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Wierd bees, odd comb & no honey

Hi Brains Trust. I have two flow hives and this is my third year as a beek.

The bees in hive one are docile and friendly all the time & the bees in hive 2 are defensive boardering on aggressive all the time.

I let the bees draw all their own comb. Hive 1 has not filled the flow frames for a year. Today I did my second inspection for this year - brood and super- there is a queen, uncapped brood, & loads of young bees. Hive two is about the same… alothough a bit more honey in the super. I was worried about SHB, but there were 3!!

Frame 8 on the south/west side of both hives has 3/4 of the comb with larger cells and a hole in the comb on the same place ( see pic) . I have a theory. They don’t like the situation and breed and swarm. Breed and swarm. Any suggestions.

Hi Caterina, A couple of weeks ago I spent a couple of days in the lower Gold Coast and Tweed area visiting hives and found a lot of hives had very little capped honey and by the amount of nectar in uncapped cells there has been a dearth on down there. As you haven’t had an extraction in a year I guessing your bees are in a similar situation.
I’m about 200 K’s north of you near Noosa and in the past year have had to feed most of my hives till about a month ago when I got good rain and a nectar flow. The bush was in flower but there was no nectar in the flowers. The bees weren’t even checking the flowers out.
That is more likely than both the hives being caught in a constant swarm cycle.
Cheers

Hi Pete. Sorry i missed you. Re the Tweed bees good to know. I had noticed that the flowers were not moist ie no nectar. There is pollen for them, a bit any way as we had corn flower and fruit in our garden.

What about the hole in the comb - same place on the frame on same frame in two hives?

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Do a shake check for nectar in the frames and I think the cells will be dry in which case I would advise internally feeding a 50/50 syrup. I’m thinking of a nectar dearth, there will be heaps of pollen about from what I saw down there but some hives were in a really weakened and bad way.
Interesting about the hole but bees will often chew a hole to make shortcuts between frames, there is no pattern to it. I’m up to about 30 Hives and any hive you pick, your choice, there is very likely to be at least one frame in each hive with a hole.
Cheers

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Yup the holes happen - they make a nice shortcut!

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Those large cells are drone cells. You’ll sometimes got those holes in naturally drawn comb because the bees start producing comb in several places on the top bars. The holes could possibly be a junction where the comb meets, so it’s difficult for the bees to finish it off uniformly, so they leave a hole which they use to their advantage anyway, so it’s not completely a waste of space…

If you want great comb, start the bees off on properly fitted wax foundation. The bees can produce in excess of 6k new bees on a single frame of fully drawn worker comb. Every large area of drone comb as well as holes reduces the amount of new workers a colony can produce on every frame.

Every new beekeeper should learn the difference between worker & drone comb during a basic introduction to beekeeping.

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Hi Jeff. I thought the big cells were drone comb. What else could they be? Interesting that both hives had the same shape cells on the same frame. It lends weight to my breed and swarm theory.

And why is one hive docile and the other …so defensive?

What do you do with drone comb Jeffery?

There is a school of thought that says “leave them”, so queens have some drones to mate with. Another school of thought says “destroy them”. #dronestoo

@BeeShack, I don’t follow your theory. Breed & swarm is what bees do naturally, it’s how they reproduce. The fact that both colonies have similar comb on the same side could have something to do with what part of the brood box each colony started building. It could be something to do with what side of the box the sun hits. Or it may just be a coincidence.

Why one colony is docile while the other is defensive, to my mind is purely genetics.

@Wandjina, you notice I said “large area of drone comb”. I cut it out before placing the frame above the QX so as to let the workers emerge up there while the bees repair the gap before they fill it with honey. I don’t want drones getting stuck trying to fit through the QX. Plus I don’t want to leave a gap in the lid for them to escape.

I leave small areas of drone comb intact on brood frames which seems to be enough.

Hive beetles are a major part of my drone comb strategy. A bonus being: you get a stronger worker population, which can’t be all that bad.

Cheers Caterina & Olly.

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Thanks Jeff. That is not much of an option in a full Flow Hive unfortunately. On last inspection I found a 10cm ² patch of drone brood on one side of a frame, which I guess is a “large area of drone comb”.

I usually eave them there, but maybe I shouldn’t.

Nah mate, you can leave them there, it’s their choice, they know better. :wink:
IF we had SHB, or Varroa I’d follow Jeff’s advice and cut them out which is part of his SHB mitigation strategy.
I do agree with the use of full foundation in the brood box though.

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I agree with @skeggley for your location.

The only reason you’d want to remove it would be if you want to maximize every bit of brood comb with the intention of getting a stronger colony of workers.

Most forum members would agree on having a second hive which could be a traditional hive. Or even a second hive to use as a resource hive.

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Pete i do think that they took the honey and swarmed. A mini swarm. There was a full frame of honey and loads of bees now there’s half the bees and half the honey.