21 Days After Install: Bees Emerging?

Since I had not yet done a full inspection of hive #2 since it had built most of its comb, I went out to the hives yesterday to check it out. I also wanted to check on some things I had noticed while adding syrup.

They had built more comb since the last time I checked them. I had stopped checking their comb at comb 5 since comb 4 was slightly attached to the side. This time I went through them all. I even remembered a hacksaw blade to cut the attachments to the sides. Each comb was noticeably larger than the last time. Combs 7 and 6 still did not have any capped brood, and looked to be mostly used for nectar.

As was seen last time, comb 5 was the start of capped brood. There is more capped brood than last time, and I also noticed empty cells. Not just empty new cells, but cells that looked like they had been used for brood and were now empty. They are toward the middle of the capped brood, where the oldest of the brood would have been. Maybe they had emerged?

The strange part is that I wouldn’t have expected them to have hatched quite yet. It has been 21 days since I installed the package. Most places claim that it takes 21 day from laying of the egg to it emerging as a worker bee (queens and drones take less and more time). If the workers were to take 21 days, that would mean that the eggs had been laid the same day that the package was installed. The problem with that is that the bees had to build the comb and release the queen. I doubt that that happened in the first day. If you look at the empty cells in the picture, they are also a reasonable ways down the comb so there had to be a good bit of the comb built before eggs were laid there.

Michael Bush lists the time for a worker to emerge as 20 +/- 1 days. I am not sure if that is the “small cell” number (he and others argue that small cell bees cap a little earlier and emerge earlier). I know that by day 3, my queens were out and laying. I would guess that they were out and laying on maybe some time on the second day. This would mean that my bees emerged at 20 days (or less). Thats not to far off I guess. I want on and found capped brood and empty cells in combs 2-4. I also checked comb 1 and it had pollen and nectar, much like hive #1 (both seem to like using comb 1 for mostly pollen. I had a accident transferring pictures from my camera though and lost a few pictures, including the picture of comb 1.

As you can see, these are pretty full combs (cover most of the top-bar and are pretty deep). They are not yet at the bottom of the hive, but that use most of the height. Also notice the queen on comb 4. She was right in the middle of the largest patch of empty cells. She was moving around calmly, and I didn’t see her lay an egg. She seemed to be checking out the cells though.

The one worry in the back of my mind was that maybe the bees had not emerged, but were torn out. If the bees in the hive sense there is a problem with the developing pupa, they can open the cell and remove it. This is actually a trait that people want, and is called hygienic behavior. It is a useful trait and helps the bees combat diseases and parasites. If I had a bunch of pupa being torn out though, that would signal a problem, and mean that my hives dropping population would have even more trouble growing. The fact that I saw a few bees dragging white things around a few days ago added a little to my worry. It was possible that those were pupa parts that had been torn out. When I check today however, I saw no sign of it (accept for one bee dragging around what looked like a chunk of wax). All in all, I think it is most likely that the bees simply emerged and I am worrying about nothing. I am not overly worried about this, but am hoping to get some more knowledgeable beekeepers to weigh in.

When I got home and looked carefully at some of my pictures, noticed a few brood that were not ready to emerge that but were uncapped. I am not sure if this is common or a sign of pupa being torn out. Here is a picture from comb 3, and a zoomed picture with some cells highlighted.

I circled white pupa that were at least partly uncapped in red. I also circled some capped brood in green. I wanted to point out the darker edges of the capped cell. I don’t know if that is normal, and I wanted to check with other beekeepers. I just haven’t seen enough capped brood to know if its normal or not.

Hopefully everything is well in my hives and I am just worrying due to lack of knowledge.

Oh, and I didn’t see any small hive beetles.

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