Wild Comb & Drones

By | April 14, 2013

This Sunday surely signalled the broken back of Winter, and Spring temperatures are here. A full 18 degrees, and sun most of the day!
You can sense it in the bees activity too.

Last week I talked about wax, and a little about the male “drone” bees.

During the week, I inadvertently left a small gap at the top of the hive, a depth of around 4 cm. The bees obviously thought that would be useful space to expand into, as they always like to go up… and so built up some wild comb in the ceiling. This relates to the concept and behaviour of “bee space“.

While its not a huge problem it does makes hive management difficult, and I’d rather they spend their energy building comb in the designated and more manageable areas. More signage (and beekeeper thought) needed obviously, and I needed to clean this wild comb away.

Wild comb built into the ceiling. This beekeepers fault, for leaving an open space for bees to access…

You might notice how this wild comb is about the same thickness as the frames, with foundation. Most of modern beehive design uses existing honey bee behaviour, rather than trying to force them into unusual and unnatural ways.

The bees have been in a constructive and expansive mood it seems, as they were building wax comb at the bottom of some frames too. You might notice in the picture below, the diameter of these cells are larger than cells built within the frame. This is partly because there is no foundation to suggest to the bees how big to make the cells. Also, bees like to build larger cells at the bottom of the hive for male drones.

Notice at the bottom of the wooden frame to the far right, some raised cells ‘bubbling out’. It’s likely the larvae in here are developing male drone bees. I expect the comb underneath the frame would be used as “drone comb”, and have been increased in depth to hold the drone larvae.

Additional drone comb at the bottom of a frame

Additional drone comb at the bottom of a frame

Larger cells are built to accommodate the larvae and pupae of the developing larger male bee. Drones are bigger than their female sisters, and look more like blow flies, with large bodies, and noticeably larger eyes. Presumably to be able to see virgin queens on the wing for some bunga bunga.

A male drone bee in the centre, with larger body, wings, and noticeably larger eyes than his sisters.

A male drone bee in the centre, with larger body, wings, and noticeably larger eyes than his sisters.

The larger cells are most visible in this cluster of pupae or capped brood, which have raised caps on larger cells to house the larger developing male bee.

The raised cells are drone brood, at this stage pupae before they emerge from the cell

The larger raised cells are drone brood, at this stage pupae before they emerge from the cell

All up, a really positive sign that the queen is increasing her egg laying rate, to increase the population.  Although males do little within the hive, it is suggested that a happy hive has a strong number of male bees. All other signs in the hive were positive, and the long range weather forecast is looking good.

- Im hopeful next week will see me expanding the hive, providing space for their nectar and honey collection!


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