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Question about comb patterns


I am a new bee keeper. I installed a package April 11. Added a second brood box about 3 weeks ago (it was pretty cold here April and the first part of May).

I did a hive check today and things look great…lots of capped brood, most of the frames totally drawn but there are several places where they appear to be adding a second layer of comb over the first (photos attached). Also, are those queen cells on the bottom?

What is going here and do I need to do anything about this?


Hi Patti, it’s hard to tell if they are queen cells. I’m assuming your in the Southern Hemisphere. If so, the bees shouldn’t be swarming now. That extra comb the bees built is drone comb. I would tear it down. I think the problem may have came about because of uneven frame spacing OR the bees have decided not to go in straight lines like we want them to. The best thing to do to avoid these situations is to use foundation & space the frames evenly right from the start.

Take a closer look at what you think could be queen cells. Queen cells are round & look a bit like a peanut. To me it looks like more of that comb edge higher up.

PS If your in the N. Hemisphere, they could be queen cells. If that’s the case, you’ll need to do a split.


Those are Queen cells on the bottom - you need to check if they are capped or have larvae in them - if they are capped they will swarm any day. If not capped you may just have caught them they are about to swarm


I am in the N. Hemisphere- Massachusetts. Trouble with doing a split is that I am a brand new beekeeper (started in April) and I do not have back-up supplies but I can order them. However, unclear how much time I have as they look capped. When you say split do you mean to put this frame and others into a new hive? I wasn’t planning on crisis managing so soon :slight_smile:


One of them is capped. Do I just leave it or can I remove it? What happens if I remove it? There is plenty of space in the top brood box so why would they do this. I looked and the queen is active - there are a lot of uncapped larvae.


Hi Patti, yes crisis management is kind of what happens in beekeeping. You’ll need to find the queen on a frame & put that in another hive after breaking down any queen cells on that frame. Then add more frames with fresh foundation. Put that box on the old site & move the other box away. Replace the frame you took out with fresh foundation. The older bees will return to the old site where the queen is & carry on just as if it swarmed, building fresh comb on the new frames. The old hive with all young bees will let the virgin queens fight it out to get the strongest one & continue on, hopefully without swarming.

You’ll need to do this fairly quick, if you don’t have a bee box, a temporary hive can be made in a fruit box for example. That’s what I do.

You can also google demaree method.


If the cell is Capped they are about to swarm; normally when it gets capped they are off.

Do the number of bees look less?? It is possible they already have swarmed if that is the case.

You need a second set of equipment if you want to keep all the bees - ie if they have not yet swarmed.
always a good idea to have spare equipment to deal with these changes.

If they have swarmed you can only wait for the new queen to emerge and mate - min wait about 3 weeks before you see larvae and new laying.

This is why beeks need to check the hives once a week in “summer” when the bees are active from egg to capped cell is 8 days, another 8 for the virgin to emerge. She needs to be mate within 3 weeks or will become a drone layer.

You need to try and keep one step ahead, weekly checks are the way to go.

Have a look at the life cycle of the bees it will help you to understand what to look for.


Also look at swarm control so you are prepared next time.