Drone Comb and Integrated Pest Management

April 24, 2010

My husband and I went into the hives today. It was pretty uneventful, which was nice. I’m getting started this year with pulling drone comb. Let me explain. One of the little critters that is contributing to all the problems with honeybees is the varroa mite. Varroa mites are parasitic, and they weaken the bees. They also carry deformed wing virus, which incapacitates bees from flying (and therefore from foraging). Most bee keepers have mites in their hives- it’s just a matter of keeping the number of mites under control. Many bee keepers choose to use medications to keep varroa in check. Those of us who don’t want to medicate or use chemicals in our hives have to use a variety of measures to manage varroa (along with other diseases and pests). This is called Integrated Pest Management (IPM). Back to drone comb. Varroa tend to lay their eggs in drone (male bee) brood (eggs). Drones are a bit bigger than worker bees (females). So, one IPM measure is to use a larger gauge foundation on one frame in your hive, and the queen will lay drones (unfertilized eggs) on it. Drones take roughly 24 days to develop. So, just before they emerge, you pull them out of the hive and freeze them (along with all the mites that have been living on the developing drones). Ouch- I know it sounds cruel. But, it’s a great method to keep varroa populations in your hive under control. Any how, when I went into the hives today, my drone foundation had collapsed. Sheesh. So, we put empty frames in. I’ve heard that the queen will lay drone brood in an empty frame. I’ve also read that they will make comb honey on an empty frame. Here’s the deal: when you’re a beekeeper, making mistakes is part of the gig. So, I’m trying it, and we’ll see what happens. I may get a mess of burr comb, but hopefully I’ll either get comb honey or drone comb. Either way, I’ll learn a bit. Any how, here are a couple of pictures from today. Unfortunately, none of the pictures that actually turned out show anything about drone frames, which is why we went into the hives in the first place today. But, they’re somewhat interesting none the less.

My apologies for this being a bit blurry, but I wanted you to see this old queen cell. Its sort of peanut shaped, which is typical of queen cells.

Mostly good looking worker brood. The brood that sticks out a bit is drone brood.


One Response to “Drone Comb and Integrated Pest Management”

  1. peterln Says:

    Very interesting, thanks for this. Here in Australia we’re still varroa-free, but it’s good to know of IPM for when it arrives.

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