What is happening in my hive?

Hi all, I just did a thorough inspection of one of my hives top to bottom, as I thought I could see wax moth larvae poo on the corflute slider. I also wanted to see how many Braula fly were left on the bees after my nicotine treatment, and further, the general state of the brood and supplies.

The hive is comprised of three ideal boxes. The top box had all 8 frames full of honey. I froze these a few days back to kill the early instar stages of the fly, and replaced them on the hive.

The second box from the top had eggs, some brood and honey on the sides. I think also patches of pollen.

The bottom box had nothing but smallish patches of pollen and the odd patch of honey. It was more or less empty, but had plenty of bees in it.

I found no evidence of wax moth, and very few adult Braula fly on the bees. Unfortunately I didn’t see the queen to check her for Braula.

Seemed to be plenty of bees through the hive.

I am concerned about the bottom box being empty of brood, eggs and pretty much everything else.

I am seeking any options on the state of play here please.


For my 2 cents worth. I had full depth hives in the Hawkesbury and Mudgee areas, both west of Sydney and either side of the Blue Mountains and your climate might be similar with cold nights and cool days this time of year in April. About now the queen used the second box up for brood having previously in warmer weather used the bottom box. I reasoned the second box up was slightly warmer for the brood. Above that was the QX.
So it all sounds pretty good for you if your micro climate is similar.

1 Like

Thanks Peter, hoping you are correct. :smiley:

Yes, cooler nights are here, some frost expected in April.

Hi Dan, I agree with Peter, @Peter48 . What you found in the bottom box is much the same as what I find at times while using 2 brood boxes. That’s one of the reasons why I like single brood boxes.


Thinking further and reading @JeffH I would keep an eye on the bottom box and when they have used the food from it I would take it our of the hive. That way the hive will have a warmer home over winter and they will appreciate that. Put it back into the hive when spring is near so the queen will have fresh comb to lay in. to get the hive really buzzing. My past is slowly coming back to me and for me the two brood boxes were because of the number oh hives I had and the ‘Salvation Jane’ comes on hard and fast in spring, virtually in a few days where there was no flowers it would become hills of purple flower and I would be at it 24/7 just to keep up with the honey flow when hive maintenance took a back seat.
Your queen will let you know when the second brood box is needed

1 Like

Thanks @Peter48 and @JeffH.

I’m just not sure now how much pollen was in the frames. There can’t have been more than a cupful of honey, but the pollen is a bit of a concern I guess. The frames (all drawn) looked like the comb is old and need replacing I believe.

As I am using ideal size boxes (depth 146mm) , the total size of the hive is the equivalent (roughly) of one an a half langstroth (241) boxes. I decided to give them some sugar syrup (5 to 3) this afternoon, but can cease that if it is not a good idea. I could see no evidence of brood disease other than a very small amount of chalkbrood and the Braula fly is much reduced. The hive was my only productive one this year, but has looked quieter than the other two in the last couple of months. The bees will fit in two ideals I am sure (they did when I took the top box of honey off the other day). I read something Michael Bush wrote where he explained ( along the lines) that the bees need the empty cells to get into when forming the cold weather cluster (apologies if that is not what you said!). If I take the bottom box off, the bees won’t fit into a cluster other than being over the honey in the top super, so I am a little concerned in that respect too.

Hi Dan, I think you’d be safe to remove that bottom box for the winter. It’ll be an opportunity to replace those combs. I doubt if your winter would be as harsh as a Northern N. America winter. You’d need to seek out some local knowledge to find out if the queens stop laying or not, also if the bees need all of those empty cells.

I’m sure that your bees will fit into two ideal supers. Remember that even if the queen doesn’t stop laying, she’ll certainly reduce her laying. Of course, that is all dependent on the house bees.

I will go along with what @JeffH has said totally. I don’t recall bees going into the actual cells for warmth but they will cluster together and it doesn’t matter if the cells are in use or not, all they want is to cluster together for warmth. Yes, the queen will respond to the cold and can stop or reduce her laying, that is normal. Now as your bottom box is almost empty of bees then they should all fit happily in a single box and the hive numbers will reduce over winter so expect that to happen. As you said there is stores in the comb so I see no reason to feed them now but check the hive on a calm day with plenty of sunshine to check on the hive. It all sounds pretty good and normal…

1 Like

Thanks for the advice. @JeffH and @Peter48

Hi @Peter48…the bottom box is empty of any brood in any stage, but did have plenty of bees in it, and just a small amount of pollen with a tiny patch or two of honey.

I can certainly fit them into two ideals. They will beard out a bit if we get a warmer day, but I can squeeze them in ok.

Should I cut out the pollen stores from the frames I take out and poke them back in the top of the hive for the bees to store somewhere else?


1 Like

You’re welcome Dan, that could be a good idea to do that with some of the pollen. I guess it depends on how much pollen is in the top brood box. Also how much pollen they are currently bringing in & how much you would expect them to bring in during the coming months.

Where I live, I’d cut it out with the comb & not bother to feed it back to the bees on account of the abundance of pollen around here.

1 Like

That sounds good to me, the bees will gather the stores and put it away, that gives you time to put in new foundation at your own time for the spring. Two things that cause the loss of a hive over winter - lack of stores and cold. They are for you to correct, the rest is up to nature, My belief is that you are there to work for the bees and in return to be rewarded with the honey. Only manipulate the hive for their long term benefit but some may well disagree with that principal. Glad to give you my advise.

1 Like