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  • Writer's pictureCJ Turner

5 Things to Look for in a Brood Pattern

As summer is in full swing and fall is looming around the corner, you are probably doing lots of inspections on your hive. While doing your inspectio

Example of a solid brood pattern from my personal hive.

n, it is essential to look at the brood pattern on your frames, as this is one of the key indicators of how a hive is doing.

Solid Capped Brood Pattern

Whether you are using a Langstroth hive, or a Top Bar hive, one of the most beautiful sights to a beekeeper is a solid brood pattern. Capped brood are usually golden or yellow cells that have a hard film over them. It is underneath these cells that baby bees are being born. A healthy, solid, brood pattern will not be spotty. It should look full with a few cells missing, but still in a solid unit.

Presence of Eggs & Larvae

The brood pattern is the key in determining the health and productivity of your queen. One way to check on this is by looking for the presence of eggs or larvae. If you see eggs, the queen has been there in at least the past 72 hours. Larvae are also a fantastic sign that the queen is doing her job.

Here we see honey bee larvae and eggs.

Presence of Supercedure Cells or Swarm Cells

If you are doing an inspection and see a supersedure cell or a swarm cell, your mind is probably racing. Is your hive going to swarm? Did your queen die? Should you remove the cell, or is this your hives naturally way of replacing an old and failing queen? All of these questions are valid, but you must know what to look for. A supersedure cell will generally be placed in the middle of the frame, whereas a swarm cell will be

An image of my failing hive with a supersedure cell and drone brood.

located more towards the bottom of the frame. A supersedure cell generally means the hive is trying to replace either a dead or failing queen, whereas a swarm cell is a sign the hive is making another queen so that it can swarm.

The earlier you can catch this, the earlier you can intervene

Pollen stores surrounding worker brood.


One of the more beautiful sights that you can see surrounding your brood are cells of pollen. These will generally look like bright colors that are placed in different cells and can be found surrounding bee brood as pictured below. The vast array of colors is truly a sight to see and is a sure sign of a healthy hive.


And finally, honey surrounding a solid brood pattern is another good sign your hive is thriving. This phenomenon is typically called a rainbow of honey and indicates that there are sufficient nectar stores for the hive.

Beautiful rainbow of honey around a solid brood pattern

So if you have all of these components in your hive and you are not seeing any nasties crawling around (wax moths, small hive beetles, or varroa mites) your hive is looking in good shape and you can relax until your next inspection.

Happy beekeeping!

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