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Remove extra brood box?

My daughter and I are first year beekeepers, with colony we started in early May from a package and foundationless frames. After a mid-July inspection showed the bees thriving, with the frames about 80 - 90% combed out and plenty of bees, we added a second deep brood box and eight waxed plastic frames. We pulled up two frames from the first box into the new box, and replaced them with plastic frames.

We did an inspection yesterday and found that almost all of the frames were well covered with bees, but on the eight plastic frames the bees had only partially combed out and put capped honey on 4 surfaces, leaving the other 12 surfaces of the 8 plastic frames with no real comb.

My question is: with winter approaching (we live in Connecticut in the New England part of the US), should we remove the second deep and consolidate the bees into the original box and frames? They’d lose the capped honey and nectar they’ve already stored on the plastic frames, but they’d have a lot less space to keep warm in winter.

Any advice greatly appreciated!

The full set of photos from the inspection can be found here.

A sample frame from the original brood box:

A sample frame from the new brood box that has some capped honey and nectar:

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Very good question, and I am sure that you will get a variety of opinions! :blush:

I would leave it on, and if they empty it during the fall, take it off at that point. The hive may benefit from wrapping with some form of insulation. Perhaps @Eva can comment - her climate is similar to yours. :wink:

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Dawn has given you good advice Nick. I have similar weather near Detroit and from the linked photos I think you need to verify you have a laying queen. There wasn’t much in capped brood on those frames, and I can’t tell from the photos if there are eggs in the cells. If you find eggs then you have a queen and all will be fine. But overall I’m not seeing a strong colony as I would like to have going into winter. If you aren’t harvesting any honey from these two boxes I’d start feeding them 3 parts sugar 1 part water by weight and see if they start packing in food stores. Your fall flow is probably on now and your first snow may be around the corner and so there is very little time for the colony to build up left. I think you should wrap if your hives are in an open area as I know winters can be brutal and you are right about too much space not being ideal. When is the last time you saw the queen/eggs?

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Hi Tim, yes, I was concerned yesterday when I did not see any larvae or eggs, or anything that was obviously capped brood, and certainly did not see the queen. But as a newbie, I did not know if that lack of brood etc. was normal for this time of year. (I assume those sunken, “capped” orange cells are some kind of pollen storage?)

The previous inspection we did was August 17. We did see larvae and capped brood, but no eggs and no queen. I made a post about it on these forums, but the consensus seemed to be that the larvae and capped brood were indicative of a healthy queen.

Weirdly, in that August 17 inspection we saw four queen cells, but they were not capped. @Dawn_SD said they were probably just practice. Those “play cups” were still there yesterday, but aged now.

I feel badly about opening up the hive again to look closely for eggs, having disturbed the hive for an hour yesterday taking each frame out of both boxes to inspect and photograph, but I guess being queenless would be pretty dire at this point in the season …

Can someone help me identify what kind of cells are in the middle of this close up from yesterday? Are those larvae? And the cells above, those are capped honey, right, not capped brood?

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Uncapped honey and bee bread. If you have more photos, we can help you find larvae etc. :wink:

Hi @Dawn_SD, that would be great! The full set of pictures from yesterday’s inspection can be found here:

When you are looking at a photo in the album, you can hit the icon above the picture that looks like a magnifying glass to zoom in to full resolution.

I get a message saying that the album is empty… :thinking: Scratch that, it just populated

Yeah, sorry about that, I realized that I had not uploaded the full resolution, had exported constrained to 2048 x 2048. Just uploaded the really full resolution - thanks!

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I didn’t see your queen or eggs/larvae. Seems like a lot of drones, nectar and pollen. Is/was the queen marked?

Addendum - (Now I see from your previous post that she was not marked.)

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I agree with @chau06. No eggs, larvae or pupae. Lots of uncapped honey, pollen and bee bread. Quite a number of drones too. What does this mean?

  1. The queen has stopped laying for the Fall, but it is early for this to happen, especially as they are tolerating drones in the hive.
  2. The queen demised at some point, at least 3 weeks ago (no capped brood is the clue to that)

It might help if @Eva could tell us whether she has brood in her hives right now. I bet she does, but she knows better than I. :blush:

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Do you have brood in your hives, @Tim_Purdie? I guess your climate is somewhat similar.

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I do; less than a month ago, but still quite a bit. I think Nick needs to find a mated queen and fast-- if it were me I’d be looking for three solid frames of brood to boost things in addition to the queen.

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Thanks everyone, and especially @Dawn_SD and @Tim_Purdie for the speedy help / diagnosis / advice - you are all wonderful.

I have a plan to pick up tomorrow a new queen and hopefully a few frames of brood. Hopefully this will help our colony to get back on track.

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Happy to lend our advice Nick; you will find there will always be many suggestions but you have to pick what works for you.

If it is any consolation, my second winter I lost 5 hives from not treating mites properly (I did only oxalic vaporization and now do apivar and oxalic). 2 years later, I now have 20 hives that are booming. I was pulling honey supers off yesterday (beginning that process because I have 37 supers!) and one of my hives was completely dead out because they were overwhelmed by yellow jackets. Those wasps have been very bad in our area this year for some reason. I’ve now got entrance reducers on all my hives leaving only a 1/2 inch gap for the bees to get to.

Our trials make us stronger, even when you have bad things happen like losing your queen. Next season you will probably have 3 hives :slight_smile: and then you’ll be going crazy like the rest of us with bee fun.

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I did indeed, on 8/15. Next inspection is any day now/a bit late. Nick, sorry to hear it’s getting dicey for you as a newbie late in the season! I agree with the advice to get a mated queen, plus extra frames of honey & pollen if you can score some as Tim suggests, and would prob feed the colony while you’re at it.

Let us know how the install goes!

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It is a real pleasure to help somebody who listens properly and acts quickly. I agree with the advice of both @Eva and @Tim_Purdie, if you can get a frame or two of BIAS (brood in all stages), it will be very helpful to your hive. The first thing it will do is ensure that you have more young bees available to attend to your new queen. It will also boost the numbers, which must be dwindling by now. Finally it will suppress any tendency for the hive to allow laying workers, as brood pheromone from uncapped brood sends a message that the workers must not try to lay. That will help with your hive accepting a new queen. All very smart ideas from our fellow forumites.

One thing I would consider is feeding with syrup. They may well need it, but it seems that your photos show a lot of uncapped nectar, and tons of pollen/bee bread. I might feed for the first week after introducing the new queen (it does help to encourage acceptance), but then review a week or two later. If they get a nice brood pattern, they will probably tidy up all those half full cells of honey and you may be able to condense them down into one box. It is going to be a matter of wait and see.

In summary, well done. Difficult situation and you have made great decisions. :blush:

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Wow, sorry to hear. How quickly things can change from an apparently healthy looking hive…

Well done on being proactive. I hope it works out.

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I just wanted to update all of you who helped me here: yesterday I got a NUC box with a mated laying queen, two frames of brood, and two frames of honey, nectar, bee bread from a bee supply place (bee-commerce) in Newton, CT.

I followed the proprietor Leslie’s instructions for introducing them to our hive. I consolidated all of our original bees into the original brood box with their original built out frames. I took the best four of the new plastic frames, a few of which had honey on them, and shook / brushed off the bees, and left them in the new brood box. I then put two layers of newspaper with a few small slits on top of the original brood box. Then, I put the new brood box on top, with the bee-less partially combed plastic frames, and then moved the new bees from the NUC box into the new brood box and closed it up. Whew!

Thanks again for all of your help and advice.

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Excellent work there. The newspaper method is a great way to ensure things go well.

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Did you or are you going to put a feeder on?

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