I check my hive every few days because I am curious and because I am a worry-wart. I am terrified my bees will be unhappy and leave (though they seem quite content and have lots of room to grow) and I have been watching carefully for signs of an impending swarming.
As I learn my way around the hive, I am pretty sure I would recognize a queen cell, but have been worried that I didn’t really understand the visual difference between the worker brood comb and drone.
I was told that drone was “puffy” and “rounded” and “looked like Kix Cereal”, but without anything to compare it too, the newly capped worker brood seemed to fit the bill – especially on the sides of the comb. Almost two weeks in, I hadn’t seen anything I could easily identify as “drone” and I wondered what this meant, even though my online beekeeping community said not to worry – I would know it when I saw it.
Capped worker brood is bumpy, but over all pretty evenly flat and darker yellow especially when there is a chunk of it together:
Today, less than a week after my last inspection revealed no obvious drones, I came across two combs with drone brood under construction! It WAS obvious:
(Just look at those busy girls working to cover the larvae up! You can even see a couple only partially capped cells they were probably in the process of constructing when I interrupted them.)
Besides just looking like there was a piece of cereal put on the top of the cell, the cells are a lot larger. Here you can see the smaller honey cells to the right of the photo, a few worker cells in the middle with larvae and the drone cells to the left:
Honey bees, at least the ones you see, are female. All the work is done by female bees (workers) whose lives are dedicated to the health of the queen and hive. Less than 10% of the hive population consists of male bees (drones). They are raised from unfertilized eggs and they cannot sting. Their only purpose is to mate with a queen (not from their own hive) and fertilize her eggs. Otherwise, they do nothing. except use up resources.
NO SEXIST JOKES HERE, NO SIRREE!
Being able to see the balance of worker to drone cells is just part of understanding the health and vitality of the hive. It has only been three weeks since I established my hive, so it is still early in the process of bee-construction. As more cells are capped it is becoming a lot easier to tell what is going on. And though I check the bees more than they would probably like, I am learning how to see – and that is very valuable indeed.