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  1. #41
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Elkton, Tennessee, USA


    Here is Walt's response:

    MB et. al.,

    MB apparently invited my two cents worth. Up front, it should be made clear that I report what I see. If a conclusion is obvious, it might be stated as fact. If not, the conclusion may be offered as a plausible explanation, with the key words “I suspect” or “may be that.” I try to make it plain when I’m guessing. Answers to the questions about the difference in colony operations between 1st, 2nd, and subsequent years of a colony are not obvious. It is easy to see the difference in objectives of first and third year colonies. But the difference between second and third year colonies has no obvious rationale in what we know about survival requirements. The two main observed differences are:
    A. The second year colonies do not have the storage lull of 3rd and subs.
    B. Second year colonies supersede promptly at repro cut off. SS is sometimes delayed into the main flow for 3rd and subs.

    There may be other differences that have not come to my attention. Changes in colony internal operations are very subtle for the casual peeker-in.

    Approaching establishment, the natural swarm will SS. They lift the parent colony with the old queen. The final step to lasting establishment is a new queen. A package will sometimes invoke this safety measure also, to the dismay of the beek. The age of the queen does not appear to me to be relevant to the differences in operation with colony age. All over-wintered colonies strive for reproduction in the spring season.

    I have reported the two observed features above in different ways, but I don’t think I have said, point blank, that the differences were an extension of first year establishment. That would be guessing, without enough evidence to support the conclusion. It’s just different for unknown reasons.

    Our European bees have survived hard times. They have had some semblance of their current survival format for eons. Somewhere, buried in their genes, is the period where the second year difference in operations was an advantage to survival. We may never learn why.

    Having clearly noted my ignorance on the subject, would you care to speculate for another minute? If not, press on to something more interesting. “Survival of the fittest” is a recognized technique to improve genetics in any species.

    Most offspring swarms perish in nominal seasons. (More survive in bountiful seasons) In the wild, the parent colony has already demonstrated its skill at establishment by virtue of its existence. During the parent colony lifetime, any offspring swarm that survives is selecting for the right stuff - genetics of species survival. The offspring swarm that survives establishment will, in turn, have its chance to further the selection process through its lifetime. The lifetime of a colony is relatively short in years. Sooner or later, they will misfire on queen replacement and fail. This paragraph is elementary, but is intended to get beginners thinking about survival traits.

    Let’s speculate: Today, automatic supersedure of the old queen is automatic, but we don’t know that characteristic has always been part of the establishment format. “What if” failure of the old queen was an element of the format that needed adjustment? The natural selection process could have drifted toward supersedure of queens, if the colony didn’t meet second season reproductive swarm requirements. That’s a plausible guess for the automatic supersedure associated with CB/NM. But I’m more inclined to “suspect” the increased brood volume achieved by checker boarding (CB) puts the queen in a strain to keep up. The colony, sensing the queen has trouble with the increased demand, elects to SS at, or shortly after, repro cut off. Pure speculation - and not for general distribution.

    The tendency of the second year colony to store overhead during the lull “may be” an adaptation to occupying larger cavities. The typical repro swarm can only do so much in their first year of establishment. They do well to build enough comb to store wintering provisions. However, filling the cavity with functional comb is complete establishment. If in the second year there is still empty space in the cavity, they want to fill that space with functional comb.

    A conflicting observation is that both second year and subs, develop wax making capability at the same time - a strong three weeks after repro cut off. It would seem reasonable, if the second year were devoted to completing establishment, the colony would develop wax-making capability earlier, just another enigma of survival strategy.

    I consider myself a student of colony survival traits. Learning these traits by observation is a slow process. Not only is there great variation from colony to colony, but seasonal influences in forage availability generate additional scatter in the data.

    I don’t take sides in the evolution versus creation aspects of those survival characteristics. Both evolution and creation by a super entity are equally incomprehensible to my small brain. But there are latent survival traits in the honeybee survival formal that we have never seen and couldn’t guess at the reasons if we did see them.

    So much for the” I don’t know” answer.


  2. #42
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Stillwater, Oklahoma


    Seems like if a repro swarm did not issue that wax making would start sooner since none of the potential swarm's wax makers left. Isn't the idea that during the lull is when the colony rears house bees to make wax, process nectar etc? (Also wondering how the removal of brood in a cut down split would effect the number of nectar processors??)

    There's so much going on that it's hard to wrap my head around it!

    I wonder if a colony started up in a *very* large cavity, how long would it take them to fill it with comb? Would they fail to swarm until it was full?

    Fascinating stuff!


  3. #43
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Knoxville, TN


    Here's an update of my progress on checkerboarding. Unfortunately I likely won't have much further useful information as I've changed my plans for the year, and am trying to raise some queens right now to make as many hives as I can out of my 6.

    I overwintered a colony as a Medium honey > Deep with brood > medium full of pollen. Walt had this description in some of his writings as a good configuration to start the winter with. By the end of January the bottom medium of pollen was completely emptied and the colony was booming for this time of year. Colonies starting bringin in Pollen at this time also. I checkerboarded the now empty pollen super with the top which now had honey and brood. The deep had honey, brood, and some pollen. A cold snap then hit. A month later the colony had brood from top to bottom so I checkerboarded an additional medium on top.

    I went through this colony Saturday and there was brood in all 3 mediums and the deep. Boy is this hive rocking! I went through every frame looking for some larvae the right age to graft, but they were all in last years new honey supers so I couldn't see well on the white plastic foundation. This hive was fairly aggressive, due to its size I believe. I recieved my first, "Your bees stung my baby :mad: !" from my wife Actually he didn't get stung but she did. Anyway, I'll likely break this hive down if/when I get some mated queens to make lots of hives. I'm out of drawn comb so I'll need to start introducing empty frames when this new cold snap lets up. So I may get some more info, yet.

    In my other hives, I moved empty comb into the broodnest at the begining of Febuary. This was prettymuch after the first full week of the bees bringing in pollen. I was worried at first as 2 days after I did this, the temps dropped for about 3 weeks. Lows were in the 20's however the days got warm enough for the bees to break the cluster, and restricted foraging for pollen and nectar to "sporadic". This proved very good results, and did not seem to harm even my weekest hives. I also supered 2 hives 2 weeks ago with empty shallow comb(not checkerboarded) and these were filled with brood.

    Hopefully more to come. For what its worth, I'll write something up more clear for the experiment.

  4. #44
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Elkton, Tennessee, USA



    Update to my blurb of 19 March

    This season, second year colony expansion of the brood nest through the “lull” was confirmed. Although retired from investigation beekeeping since ‘03 when 20 test colonies were sold, this year was stuck with 3 colonies from last year – collected swarms locally as a community service. Had agreed to donate them to the Nashville club for demonstration purposes, but we couldn’t get together on when and where until they were too big to move. (Stuck)

    There was a hint of late brood nest expansion on packages bought in ‘03. No bees for two months, but bought a few packs to get some experience with that aspect. Second year packs (‘04) showed late brood nest growth, but I wrote that off as not paying enough attention to bee/tree development that season. (retired, you know)

    This year, I was paying attention. Two weeks after repro cut off wax purging, they were still expanding the brood nest in large segments. Expansion was evidenced by patches of cells at the shoulders of the expansion dome being dried for brood.

    At main flow appearance of white wax, (at least 10 days early) brood nest expansion had been terminated. This would lead to the conclusion that second year colonies do expand the brood nest for an extra three weeks. This is consistent with other observations of the manuscript:

    1. Colonies only store nectar during the build up within the cluster perimeter.
    2. Second year colonies add nectar at the top during the storage lull of third and subsequent years.
    If the second year colony is increasing cluster size at that time, it would explain increased production of storing overhead during the bull, I can only blame the laid back approach of CB for failing to see this sooner.


    P.S. MB has noted that we were in for a wacko season this year. Right on the button! Redbud 2 weeks late. Swarm season almost 2 weeks early. Black locust at main flow start? Glad my studies were made during a period when seasons were more consistent. White wax +-3 days of May 1.

  5. #45
    Join Date
    Sep 2010
    Whatcom, Washington, USA

    Default Re: Experiment participants wanted

    Michael, you mention that when opening the broodnest "you can put some empty frames in the brood nest. Yes, empty. No foundation. Nothing. Just an empty frame."
    -When opening the broodnest, do frames with foundation not serve the same purpose? Can you please elaborate a little why it is important to not use foundation when opening the broodnest?

  6. #46
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA

    Default Re: Experiment participants wanted

    >When opening the broodnest, do frames with foundation not serve the same purpose?

    Similar, yes. Same, no. Nothing makes a large gap that is open from one brood comb to the next in which the bees quickly festoon and communication and freely take place. Foundation creates a wall of wax between two brood combs and it appears to me that the communication is not the same and the effect on the bees, while similar, is restrained by this lack of communication.

    > Can you please elaborate a little why it is important to not use foundation when opening the broodnest?

    I wouldn't say it's "important not to use foundation" but I believe it is "advantageous". You get more the the effect you are aiming for with a large gap with no wall than you do with a wall between.
    Michael Bush "Everything works if you let it." 41y 200h 38yTF

  7. #47
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Chippew County, WI, USA

    Default Re: Experiment participants wanted

    I open the brood nest with foundation. I dont have boxes of drawn comb laying around because they are used for splits every spring till all I have left are new frames and foundation. I have not had a problem with any delay of foundation being drawn. In fact in seven or eight day when I come back for an inspection it is often drawn out and full of grubs. I have tried checkerboarding above brood nest but once they start back-filling brood it dont stop anything. I have found once it gets to that point the only thing that will stop them other than splitting the colony is checker-boarding the brood nest it self. Some people freak out about this saying it will disturb the bees too much but I just dont believe it. When you come back a week later to fresh drawn comb full of grubs its seems the queen didnt slow down but speed up. Of course you need enough bees to fill the gaps.

    Just my two cents. Oh, I did read walt saying checkerboarding is less effective on double deep brood chambers because it is harder to break up the honey dome. A deep and medium brood nest is much different.

  8. #48
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    jackson county, alabama, usa

    Default Re: Experiment participants wanted

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    Experiment participants wanted.

    Will bees given empty frames in the brood nest shift to "establishment" mode and make white wax well before the normal time and build up more because of more brood nest expansion and tend to not swarm. Will hives produce more/less/as much as when "Checkerboarded".
    I tried this in the spring of 2012 and I thought I reported it but not on this thread, but walt let me know that he did hear about it so...

    i didn't really run the kind of comparison outlined in the op, but i did find that the bees can and will draw wax before the normal time.

    a month before any sign of new wax i put empty frames of foundation in the middle of the broodnest in some colonies and empty foundationless frames in the middle of the broodnest in other colonies.

    the foundationless frames were promptly drawn out even though it was a month before any new wax was being seen in any of the other hives. it was drawn out almost 100% drone comb.

    the frames of foundation (coated plastic) were ignored and actually hampered build up and had to be relocated to the outside positions of the box.

    putting foundationless frames in and around the broodnest may therefore be helpful in swarm prevention by creating new space for the queen to lay and getting the wax makers busy.

    i didn't put any foundationless frames in my hives this year because i thought i had enough drawn comb overhead to nectar manage with. i was wrong. i'm considering experimenting again by putting at least one foundationless frame in the broodnest about a month before normal wax in maybe half of my hives.
    journaling the growth of a treatment free apiary started in 2010. 20+/- hives

  9. #49
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Victoria, Australia

    Default Re: Experiment participants wanted

    I have experimented with both Opening the Broodnest and Checkerboarding and found I prefer a combination of both!

    I prefer to Open the OUTSIDE of the Broodnest for the following reasons:

    - Inserting new frames inside the Broodnest forces the bees to have to cover a larger area in order to heat the Broodnest. So if bad weather sets in you can have chilled brood. On the outside doesn't.

    - If there are not enough bees to completely fill the gaps inside the Broodnest, it's possible that a group of nurse bees could become isolated from the queen and experience lower pheromone levels for a time, causing them to start emergency queen cells. (This is very rare, but I believe it happened to me once, may have been a cold night.) On the outside bees don't get isolated.

    - The response to fill the HOLE in the Broodnest is the same even if the new frame is on the outside edge of the Broodnest, with brood only on one side.

    Checkerboarding requires drawn comb, which the new beekeeper doesn't have.

    So I move each outside frame up into a new box and checkerboard them directly above the Broodnest. Then insert a new frame on each outside edge of the Broodnest. (All frames are the same size.)

    The new frames have a strip of foundation as a guide, as they will often build only drone comb before swarm season if the frame is completely foundationless. With the foundation strip it ends up being about 2/3 worker to 1/3 drone comb. (The comb needs support, such as wire, fishing line, or in my case bamboo skewers.)

    So thank you both Michael Bush and Walt Wright for your methods. I hope you see it as a complement that I have merged both into one method.


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