Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Honey-Bound Hive

Honey bees are tireless workers. Anytime that there is nectar available and flying conditions permit, foragers are out collecting. The guard bees at the hive entrance welcome any bee entering with nectar, even if it is a forager drifting into the wrong hive. Once the nectar is inside the hive, it is stored in combs, even if there is not available normal storage space. Inside the bee hive, we normally find the brood nest in the lower, center portion of the cavity. The brood, which consists of the eggs the queen laid as well as developing larvae and pupae, is surrounded by a narrow layer of pollen and a layer of honey. Larger honey storage areas for the colony’s winter food stores usually exist above the brood nest. The queen moves about the brood nest laying eggs in continuous patterns of cells as the workers clean and prepare the brood nest. The workers emerge after 21 days from the time the eggs are laid. The emergence of the adult bees frees the cells for the queen to lay more eggs. However, if flowers come into bloom in abundance, worker bees will store the nectar in the brood nest cells. The bees convert the nectar into honey, and the crowded hive may be described as being honey-bound.

The loss of egg-laying capacity is one of the great stimulators for the colony to swarm. It is important for the beekeeper to take corrective action to prevent a honey-bound colony from swarming. Frames of honey can be removed from the brood nest and replaced with empty drawn comb or frames of foundation. The removed honey can be extracted, or the frames can be moved to a honey super if the same size boxes are used. The honey can also be used to boost a weak colony. Click on today’s photo of a honey bee and a solitary bee foraging for nectar from the small, exposed flowers of the native tree, alternate leaf dogwood.


  1. What if you don't have any drawn comb yet?

    1. Knitty Cat, If you have a strong colony, you can add a frame of foundation in the brood nest, and the bees will rapidly draw out comb to give the queen a place to lay eggs. Best of luck.