Very little brood? Bad season- or Bad Queen?

I inspected a hive a few days ago that is just a single brood I cut out a few months back. The hive is doing kind of well- there is a fair covering of bees on all the frames. However as I worked my way though the combs I noted entire frames of largely capped honey. As I got towards the center I started to worry- there was just one frame with a smattering of capped drone brood- no eggs to be seen. I started to think I had lost my queen and had laying workers. Then the next frame had a small patch of capped worker brood on one face- and I saw some larvae but still no eggs. And then- without looking for her- there she was - a very handsome and perfect looking queen. Working my way across the hive there was no more brood just honey and a very little pollen.

So in all I had 6 frames of honey- and just two with small amounts of brood right in the middle. Should I be worried about this hive- or is this just the result of a harsh season? I don’t think it’s a good time to be thinking of requeening as winter is just a few months away. I am wondering if I should remove some of the capped honey frames in a month or so- or just let this hive alone as is over winter- and see how it comes out into spring? If it isn’t a bad queen- the other explanation might be very low levels of pollen?

Sounds like your hive is honey locked - where would the Queen lay even if she wanted to? Perhaps try removing a one frame in the middle and put in a frame. They’ll be able to build it out and give the Queen space to lay. You’ll then get an idea on how the Queen is…


Good idea! perhaps that’s all it is- they are victims of their own success? I just didn’t think of that because they haven’t built any comb in the roof and until recently they had open comb still needing work. I have been holding off supering them till I though the brood box was fuller- but perhaps I left it too long.

I love you plan as I get to take some honey: finally!

I think I might take two frames. Then I’ll check and see what they make of the new frames- if the queen swings into action I will put an ideal on the hive hoping for one half box of honey before winter.


Just remember to put the new frames towards the middle of the box. If they are foundationless checker them to minimise crazy comb. If they have foundation you can probably get away without checkering them but I’d still suggest you do it.

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I think I might have two drawn empty combs I might give them- or I could conceivably take out 2 or 4 honey frames and spin them putting the stickies back in? Would taking 4 full frames out of 8 at this time of year be a touch too much? I’d rather get out the spinner and uncapper for 4 frames than just two…

I mostly always use foundation now for brood boxes. But I do like that canadian idea of having one foundationless in a brood box to encourage the bees to put all the drones in one place, nice and tidy…


Taking 4 vs 2 frames out depends on what the flow is like in your area currently and what you expect it to be like going into Autumn. Why don’t you take 2 out now, freeze them (to kill any wax moth), and store them? If you see good progress, take another two out in a few weeks and then you can spin the four.

I realise this isn’t your ideal situation as you’ll have to put two empty frames in now and then end up with two stickies that need cleaning/storing but it perhaps give you a safe path to spinning 4 frames and minimises the likelihood of having to feed if there is a dearth in your area and you rob 4/6 of their current honey stores.

Out of interest, what is the pollen situation like?

I don’t think the pollen situation is brilliant- it is coming in- but not the steady streams I like to see. Also in the hive there was some bee-bread- but not a huge amount. Far more honey than anything- more than I expected so perhaps there is a flow on? I’m now thinking another hive may also be honey bound- so I am probably going to spin 6 frames from the two of them and replace immediately as stickies. That should give the queen/s acres of prime real estate should she choose to develop it…

If you’ve got another hive in a similar situation you might indeed have a mini-flow on! That’s good news!

It is only early March so I would spin out 4 frames and there will still be honey on the stickies to be stored in the hive.
It has been a hard Summer for bee foraging with the constant hot weather and I have seen a drop off of brood in my hives but not a big drop off of bee numbers so I suspect there is less flying and a longer bee life, that is just my thinking.:thinking:

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The queen works in with the workers. It’s the workers that determine how many eggs the queen lays. If the workers wanted the queen to lay more eggs, they would quickly remove the honey from those honey filled frames, leaving the classic arc of honey at the top of the frame with a classic empty space below it for the queen to lay in.

The fact that there is space in the roof that the bees aren’t using to store honey shows that the bees for some reason aren’t preparing more cells for the queen to lay in.

You’ll clearly see what I’m talking about as we move into spring. The workers will remove an arc of honey above the winter brood so as to expand the egg laying. Then as it gets warmer you’ll see a further expansion of that arc until it reaches the top bar.

The relationship between the queen & workers & the number of eggs the queen lays is beautifully shown in the video “City of Bees”.

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that was sort of my thinking when I decided not to add a super a month ago- the bees had made no bridge comb and nothing in the roof space- I took that to mean they were not yet ready for more space. But I now have two hives with similar issues (and possibly others I havn’t yet looked into)- alongside the one in question here I have a Nuc tower hive that is two 5 frame Nuc boxes. The bees in that hive were only putting brood in the upper box and honey in the lower one so I swapped them over to encourage them to make more brood. Only they didn’t- they have just filled the upper box 100% with honey, and also have a lot in the lower box.

Maybe a factor is the weird weather- low pollen levels- and the bees just don’t want to expand their population? I think I will remove honey anyway as I want some- and the bees seem to have ore than enough.


I’m pretty sure it’s the weird weather Jack. You need your bees somewhere that’s good most of the year. Somewhere near your mother’s bees. Are they still producing well?

Yep- my mums hive is still producing reasonably well this year- though down on the previous ones. It’s odd as she is on the coast so the bees foraging radius is affectively halved. Also if you looked at her area it doesn’t seem to be very ‘wooded’ compared to where I am am. We don’t know where her bees get most of they nectar- I often wonder if the succulents in the sand dunes provide a reasonable amount of it.

Having said that- the suburbs where I live have been good in previous years- and other than my mums coastal hives this bad year seems pretty universal- the hills and suburbs are all way down. Finally- I love having the hives right here at my house- at my last house I had up to seven- here I have limited it down to just 3.

Also part of the reason my honey is low this year was due to mismanagement on my behalf- two of my best hives swarmed very early in spring and caught me off guard- they have taken a long time to build back up (now they are both very good with great queens and a lot of brood- so they have a chance for later int he year and should be well positioned for next season). My hills hives at three locations have all had it tough.

I just have to hope that next year is a good one- and look forward to spring. I have small hopes for some late autumn harvest- just enough honey to get ME through winter-as well as the bees.

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Hi Jack, I like the way you think, when you say that your mum’s bees only have half the foraging range. I would have thought that your bees would be doing well, being in a suburban area. Obviously that is not always the case.

I must be helped a lot where I am with a lot of gum trees near by. Then there’s all the stuff the council plants along the roads & verges etc.

We had it pretty bad a couple of years ago, during a lengthy dry spell. We probably only averaged 60kg per hive that year.

@Semaphore @SnowflakeHoney @JeffH It has certainly been a dry Summer. I did full hive inspections today and found a few hives with larvae but couldn’t find any eggs in any of the hives so that has made me look at the climatic conditions which are heatwaves into the mid to late 30’s and a lack of any worthwhile rain. The hive numbers are still strong so I am figuring there is not a lot of nectar foraging and there is a lake only 50 metres away for the bees to get water for cooling the hive which I guess is a priority given the heat. All the hives have cut back in the numbers of frames in the supers for extraction since mid December when the heatwaves began.
I recently bought a solar powered lid with a fan in it to exhaust the heat in the hive, the lid is full of foam rubber, it will be interesting over time if it makes for a better climate in the hive for the bees.
Lysa’s hives have calmed down after the move to my apiary. 2 Flow hives and 1 Langstroth. Lysa is going well now and missing the bee keeping so she is going to give me a had with de-capping and extracting of the frames.
We have now figured what attracted the bee to her head, Rose extract hair shampoo and conditioner. She has a triple mesh Flow Hive Bee Suit and Gloves so I am suspecting it will just be a matter of time till she decides to visit the apiary and then see how she goes. Little steps to begin and at her own pace.