Ditching The Drone Pupae And Local Swarms Abound

Ditching The Drones And Swarms!

The weather has been strange this year with extremely warm weather followed by cold and a week plus of rain.  Several local beekeeping friends have seen early swarms in the last couple of days and/or capped queen cells in the hive.  Many people are already making splits of their hives.  If you’re local (I’m in MA) and haven’t checked your hive in a week or more you might want to take a look inside and see what’s happening.  It only takes eight days to get a capped queen cell and if you are worried about swarms it is a good idea to check your strong hives once a week for the next month or so.

This is a queen swarm cell with royal jelly and larvae in it. This picture was taken last week from a friend's hive. Photo by Nathaniel Brown.

Crocus has a different problem. They built up very quickly during the warm weather, with little stores.  Most of their food was going to raise new bees. The return to the cold left them caught without enough supplies in the pantry.  The girls began uncapping and removing drone larvae and pupae and killing live drones. (They are also very cranky and have stung me twice now – ouch!)  Even though they were bringing in pollen and nectar, it wasn’t enough for everyone.  The cold weather caught the girls off guard and the poor drones were evicted.  I guess if you’re only good for one thing, it’s easy to get fired!

I tried feeding them a quart of syrup to help them out a little, but the hive was reluctant to take it with nectar still available.  The queen has reduced her egg laying and seems to be self-regulating, so I’m letting nature take its course.  Here are a few of the drone pupae I found outside the hive last week.

The photos below are of a drone that had been sitting outside for day or two in the rain (hence the yellow tinge.)

Further inspection on 5-6-12 revealed Crocus had in fact deconstructed ALL of the drones cells from the previous inspection.  There is hardly any pollen in the hive and only one frame of eggs (compared to the 10 plus frames I was seeing a few weeks ago).  The entire hive is filled with bees but has only one frame of capped honey and one frame of nectar (which is more than they had the week before).  There are a few live drones still in the hive but most have been eliminated.  We are going on two weeks of rain now with a day or two of sun in between.  There are a lot of dead bees outside all the hives.  I’m hoping the storms have passed at last so the bees can get out and get the food they desperately need.

Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. Crocus Hive Check 4-13-12
  2. Three New Packages of Bees And Crocus Hive
  3. First Honey Super Of The Year Added To Crocus Hive 4-16-12
  4. Bee Package Installation – Don’t Forget The Cork!
  5. Crocus Hive Inspection 4-25-12 – The Uncapping Of The Drones

This post was shared on the Barn Hop.

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 BeverlyBees.com. 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. They can really move a lot of stuff around in there in a hurry. The power of numbers. I have always been amazed at how efficiently a colony can just kill off drones. Bees don’t know compassion, it is all about continuing the hemolymph line.

    I always fear a warm spell in spring followed by a cold snap or other foul weather. It gets certain genetic lines of queens all ramped up laying then there is no food for brood. It can cause havoc. I prefer a nice moderate pace build.

    Keep us posted on Crocus’s progress.

  2. It is sad to see all the drones out there. All my hives are doing this now. The rain has finally let up for a few days so the girls are doing better now. Pollen is going into the hive once again, which is always nice to see.

    This queen does tend to ramp up quickly, the workers cannot keep up with her. Now that there is more of them, perhaps they’ll be able to try making drones again soon.

  3. I wonder why they wouldn’t take the feed? Is it because they had the taste of the real thing and want the real stuff, already??? 🙂

    • When there is a strong nectar flow they won’t take the feed. The real thing is always better!

    • I have actually heard of using that as a test for when flows start. Take a honey bear and place a line of honey across the bottom board entrance. If the bees walk across the honey and leave the hive there is a honey flow on. I have never tried it. Didn’t want to get a robbing frenzy started.

    • Interesting. I’ll have to remember that one. Last year I cut out some burr comb that was filled with honey. The comb was so large it was messing up all the other frames. After I was done, I left it for the bees to rob. They had no interest in it at all because of the nectar flow. I had to clean it up myself. I ended up saving it for them to eat anyway. Not only is the real thing the best, the freshest is the best as well!

    • If you are going to feed that’s the best. My home apiary always gets to clean up my honey supers every year after spinning. They do a good job. Late July early August is normally dearthy here so they are more than happy to clean em up.

  4. WOW, I had no idea that was even possible. My blog partner just installed her second set of bees on a roof top hive. please come to our DIYLinky at http://www.littlehouseinthesuburbs.com

  5. Drones may also be discarded if they are infested with Varroa or deformed in some way…this means your workers are very hygienic, which is good!

    • That would be amazing! I would be so happy if these were hygienic bees. I’m not going to do the test to find out since it involves liquid nitrogen and freezing a patch of sealed brood to see how quickly the dead brood is removed by the bees.

      All bees will ditch drone brood when they are too much of a burden. This hive is nearing starvation with the amount of food they have for the high bee population. Everything they bring in is getting consumed immediately and they are unable to store very much. I think that may be why the bees are destroying the drones. But I prefer your answer and I really hope you are right!

  6. I’m impressed with your information about bee casts to which it is important to deal and investigate more and more on it.