We were worried last night after reviewing our photos from the inspection. We tried so hard to figure out what is next in our line of events, but last night threw us a curve ball. We saw what we thought was too much scattered capped drone comb and most of the combs were much darker than the beautiful new combs we pulled out a week before. Then, this morning when we pooled our knowledge together to try and decode our bees' comb and a couple of ideas came to our minds...
Capped brood comb is bullet shaped. Flat capped comb is not always honey. Dark capped comb is likely brood and to check, we can just open one up.... Why didn't we think about this while we were in the hive??
Bar #5 is a good example that shows two separate combs were made on either end of the bar and later joined once they filled out (as we have seen from the webcam). We can see "C" shaped larva and it appears in a good pattern: just around the capped brood comb. Which would indicate that we still have a queen. Looking at the photos a little closer and comparing them with last week's, maybe all those empty cells are not necessarily scattered brood cells, but may actually be opened brood cells from new workers.
We didn't see any queen cells from the four bars we check yesterday (and the fifth bar we checked last week). So our workers must have some guidance to their design, right? We still haven't located the queen, but we still have plenty of bees. We are not in 'panic' mode so much as we were last night. Our common-sense has taken over and we can probably wait until Saturday for a fuller inspection.