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How many drones should be in a hive?

Drones are a normal and healthy part of every hive. Hives will usually remove drones from the hive in the late fall and begin raising them again in early spring. From early spring through late fall, about 10% of the bees in a hive should be drones. Seeing less than this is normal, since drones are often out of the hive during the day in “drone congregation areas'' waiting to mate with virgin queens. If significantly more than 10% of the bees in a hive are drones, and the capped brood in the hive all looks bumpy and abnormal, you may have a very advanced stage drone layer hive. Check out “Fixing drone layers”. 


Photos- drone brood top vs workers brood bottom

There are white larva between my boxes!

It can be an alarming sight- you crack apart two of your boxes, and there are large white larvae everywhere! Not only is this OK, it’s often the sign of a large, healthy hive. Bees are notorious for raising drone brood between boxes. When you crack the boxes apart, it exposes the drone brood. Unfortunately, the larva/pupa won’t survive. You can scrape them off the top bars, or leave them for the bees to clean up. 

As a side note, varroa mites love feeding on developing drones. This is a great opportunity to inspect the exposed drone larva/pupa for mites.

Drones vs queens

Being able to tell the difference between drones and queens is important! While the most helpful tool will be looking at the pictures below, the queen will appear longer & sleeker, with smaller eyes, a shiny, hairless thorax and a long abdomen that can be solid in color or banded.

Queen

 

A drone is shorter and more chunky, with huge eyes, and often has a hairy thorax, and a solid color abdomen. He looks more like a bumblebee than a honeybee. 

Drone

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