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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Experiment participants wanted.

    If anyone is interested in participating, Walt Wright and I have put together an experiment we would like to have people try.

    Checkerboarding vs. Opening the Brood Nest combined with Checkerboarding vs. Neither

    Question:
    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".

    BACKGROUND AND TERMS:

    CHECKERBOARDING

    It would be better if you read Walt’s manuscript, but I’ll give a synopsis of the idea of checkerboarding here. Remember this is an oversimplification.

    For a bee colony:

    o Survival is the primary motivation
    __o Survival of the existing colony takes priority.
    ____o Bees will not do a reproductive swarm if they perceive it to jeopardize survival of the existing colony.
    __o Survival of the species runs a close second.
    ____o Generation of a reproductive swarm is the secondary objective of every over-wintered colony.
    ______o The over-wintered colony expands the brood volume during the build-up by consumption of honey.
    ________o When the colony has expanded the brood nest to the amount of reserve that they consider appropriate, they are now able to move into the swarm preparation phase.
    __________o The first activity of swarm preparation is to reduce the brood volume by providing additional stores. As brood emerges, selected cells are filled with nectar or pollen.
    __________o Alternating empty drawn combs above the brood nest "fools" the bees into thinking they don't have enough stores yet for swarming and causes them to expand the brood nest, giving both a bigger field force and avoiding reproductive swarming.


    To put some of this another way, the colony goes through different goals at different times.

    A new swarm starts out with the goal of getting established. They draw a lot of comb and try to expand the brood nest as much as possible to get established and then they go into winter preparation, which is trying to store sufficient stores for the winter. If they accomplish all of this and get over crowded they might cast a swarm to relieve the population problem.

    The next year the hive will start out with the goal of reaching a safe position to cast a reproductive swarm. That means the population has to build up enough to afford to lose that many bees and the stores have to be high enough for them to lose that many foragers. Then they go into swarm preparation mode and start backfilling the brood nest. At some point, which Walt calls the Reproductive swarm cut-off, they decide they will or won't swarm.

    The goal of Checkboarding is to keep them in the build-up phase until after Reproductive swarm cut-off by making them think they don't have enough stores and giving the brood nest room to expand.

    If you look at your bees and your blooms and your climate, this Reproductive cut-off is usually the peak of the apple blossoms or a week after the apples START to bloom. The time to do Checkboarding is 9 weeks before that. That's about when the Elm blooms or four weeks before the Maples bloom or five weeks before the Redbud blooms or eight weeks before the apples start blooming or ten weeks before the black locust starts blooming. Hopefully you have some idea when one of those blooms in your location. NOTE: in theory these are all ways of pinpointing the same stage of vegatative development, they are just different refernce points to figure it out for your location, I'm just listing all the different blooms in case you know when one of them is to calculate from.

    At that time (9 weeks before Reproductive cut-off/the peak of the apple blossoms) you checkerboard. You put alternating frames of capped honey and empty drawn comb above the brood nest.

    OPENING THE BROOD NEST:

    The principles are similar to Checkerboarding except by putting empty frames (not frames with foundation, but frames with either starter strips or comb guides or nothing) in the brood nest, to shift the colony to establishment mode and drawing wax much earlier and prevent backfilling of the brood nest. This causes the brood nest to expand and it controls swarming. To make room for the empty frames you should move frames on the outside of the brood box up to the next box or down or out altogether (depending on if your equipment is all the same size frames) and move the brood combs to the sides and put the empty frames between two frames of brood. To prevent chilling brood, make sure that you have enough bees to quickly fill the gap you've left with festooning bees before you insert the frame. This will ensure there are enough bees to manage the empty space. If there are not enough bees for this, then postpone for another week or two. For the sake of the experiment, it would be good to check the brood nest every couple of weeks and add more frames if the brood nest starts to recede or if there are enough bees to handle the extra space. If you want maximum yields this should probably stop about two weeks before the main flow (about four weeks after apple bloom starts and about the time Black Locust starts to bloom). If the box is brood from one side to the other, three frames of brood can be moved up into the next box to expand the brood nest up and fill in those gaps with alternating empty frames. If you get frames of drone brood (which you most often will for the first couple of frames) move them to the outside edge of the brood nest when you find them and put more empty frames in their place. Anytime you don’t see enough bees to fill the gaps in the brood nest, wait until they have built up more. Some of this timing may vary by race as well as climate, so try to go with the bees.

    Walt and I discussed this at length and concluded we think the best time to try this right after the elm bloom or right at the Maple bloom or 2 weeks before the Redbud bloom or two weeks or four weeks before the apple bloom or 6 weeks before the black Locust bloom. NOTE: in theory these are all the same point of seasonal development, I'm just listing all the different blooms in case you know when one of them is to calculate from. I do notice that going by Walt’s chart (in the manuscript) I’m usually about a month behind him. But that seems to be a little more than that in some places. For instance, the Locust bloom here was mid May last year and six weeks before that would be the first of April. Yet at the first of April I’m past the elm and maple blooms. Here, the blooms at the first of April are wild plums and other early fruit trees. You might just look for early fruit trees blooming in your area to key on for opening up the brood nest. Before that there probably isn't any flow coming in to make wax from.

    The other up side to Opening the Brood Nest is the production of natural cell sized comb. If you are trying to regress you’ll get this a side benefit.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    THE EXPERIMENT:

    The idea is to do these side by side and see how the results compare. If you only wish to do one or the other feel free to give your results, but a side-by-side comparison would be more useful. Walt is quite certain of the results of the Checkerboarding compared to the typical brood box reversal system, but if you'd like to compare it to that, both for this experiment and for your own enlightenment, that would also be useful information.

    These should be third year or more colonies. First and second year colonies have slightly different timing and goals.

    OBSERVATIONS:

    If you open the hives every week and use thumbtacks or push pins to mark the top of the brood nest (three pins would work nicely, one in the center and one a couple of frames in from each side). You can log the brood nest expansion by that date by how many inches up it has moved. Also monitor overhead nectar storage. If the brood nest starts contracting before the peak of the apple blossoms then, for Opening the Brood Nest colonies it’s time to add more empty frames. Make sure you have alternating frames over the brood nest of honey and nectar or empty drawn comb. You can do these alternating frames all the way to the top. Once you are two weeks before the main flow (one week after apple’s stop blooming) I would stop trying to get them to expand the brood nest. Once the main flow hits you shouldn’t need to monitor the brood nest anymore, but rather make sure there are plenty of supers on to prevent overcrowding.

    So, to recap:

    1) Keep notes on when you do what manipulations by date.
    2) Keep notes on the size of the brood nest and the amount of expansion or contraction of it by date.
    3) Keep notes on when you see white wax.
    4) Keep notes on when you see different plants blooming in your area.

    Hints:

    One way to keep track of some of the blooms, like Maple and Elm is to go to www.pollen.com and see what they say is the prevalent pollen at the time.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Lakeland FL
    Posts
    839

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    will the checker boarding work with foundation instead of empty drawn combs? Nick

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    It may be better than nothing, but the concept is to use drawn comb. I've never done either so I have no experience with what the bees will do with the foundation. How about capped combs with empty frames between?
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Auburn and Tri-Cities Washington
    Posts
    334

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    I would love to do something like this. Mostly to be mentored by you and Walt but I'm afraid my hives are too few in numbers and years to do this. I also plan on doing some major spliting and queen rearing with the hives I do have. Please remember to keep us informed of the results when the come out!

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
    Location
    Seattle, Washington State
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    I am game on finding out if checkerboarding really does work.
    Chef Isaac..Culinary Arts and Honey are a sweet mix! http://www.sweetascanbeehoneyfarm.com & http://www.adoptahive.info

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2004
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    Seattle, Washington State
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    chief: wanna get together sometime? I just noticed you are not to far away from me.
    Chef Isaac..Culinary Arts and Honey are a sweet mix! http://www.sweetascanbeehoneyfarm.com & http://www.adoptahive.info

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    45,432

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    If anyone has additional ideas please add them, but here's an idea for a template for a log entry:

    Location ________________
    Hive name/id ________________
    Date _______________
    Manipulations performed _________________
    Estimate of brood nest size (diameter)______________________
    Brood nest expansion/contraction (difference in height from last time to this time based on thumbtacks) __________________
    Backfilling of brood nest (Y/N) _____________
    Estimate of cluster size (diameter)___________________
    White wax (Y/N) _____________
    Swarm cells (Y/N) _______________
    Currently blooming plants _____________________
    Size of cells in newly drawn comb (if there are any) ______________________________ (measure across ten cells with a metric ruler and move the decimal to the left one place)
    General observations __________________________________________
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Athens, Ill
    Posts
    141

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    I am planning to do the brood box checker boarding to downsize to natural cell, but my goals for the year are splits and Queen rearing like chief. Thanks for the info on the "when and how", but I dont think my results will help out since I am headed in a different direction.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Elkton, Tennessee, USA
    Posts
    288

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    MANY thanks to Michael for taking charge of this and to all who participate. I am setting up email notification so I can monitor progress for Walt.

    BTW Walt is currently traveling to North Carolina to participate in a large workshop. Unfortunately (I hang my head in shame), I neglected to ask Walt where the workshop was, the name, or when he is presenting. I am about to start a new thread called (inspired name 'Walt Wright at North Carolina Workshop' to ask if anyone out there if they have the information. All I know at this time is that there is a large meeting/workshop that takes place over the course of a couple of months.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    45,432

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    http://www.wncbees.org/

    Look at the "advanced outline" for when Walt is scheduled.

    Sunday Jan.22nd 2-4 PM
    Asheville High school
    419 McDowell St
    Asheville, NC 28803


    http://www.wncbees.org/school/skyschool.jpg
    http://www.google.com/maps?q=ashevil...&iwloc=A&hl=en
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Osceola, Iowa south central of state
    Posts
    248

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    I'd like to be part of this, however, I am just now getting back in to the bees and have no drawn comb except the one hive. I will have over 25 hives later this year, but afraid my setup will not help out at this time. If it will, then advise me by e mail.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    North Carolina
    Posts
    63

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    MB,

    I've been reading some of the material on checkerboarding and opening the brood area with some interest. I have a few questions.

    In the picture of the checkerboard hives with Mr. Wright, it looks as if some caulking was applied to the edge of the metal on the tops. What does that do?

    Mr. Wright says to always make sure the broodnest has room to expand, does the broodnest keep expanding into the shallow supers as you add more?

    Do you take supers that have filled with honey above the broodnest and use them to create the checkerboarding?

    In your system of opening the brood chamber, do you do any special manipulations for the honey supers as I think I am reading in the checkerboard system?

    Walid
    The problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them.<br />..................Albert Einstein

  14. #14
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Knoxville, TN
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    1,933

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    I've been thinking about "checkerboarding" and "opening up the broodnest" with empty frames. I don't have much drawn comb, so I'll mostly be checkerboarding the later. I had planned on taking notes and sending them to Walt, so I'll send them to you too Michael and try and put them in decent format while thinking about what you guys are trying to do. I can't do the side by side comparisons, and I have a few queens comming for splits that I will need to squeeze in too. Any other splits will be done if I see swarm cells developing. And likely a cut down split as the honey flow is gearing up. Hopefully my notes will at least be of some side benifit. Please post any additional info on when/how to add empty frames as they may come to you. I've been following that concept some and will look over walts' manuscript some more before I start working.

    Thanks, Michael

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Location
    McAlester, OK
    Posts
    101

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    Following is my protocol for Nectar Management (aka: Checkerboard) based on Walt Wright's publications and input from Michael Bush. This protocol was further modified to incorporate "Opening the Broodnest with Empty Frames" while the hive is being "Checkerboarded".

    The initial 2005 blooming dates for trees in my area closely parallels the tree blooming timeline discussed by Michael Bush.

    Winged Elm 18 Jan
    Maple 3 Mar
    Bradford Pear 15 Mar
    Redbud 25 Mar
    Apple 10 Apr
    Black Locust 19 Apr
    ==============================

    Original Nectar Management

    The objectives are: prevent swarming; increase early brood development to the equivalent of two and one-half deep hive bodies; and, induce early nectar storage in honey supers continuing through the major nectar flow.

    A. Hive Configuration: Configure the hive(s) into one of the following recommended schemes:

    1. Medium Super Scheme: Screened bottom board; four medium brood supers; and, top feeder.

    2. Deep Hive Body Scheme: Screened bottom board; one medium super; one deep hive body; one medium brood super; and, top feeder.

    B. Procedures:

    1. Fall (October): Insure the top super, based on the configuration discussed above, is filled with capped honey. Feed 1:1 sugarater to fill brood nest with liquid feed. Feed 1:1 sugar water until the bees quit consuming it. However, feeding sugar water may not be necessary with an adequate Fall nectar flow.

    2. ELM Tree Bloom: When Elm trees start blooming:

    a. Add one medium brood super with drawn comb and checkerboard it with the medium super immediately below it. Remove every other nectar/capped honey-filled frame from the lower super and replace them with drawn comb frames from the medium super being placed atop the nectar/capped honey-filled medium brood super. Thus, if frames are numbered from left to right and frame number two is removed from the honey/nectar-filled medium brood super, then it will be exchanged with frame number two (drawn comb) from the medium brood super being added.

    b. After performing this checkerboarding manipulation, add a second medium brood super with drawn comb.

    c. Anticipate the broodnest expanding upwards into the three medium brood supers above the overwintered broodnest. Therefore, the three medium brood supers immediately above the broodnest should contain dark comb.

    d. Periodically, monitor the three medium brood supers for brood expansion and maintain two empty medium honey supers with empty drawn comb above the broodnest and nectar filled supers.

    3. REDBUD Tree Bloom: When Redbud trees start blooming:

    a. If one or more honey supers were added above the third medium brood super, place an Imirie shim between the third medium brood super and the first honey super. Thereafter, place an Imirie shim between every two medium honey supers which have been added. However, if honey supers were not added above the medium brood supers, add an Imirie shim and add two medium honey supers with drawn comb.

    b. If the hive only has two medium honey supers above the three medium brood supers, add another Imirie shim and two more medium honey supers with drawn comb.

    c. Monitor the top honey super on a weekly basis and maintain one medium honey super with empty drawn comb on top of the hive.

    4. BLACK LOCUST Tree Bloom:

    a. After the Black Locust blossoms fades, bees will begin capping honey cells and decrease brood rearing. Anticipate the medium brood supers being back-filled with nectar and capped honey.

    b. The colony will supercede the queen if necessary; therefore, do not destroy any supercedure queen cell. If the hive is queen-less, take action to re-queen the hive.

    ===================

    Nectar Management Combined with Opening the Brood Nest

    The objectives are: prevent swarming; increase early brood development to the equivalent of two and one-half deep hive bodies; produce early white wax in frames; and, induce early nectar storage in honey supers continuing through the major nectar flow.

    Procedures:

    1. ELM Tree Bloom: When Elm trees start blooming:

    a. Add one medium brood super with drawn comb and checkerboard it with the medium super immediately below it. Remove every other nectar/capped honey-filled frame from the lower super and replace them with drawn comb frames from the medium super being placed atop the nectar/capped honey-filled medium brood super. Thus, if frames are numbered from left to right and frame number two is removed from the honey/nectar-filled medium brood super, then it will be exchanged with frame number two (drawn comb) from the medium brood super being added.

    b. After performing this checkerboarding manipulation, add a second medium brood super with drawn comb.

    c. Anticipate the broodnest expanding upwards into the three medium brood supers above the overwintered broodnest. Therefore, the three medium brood supers immediately above the broodnest should contain dark comb.

    d. Periodically, monitor the three medium brood supers for brood expansion and maintain two empty medium honey supers with empty drawn comb above the broodnest and nectar filled supers.

    2. BRADFORD PEAR Tree Bloom: When Bradford Pear trees start blooming:

    a. Place empty frames (not frames with foundation, but frames with either a starter strip or comb guide or nothing) in the broodnest, to shift the colony to the establishment mode and drawing wax much earlier. To make room for the empty frames, move the frames on the outside of the brood box up to the next box or down or out altogether (depending on your equipment) and move the brood combs to the sides and place the empty frames between two frames of brood. To prevent chilling brood, make sure there are enough bees to quickly fill the gap(s) with festooning bees before inserting the frame(s).

    b. Check the broodnest every week and add one or more frames if there are enough bees to handle the extra space.

    c. Discontinue inserting empty frames into the broodnest when Black Locust trees start blooming or earlier.

    3. REDBUD Tree Bloom: When Redbud trees start blooming:

    a. If one or more honey supers were added above the third medium brood super, place an Imirie shim between the third medium brood super and the first honey super. Thereafter, place an Imirie shim between every two medium honey supers which have been added. However, if honey supers were not added above the medium brood supers, add an Imirie shim and add two medium honey supers with drawn comb.

    b. If the hive only has two medium honey supers above the three medium brood supers, add another Imirie shim and two more medium honey supers with drawn comb.

    d. Monitor the top honey super on a weekly basis and maintain one medium honey super with empty drawn comb on top of the hive.

    4. BLACK LOCUST Tree Bloom:

    a. After the Black Locust blossoms fades, bees will begin capping honey cells and decrease brood rearing. Anticipate the medium brood supers being back-filled with nectar and capped honey.

    c. The colony will supercede the queen if necessary; therefore, do not destroy any supercedure queen cell. If the hive is queen-less, take action to re-queen the hive.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Kennett Square, PA
    Posts
    608

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    Like others, I'd love to try checkerboarding this spring, but I don't have the drawn comb. I do plan to use empty frames to open the brood nest, Per MB's suggestions.

    I'm looking forward to the results as I will definitely be trying checkerboarding in 2007.

    -Pete
    Southeast PA - 7 colonies, local mutts on natural comb, TF
    George Imirie's INDEXED Pink Pages: http://goo.gl/WiZUH3

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
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    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    &gt;In the picture of the checkerboard hives with Mr. Wright, it looks as if some caulking was applied to the edge of the metal on the tops. What does that do?

    I know nothing about how he builds his tops.

    &gt;does the broodnest keep expanding into the shallow supers as you add more?

    I don't run shallows at all. I think Walt winters with a shallow on the top and bottom. Since I run all mediums I try to get them to expand as much as they want. I assume Walt is doing something similar with the shallows.

    &gt;Do you take supers that have filled with honey above the broodnest and use them to create the checkerboarding?

    I believe that's the idea is to put empty drawn combs between the capped ones.

    &gt;In your system of opening the brood chamber, do you do any special manipulations for the honey supers as I think I am reading in the checkerboard system?

    I haven't. For this experiment I was proposing doing it in both cases so we can analyze the effects of opening the broodnest in addition to checkerboarding.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    North Alabama, SW Kentucky
    Posts
    1,914

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    Michael, I was trying to make a rough list of the blooming times you gave but got in over my head... could you do that for us? I had it started as:
    Week Zero - elm bloom starts, checkerboard hives
    Week Four - Maple bloom starts
    Week Five - Red Bud Bloom starts
    Week 8 - Apple bloom starts
    Week Nine - Peek Apple Bloom, Repro c/o
    etc...

    I wasn't sure on some nor was I sure where "open broodnest" should fall in the listing. Thanks.

    Jim, Thanks for that wonderful list you gave. Very clear.

    Waya
    WayaCoyote

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    Lyons, CO
    Posts
    3,027

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    Slightly off-topic but any good ways to tell when elms bloom? I haven't used a ladder yet to check out the buds, but what do the blooms look like, flowers/catkins etc? I'll continue to check out pollen.com for sure.
    Bees, brews and fun
    in Lyons, CO

  20. #20
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Farmington, New Mexico
    Posts
    6,509

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    Elm blossoms.

    http://davesgarden.com/pf/showimage/34289/

    [size="1"][ January 22, 2006, 10:37 AM: Message edited by: coyote ][/size]
    Nobody ruins my day without my permission, and I refuse to grant it...

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