 partially drawn new frames. Its is hard to see any larvae or eggs.

The brood pattern is a little sparse but It was probably a newish Queen?

For a Nuc to this in 2 weeks is fine by the end of January if she keeps that up I’d put a second brood box on.

The brood pattern should resemble an Aussie rules or Rugby ball and is 3D across the frames. ie imagine someone carved the centre from the hive to fit a ball in.

The brood is that shape with capped Honey to the top and stores of pollen about the edges and bottom.

Try not to move the frames around too much keep the order they are in, unless you want them to build all new comb and recycle the old stuff out. This takes time and stores.

Don’t forget while they are building comb they use 6 - 8 Lb of Honey to make 1 Lb of wax each frame of wax probably weighs about 5 - 6 oz (150-180g) without stores or bees 1kg of honey to draw out a full Frame of wax.


Thanks Valli :+1: I feel calmer now.

That description of the brood pattern in 3d is something I hadn’t heard before, instantly made it clear how it will look when they get it all together. I


Is she a newish Queen?


I need to make a longer post to say “yes she is”. Breeder says raised in the nuc


OK that is why she hasn’t got into a good laying pattern yet. Did you say she was marked? That will help you to find here when you open the hive - always check the frames over the hive in case she is on there and falls off - falling back into the hive she will be OK. If it’s away or outside the hive you could lose the Queen - and they like to hide as well - Start making hive notes and decide what you will do before opening the hive - always have a purpose to the inspection.

My Emerald is just over a year old and is a brilliant layer from good laying stock. My Sapphire is from May this year and only at the end of the season was she laying in a good pattern.


Thanks Valli - I am also going to get a mount for my GoPro so my photographer can feel less stressed :smiley:


I just spotted some small hive beetle on the frame 6 picture :unamused:


Hi Allison, everything looks fine for the size of the colony. You have a lot of sealed brood there that will hatch & boost the numbers. However, those sunken cells in the middle photo is cause for immediate concern & attention. You can try removing a cap with a match stick to see what the brood looks like. Test it for ropiness which indicates AFB. The colonies that build a full frame in 2 days are probably much stronger colonies on a good honey flow. Everything is relative to the size of the colony & available nectar & pollen. Good luck with that, cheers

PS. because your in a SHB area, it’s probably best not to open the brood up so much. I would have kept the original frames of brood together & put fresh frames of foundation/foundationless on either side of them. That frame from the nuc with no brood: You could put that outside one of your frames with fresh foundation/foundationless. Fresh foundation is my personal choice.


Thanks Jeff - I shall go out this afternoon when it is cooler and hopefully the wind has died down and check what’s up with that frame. I’ll also take the needlenose pliers for any beetles I see.

I didn’t know there was going to be small hive beetle around so I thought 2 weeks was OK after installing for the first inspection. You live and learn :slightly_smiling:


Your welcome Allison, there’s a lot to learn. Actually I found a bread & butter knife useful in squashing beetles, because of the flexibility. What I’d do is flick them off the frame onto a flat surface before squashing them. Good luck with your inspection. I have the same idea as you, waiting for it to cool down.


Well everything looks rosier in the afternoon - opened some cells, nothing nasty in them. Everything smells delicious. You can see brood at all stages of development in the frame in the picture. I feel much better now …phew!


Those Sunken cells are on an old frame - probably ripped off another hive - I notice the queen doesn’t like to lay in the old frames as when they have emerged she doesn’t seemed to have refilled it.

That is not pollen on the last frame and there are new larvae in 3 cells I can see - I’m wondering if there is a bit of Chalk brood in those pale low filled cells? Get a set of clean tooth picks and one for each of those cells and have a dig about - if they are dry and mummified it is chalk brood - you need to get rid of that frame. It is a spore and damp will allow the fungus to grow. Chuck the tooth pick after each use.

Shake the bees off it and replace with a new frame on the edge


Mmmmmm I’m not so sure.
Most hives shrug off chalk brood and there is a lot of healthy looking brood on that frame.
Are there any mummies on the floor? (chalk brood infected dead bees)
Those colonies that can’t cope with chalk brood need to be re-queened.
Carniolans are more resistant than Italians.
Maybe Jeff or Mike can give us an opinion.
Also I would have somebody experienced look at them.
It might just be the angle of the picture and it might just be chalk brood but there are a few cells mid left that look like there may be deformed larvae and that means EFB.


I think @Allison needs an experienced beek to do an inspection - but not the guy she bought off - @Dee it could be the angle but it is hard to say.

It’s on an old frame so probably not laid by the current Queen - if the spores are on the old frame I would just pull the frame.

Also the pattern is not sporadic so probably new eggs or brood that came with the Nuc. the Nuc is only 2 to 2 1/2 weeks old so from another hive I suggest


Yes, you are probably right and I think it’s disgraceful a new beekeeper should be sold a nucleus like that. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with selling a split with a newly introduced/caged queen to somebody with experience just looking to increase stocks. Beginners in my opinion should be sold a proper nucleus colony…operative word colony not split… where the proven queen is surrounded by her own bees and brood.
I think it’s a good idea to mark these queens too.


@Dee I was very lucky a reliable Beek - whom I just happened across and the inspector looked at both the Nucs I bought that day while I was there.


When you are new to beekeeping…there is so much to learn and when looking at a frame of bees…you try looking for everything at once. I found it helpful to have a list of things to check for and a notebook to write down what I found. Luckily I had my husband to help me. He wrote down what I said I could see…and then we look together…a double check. We are so much quicker and better at examining a colony than when we started out.
I have had frames where the brood cells looked bit flat…but all was ok…and the bees emerged.
When I’m making up a nuc…some frames are taken from an existing hive…hopefully a queen or queen cell…2 frames of brood, a frame of stores and pollen, an empty frame with wax built out and a foundation frame. I always shake in some extra bees too. It then takes time for the nuc to establish itself and for the new queen to get mated and start laying. The weather plays its part in the build up of the nuc. Giving some syrup helps the bees but not too much or they fill all the empty cells…leaving nowhere for the queen to start laying. If you are lucky and have spare queens the nuc gets a head start instead of waiting for mating. The best nucs are over wintered ones as they have an established queen surrounded by her own offspring.
I can see what you mean about the hive looking empty. When you got the nuc it was on 5 frames…you then put it in an 8 frames brood box. Perhaps it was a small nuc…I don’t know but you have asked a lot of them.That is a big box for them to keep the brood warm. You also put empty frames between the brood frames…that meant the bees had big gaps to fill and to keep their existing brood warm. Your bees had to spread themselves out thinly to try and look after the brood. Also they had to build the wax on your frames…another tough job…which wears out the bees.
You are very lucky that your weather has helped your bees…as it has been warm and you have good pollen and nectar flows. The main thing is that so far they are surviving. Here in the UK…you would probably lose the nuc as our weather is often less than kind.
In the future…when you get a nuc…if it is a bit weak…keep it in the nuc for a bit longer until it is bursting with bees and all the frames are being used. Then transfer into the main brood box. …put a new frame either side of your 5 frames…with foundation…you can give them a foundationless frame later…if you want to after they are well established. Use a dummy board to fill the empty ends of the brood box. Once the new frames are built…add in extra frames. This way the bees are more contained…over the frames.
You can help your bees now by removing empty frames that they are not using and put in a dummy board on the outside. Always keep the brood frames together, don’t split them…it weakens the colony. You can use this method of checker boarding…in a strong established hive to help prevent swarming…but there are better methods.


Hi Allison,

You have had all the answers you need, but I couldn’t resist making a few comments too! :sunglasses:

  1. I think your worries have come from breaking up the nuc with empty frames. Bees like to stick together, as Valli said with brood in a rugby ball shape. They hate empty brood frames and get stressed by them. They have to keep the brood warm and protected, so if there is a big gap, that makes extra work for the rest of the hive. Also, the queen doesn’t like to walk over big empty spaces, so the nurse bees have to go crazy building comb, if you put an empty frame in the middle of the brood. In fact, that is one way to stop a really strong hive from swarming. So for a 5 frame nucleus, where N is nuc frame and E is empty frame, I would start them off at E N N N N N E E. Actually, I don’t like crazy comb either, so I would use foundation frames to start, with a pattern more like F N N N N N E F.
  2. It is great that you have pollen coming in - the queen will not be inhibited from laying more brood in established comb.
  3. They will need food for all of that empty comb space, so the syrup was a good idea. However, your frames show capped honey at the upper edge of several frames, which may indicate an excess - bees only cap honey when it is mature and they don’t need it immediately. I would suggest taking more pictures in a couple of weeks and assessing the stores again. If the nectar flow is slowing, they may need more food (syrup), and you can see that if there is less capped honey in the next set of pictures.
  4. Your photographer did well, but have you thought about talking to an optician about your hobby, and getting bifocals or varifocals? I have had to do that… :blush:
  5. You beautiful queen is on Frame 4 between 2 and 3 o’clock, half way from the center of the frame to the right edge. :wink:
  6. SHB at 3 o’clock on the right frame edge, Frame 6
  7. The brood looks fine to me, I don’t see any evidence of chalkbrood. AFB is worth a check, but I suspect that this queen may be laying smaller brood in the cells of a larger predecessor. I would eventually work out those old brood frames, but NOT this year! :heart_eyes:

In summary, I would say your nuc has done amazingly well considering that they were “rent asunder” with a big empty gap. They are trying to fill it, but queens are slow about laying in fresh comb, unless they are a swarm, so she will probably prefer to lay in the old comb first, and the pattern that she prefers to lay in is all disrupted at the moment. So, they are not all that efficient, but they do seem to be doing OK.

Anyhow, please keep posting your beautiful pictures and asking questions. I am sure that you will be an outstanding keeper for your bees!



Hi Allison, that’s really great news. I have removed the odd sunken cell myself over the years, only to reveal a healthy looking larvae/pupae.

I don’t see any cells on that frame that look like chalk brood disease. I’d leave that frame for the bees to keep building the population on. If you feel that, or any other frame is a bit too old, all you need to do is place it above the queen excluder when the time comes to open the brood up. The bees will hatch above the queen excluder & will be replaced with honey. At the time of honey harvest, you can replace the old comb with fresh foundation or foundationless if that’s what you prefer. Happy New Year, cheers