I found several frames of pollen in the honey super of one of my hives today.
So I did a little more poking around the oracle we call the Internet and asked a few beekeeping friends of mine if they’ve seen this before. And they have. After shooting some emails back and forth and thinking it over, I’ve come to the following explanation:
The bees are filling the honey super with pollen because they don’t have enough brood to eat up all the pollen that’s coming in.
I don’t know if that’s it, but I think that’s it. Here’s why: The queen in the hive is at least three years old, maybe four years old, and she’s not laying as much brood as she used to. But here’s the clincher: I removed five frames of brood from the hive about two weeks ago to boost up another colony that was slow to build up this spring. I virtually removed all the capped brood from the hive, and some open brood too. So the Lack of Brood theory makes sense.
The last time I saw pollen in the honey super two summers ago, that colony was on the way out as well.
It was also suggested that the bees tend to store pollen close to the most active entrance, and seeing how the most active entrance in the hive is above the honey super, the bees are naturally dropping the pollen in the honey super. But I don’t buy that because then most of my honey supers I’ve had since 2010 would have had pollen in them, and most of them haven’t had a spec of pollen.
The lack of brood makes even more sense because when I suddenly removed the frames of brood, all the bees that would have normally been occupied with nursing duties had nothing to do, so they probably got a little off kilter and started filling pollen in the honey super instead. A perfect example of stupid humans messing up everything. The colony was probably low on brood to begin with and removing more brood only made the pollen-in-the-honey-super situation even worse.
At any rate, if I ever see the bees store a lot of pollen in the honey super again, I’ll remember that it could be a sign there isn’t much brood in the hive and that the queen could be failing. I might also invest in a hive-top pollen trap.
I’ll gladly update this mini-ramble with other information if it comes my way. But for now, those are my conclusions.
JULY 12, 2016: Note to self: The next time I steal most of the brood from a hive, remove the honey super along with it.