Crocus Hive Inspection 4-25-12 – The Uncapping Of The Drones

Hive Inspection 4-25-12

This is an online version of my hive inspection notes.  More descriptive posts about this hive can be found on the Crocus Hive page. 

The weather has been seasonable but rainy and windy and the bees have not been out much the past 3-4 days.  It was sunny, windy and 54 degrees when I opened the hive.  The girls were taking orientation flights and were somewhat agitated.   I had to smoke them to look at the hive. I saw yellow and orange pollen (I think this is Dandelion) coming into the hive.  The hive was buzzing loudly.  I was worried about their food supply after the rain and also concerned the bees may be getting ready to swarm since the hive is filled with bees and swarm season is underway.  Friends hives nearby have swarmed this past week which is earlier than normal for this area. Since my hives are in a suburban environment I need to prevent them from swarming as much as possible.  So I needed to do a quick check.

When I opened the box there were plenty of bees.  The honey super had not been touched at all.   The entire top box except two frames was filled completely on both sides with capped brood.  The other frames were empty.

The top box is filled with capped brood in frames 2-9.

The bottom box had 1 frame of capped honey, plus maybe half a frame of honey combined on all the other frames. There was little nectar and a tiny amount eggs and larvae. One frame was full of capped brood. The rest of the frames were empty. There was no pollen in the hive, although they were bringing plenty in. 

Drones cells were on the bottom of three frames. Some of the drones cells were uncapped. I think I may have bumped some pulling the frame out and accidentally uncapped them, but there were a few other drones cells which were uncapped that the bees appeared to be chewing open. They were very also cranky and kept flying at me the entire time I was in the hive, which is not normal for them. While trying to get a picture of a frame I got stung on my finger – it was my fault because I smushed the bee by mistake. That’s what I get for not wearing gloves. It was my first sting of the year! I hope it’s the last.

One of the three frames with drones on the bottom.

Close up of the drone cells.

Some of the drones on this side are uncapped but I think this was my fault. When I removed the frame I may have bumped them. A few of the drones on the other frames appeared to have been uncapped by the bees, it looked like the bees were chewing them out. If I didn't get stung I would have taken a picture of that too!

It was alarming the bees appeared to be uncapping drone brood. This means they are going into starvation mode.  When there is not enough food, they ditch the drones.  So much for the fruit bloom or my bees ability to get at it!  When I removed their one and only frame of honey to look at it they got very perturbed.   The rain must have been hard on them the last few days.  Hungry bees are cranky bees!

I think they ramped up too quickly with brood during the really warm weather and then the return to the cold and rainy weather left them without enough stores. I think the queen knows it too because there were so few eggs and larvae in the hive.  With all that capped brood hatching soon the hive will almost double in size and they should be able to get all the pollen and nectar they need.  I may move a frame of capped brood to one of the package hives to lesson the stress on these bees, but I haven’t decided yet.  I also really don’t want to feed them and need to be careful I don’t feed them so much they back fill the cells with syrup and swarm.  There is food out there and they should be getting it. Besides, what they really need is pollen.    I would rather feed the bees then let them starve, however, so I decided to give them a quart of syrup, see if they take it, and remove the honey super for a few days if they start to (so they don’t store it there).  The weather is going to clear up so I’ll skip the pollen patty supplement.  Hopefully that will get them through the hump, the rain stops and they will be foraging again soon!

Box Breakdown

Honey Super – Empty and undrawn.

Top box – Frame 1 empty. Frames 2-9 filled entirely with capped brood. Frame 10 empty.

Bottom Box – Frame 1 capped honey. Frame 2 half filled with nectar. Frame 3-4 empty. Frame 4 one quarter filled with eggs and larvae.  Frame 5 capped brood. Frame 6 about a quarter filled with eggs and larvae.  Frames 7-10 are empty.

My previous inspection can be found here.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. Bee Package Installation – Don’t Forget The Cork!
  2. First Honey Super Of The Year Added To Crocus Hive 4-16-12
  3. Hive Check 4-13-12
  4. Crocus Hive Check 4-4-12
  5. First Spring Hive Inspection Of An Overwintered Colony – March 12, 2012

Author: Anita Deeley

Anita Deeley is a biologist and former state bee inspector who maintains 100 honey bee hives. She is the beekeeper, writer, owner and creator of When she is not spending time with her girls (the bees), she enjoys being a wife to her beekeeping cohort, Brian and mother to 3 little boys (the beekeepers in training). Read more about Anita here >> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Connect with Anita on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ or Facebook here.


  1. You take some awesome pics. Keep us posted on the swarm status of this hive. It appears they definitely have good numbers. We have been having dynamic weather here. It is as if March and April switched places this year here.

    I have been stung about 3 times this year. I hope to not get stung anymore, but some of my bees are mean and I won’t kill my queens for it.

    How do you put your website address in the bottom corner of your pics?

    • Thanks Jason! I may have to split them soon to prevent swarming. I’m trying to hold off on doing so because I’m hoping to use this hive as a donor hive for a workshop I’m taking in two weeks about overwintering nucs. I’ll keep you posted on their progress.

      The weather has been wild this year. The bees have adjusted surprisingly well. Many hives in this area were bringing in pollen off and on all winter long which has not been seen before by people who have been keeping bees for 40 plus years. They are pretty amazing.

      It’s wishful thinking that I won’t get stung again, I know. But this hive is usually very gentle. You are brave dealing with mean bees! Are the hives more productive than your gentle hives?

      I use a photo editing program. Photoshop is the best but Picasa is one that is free from google and you can use that to do it. In the export picture section it has a box to add a watermark. Just type your web address there and export the picture. You can also do it by adding text to the picture, but it’s not as quick. If you have any questions about how to do it let me know and I’ll try to walk you through it. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Hi Anita,
    Sorry to hear the bees are deconstructing the drones. It’s always hard to make the decision to feed the bees, especially now that it’s spring and you’ll be wanting to harvest honey. I hope they get a foraging day soon.

    When I read you post about hiving your packaged bees (Great post btw. Is it on Pinterest so I can pin it?), I noted that you didn’t wear gloves. Sam, in his video, also didn’t wear gloves, and I felt like I should take the plunge some day. I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately…(What a bee nerd, huh?) The last time I got stung, though, I broke out in all body hives. I guess we’ll see…

    • I’m not allergic at all and my stings go away quickly, so that makes it easier not wearing the gloves. I don’t like them because I can’t feel the frames and if I’m smushing bees or not. You need to be more careful though and move slowly (which you should do anyway). If your hive has a large population it is hard to remove the frames without touching bees. I’d advise trying it on a small population first until you feel comfortable with the bees walking all over your hands and touching bees with your fingers to get them to move out of the way.

      It’s not on pinterest but you should be able to pin it. I’ll add it on my page so you can repin it. Thanks Mil!

    • You’re lucky you’re not allergic. This reaction was a surprise to me after keeping bees for 3 years. I still want to go gloveless, though. Good idea about going with a small population.

    • I know other beekeepers who have become allergic after keeping bees for years and being stung so many times. I hope yours is a one time thing!

  3. Your hive may have been cranky because you were opening up brood cells. I am just a first year beek but I think the general advice is if you are going to open drone cells to check for varroa and/or to reduce numbers of drones, or if you are destroying queen cells, you may want to shake all the bees off, and walk away to a work area and do the dastardly stuff there.

    • Perhaps but I wasn’t opening up or destroying brood cells during this inspection. There were two drones cells which may have been accidentally uncapped when the frame was removed. I don’t think that is enough to make the bees angry. I have seen many more drone cells destroyed during inspections by beekeepers looking for varroa without any concern by the bees.

      After this inspection it turned out the bees were destroying all the drone cells and also killing adult drones. The queen built up the brood too quickly on a very small amount of honey and pollen and then we had extended bad weather so they could not forage for food. When they can’t feed everyone they first get rid of the drone brood. These bees were hungry and hungry bees are cranky bees!