Cells of all shapes and sizes


It's been a fortnight since the last proper inspection. After last week's hive move, I thought I'd given them a break from the stress of having the hive opened up. At Dave's suggestion, I tried talking to them today and I think that helped too.

We have a very busy colony occupying the bigger hive, with nearly all the space in the brood box being put to good use, much of it brood. I think I even saw the queen this time, but even if I didn't, she is laying very well. There is plenty of drone brood too, with its characteristically rounded caps. I saw a drone on the outside of the hive, on his last legs, by the looks of things...

As well as all this activity in the brood box, there were lots of bees working away in the new super, drawing out the comb industriously. Very little of it had anything stored within. I expect this will be a different story next week. I suppose they will move their stores upstairs to make yet more room for brood.

I've written before about how my bees love to make comb of all shapes and sizes. Of course, I'm looking out for swarming during this time of year and particularly during the lockdown. That said, I can't see anything in their environment I can do to reduce swarm triggers. What I'm looking for is the three kinds of queen cell to hazard a guess at the colony's intention. What's strange is that there were all kinds of things like queen cells — the drone cells on irregular comb could even look that way a bit. There were cup-shaped queen-like cells with no larva or egg, so not not technically a queen cell. There were about a dozen in all, just possible swarm cells in wacky shapes on crazy comb. The cells like this were typically along the edge of the frame, and queen cells on attempted bridge comb is more likely to be a swarm cell. You can see such a cell in the picture, the only one that's remotely extended. Also: zoom in for larvae!

Though it doesn't sound like it, this is good news — at least for the colony. If these are swarm cells, they might have been building them as a kind of insurance policy, and it means they're healthy and just, y'know, being bees. They aren't in vertical in the middle of the comb, so they aren't supersedure cells. It's not drooping out of a brood cell, so it's not an emergency queen — the current queen is fine. But crucially, I didn't see larva or eggs in these cells. Maybe they were getting ready to swarm and after their hive got extended, the plans were changed.

Acording to the Welsh Assembly document I linked:

Cup building happens because the queen is no longer regularly walking on the edge of the frames and leaving her footprint pheromone there - presumably because she is too busy with other matters and the hive is also becoming more congested.

The document also says that even when there are standing-up eggs in the cups, only then are we on amber alert. Moreover, I've been told by several beekeepers that destroying these cells — even if they are just play cups — is a misguided attempt to interfere and interrupt swarming. It rarely works, either. I won't destroy them myself. However, I'll be looking out for eggs and larva very closely next Wednesday. I wonder if they'll been converted back into brood cells, or something else...

Colony ID
Queen seen?
Queen cells
Framefuls of stores
Frames available for brood
Estimated mites
Temper / docility
Feed given
Treatment given
Supers added
C1maybecups✔ 6f? e4f?1f brood, 11f super8018°C ☀