Analyzing the brood patterns on the frames of your hive is one of the key components of any hive inspection. Understanding what to look for helps you to accurately identify eggs, larvae, brood (capped pupae close to hatching), pollen, nectar, and honey. Further, it allows you to asses the overall health of your hive. Is your hive strong and able to go into the honey flow season in full force? Or, is your hive struggling or queenless?
For a 10 frame hive in March/April, it is ideal to identify at least 4 frames double sided with eggs, larvae, and brood in one of the two hive bodies. The diagram above outlines the frames and where you are most likely to find brood in your hive. Eggs look like little tiny grains of rice in each cell. They are easier to identify with black foundation because the white eggs contrasts the black background. Using reading glasses can help as well. Larvae look like little crescent shaped worms. They are small at first and grown larger with age. Brood, which is capped over with wax, identifies pupae that are closer to hatching.
The pattern of eggs, larvae, and brood says a lot of about the health and productivity of the queen, and therefore speaks to the overall health of the hive. You want to see frames that have a solid and uniform pattern of brood with few cells that are left empty. The picture above shows an ideal frame from the center of my hive’s bottom brood box. The other side of this frame revealed a similar pattern of brood. Further I found another frame that looked like this and 3 other frames with eggs and larvae laid in a solid and uniform pattern. This tells me that I have a healthy queen that is performing well! A great sign on a spring day! You’ll notice that brood patterns form in circular or arc like patterns. That is because bees store their brood, pollen, and honey much like onion. The inner and center layers are brood, the middle layer around that is pollen, and the outermost external layer is honey. The picture below shows my 9th frame (just one away from the far end) that is full of yellow pollen in the center with a layer of honey and nectar around the edges. Beekeepers have found that bees can still achieve this storage pattern with the a Langstroth style 8 or 10 frame box with frames (the common hive boxes that you see most often). You just have to think of it like an onion with 10 frames that slice through it.
The unusually warm spring weather creates great conditions for hive inspections. So, get out there and check on your hives! Hopefully you find beautiful patterns of brood as well.
Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!