Friday, May 25, 2012

Capped Brood and Honey

Uncapped brood at top

The picture above shows capped brood from my hive. You can see what a good queen I have because she has a consistent laying pattern. Capped brood like this is called a “peanut butter smear.” It is amazing that the queen knows which cell to lay fertilized eggs or unfertilized. The fertilized eggs will turn into female worker bees and the male drones are from unfertilized eggs. I couldn’t find any information on how exactly the queen knows which type of egg to lay. The drones eat three times as much honey as the workers and never do anything around the hive. Their sole purpose is to mate with a queen from another hive. Beekeepers do not usually kill the drones, but in the past it was common to rid the hive of those lazy good for nothing freeloading… I think I’m getting a little carried away.

In the “Hive and Honey Bee” written by Lorenzo Langstroth in 1852, he wrote to his critics of disposing of the abundant drones in the hive:

“I have no doubt that some of my readers will object to this mode of management as interfering with nature: but let them remember that the bee is not in a state of nature, and that the same objection might be urged against killing off the super-numerary males of our domestic animals.”

Langstroth does have a point. I don’t think a lot of people realize that most of our domesticated animals produce an equal number of male and female offspring. For example, male baby chicks are usually killed within minutes after hatching. Queen bees do not produce an equal ratio of males to females. Sometimes a queen will produce only males after all of her fertilized eggs have been used up. The drones are killed during the autumn when they are kicked out of the hive. If they refuse to leave quietly, the workers will chew their wings off and then throw them out. It is really quite an amazing instinct.
Capped honey in lower left corner

You can see a little bit of honey is capped in the bottom left corner. The rest of the honey is uncapped and is not dehydrated enough by the bees to be capped with wax. The bees create an airflow by beating their wings to lower the amount of water in the honey. If I were to take this frame out and attempt to extract honey, the amount of water would cause the honey to ferment. That is why it is important that at least 70% of the honey is capped before harvesting.
I guess I will have to wait a little longer before I can have a pint jar of honey made by Carrie’s Apiary :)


  1. I know nothing about bee life so this was interesting to read! If you decided to sell your honey I would like to buy a jar from Carrie's Apiary! :)

  2. I will eventually sell honey because I can't eat 100lbs of it a year which is how much extra honey the average hive produces. This year I may only harvest a quart at most. Hopefully, next year I will have 8 or 9 hives.