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Thread: Checkerboarding

  1. #221
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    New bee here in the Portland Oregon area, still raining here which is odd but other than that it sounds close to the clime of yours (last frost date of April 15th). I see a lot of talk of mediums but in Walt’s writings I see 1 deep and two shallows. I have been getting equipment used from all over since people found out I was bee keeping and have a 10’ stack not in the “yard” at this time. All of it different (MB must be laughing). I am finally getting to my questions: Appears that it is a deep and two shallows that are manipulated for the CB then a huge stack of supers. Is it not possible to extract the supers so that the bees do not have to crawl 6’? Why the tall stacks? Does it matter what size I use for supers? I don’t think that the super size is really any issue or did I miss that? Even at 6’3” I don’t see the point of working above my head. I have had 100% of my hives swarm this year and have suspected it is because of all new plastic F.
    “Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up” Alfred Pennyworth Batman Begins (2005)

  2. #222
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    I was wondering about this same subject too, Walt. How much does the extra room and hight have to do with room for bees and how much with enough room for the honey?
    Thanks
    Serge

  3. #223
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    Valid question. It is almost axiomatic that greater honey production generates taller hives. When you understand the sequence of accumulation it's easy to see that the higher stack is difficult to avoid in a short flow. If we put in some local timing references for CB here:

    CB in late Feb. -----Increase brood volume until repro cut off - 2nd week of April.
    April 7 +/- *****Generate wax makers for "main flow". New wax May 1.
    Main flow -----All of May and sometimes into mid June.

    Applying these dates to hive height for overwintered production colonies:
    Feb to April 7 ..During this period the colony is growing brood volume and storing raw nectar overhead. The total height may reach 6 feet with at least a couple supers of nectar filled to cell depth provided.
    Apr. 7 to May 1:
    This period is dedicated to generating the work force to store winter honey. Wax makers are available at the end of this three weeks to extend cells and cap honey. Nectar processors are also reared to pre-dry nectar. Now they can store honey at efficient rates. We call the end of this period and the start of wax making "Main flow."

    During the "lull" of April very little nectar is added at the top. Incoming forage is used primarily to feed the colony. The bulk of the foragers are marking time until the support troops are in place. When the wax makers and driers are ready, the foragers go to work, big time.

    Now to hive height: At the beginning of main flow, the CBed colony already has some overhead stored nectar, and brood nest reduction has been in process for 3 weeks. That potential winter honey must be cured, cell depth extended, topped off with predried nectar, and capped. At the same time, the foragers are pouring it in upstairs. The wax workers can't keep up with the needs early in the flow, but they will typically catch up in three or four weeks. I suspect (without a convenient way to verify) that the CB effects contribute to this condition. Permitted to apply their instincts and swarm, the colony would need less wax makers to process resupplied honey, or a smaller percentage of the total population. Blame the problem on the extra honey generated by CB.

    The hive height is a function of increased production. There is only a short window late in our flow that would warrant cycling finished supers through extraction and return. If your objective is honey production, you can learn to live with tall hives.

    Walt

  4. #224
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    Thank you Walt. Very good and interesting info.
    Here in our Maritime Northwest part of Washington state, we can easily get the first pollen from early flowering trees like hazelnuts coming in sometime in February. Last year it was January. Does it make sense that I should CB sometime in January? (the upper temps can reach into the 40s easily in January)? I think the apple blossoms come in similar to your area, in April. We also can get a lot of dandelions in April/May and of course a lot of fruit trees blooming around the same time. We can get a lot of rain still around this time which doesn't help the bees. Our main flow is Blackberry in July. I am hoping that with CB I can take more advantage of the dandelion and fruit tree nectar in April/May. With a later July honey flow, and a little bit different weather/nectar pattern, what do you think I should expect different and do different with the CB method?
    Thanks
    Serge

  5. #225
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    hi all. i read through 23 pages and still have a couple questions. i understand how CB (like reversal) opens up space above the brood nest and prevents swarm-inducing congestion. but i did not see anywhere what is the significance of alternating empty comb with honey comb...why not just empty comb? what about the alternating frames of honey makes this system more effective? or is it that you are just trying to use up the unused overwinter reserves which might otherwise crystallize? also, a question about swarm control in general, if we prevent our colonies from swarming, what prevents them from growing ever larger? are folks here religiously splitting at some point in the year? or does the queen just stop laying more eggs at some point? and what prevents idle bees from wanting to swarm at that point? thanks for helping a noob understand.

  6. #226
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    >hi all. i read through 23 pages and still have a couple questions. i understand how CB (like reversal) opens up space above the brood nest and prevents swarm-inducing congestion. but i did not see anywhere what is the significance of alternating empty comb with honey comb...why not just empty comb?

    This is being done well before the flow in late winter. They would starve. The idea is to not deprive them of food while creating an illusion of the lack of food.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  7. #227
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    =Michael Bush;686370This is being done well before the flow in late winter. They would starve. The idea is to not deprive them of food while creating an illusion of the lack of food.
    That confuses me too. If you create an illusion of the lack of food why would the queen want to increase the brood nest which would require more resources? Spring can be a killer up here. The honey needs to be close by and the brood needs to be concentrated not spread out. Cold nights can do them in if they are all spread out. I think the northern bees have figured this out because they survived. I think if you move bees back and forth (north and south) you always have to move them back and forth and I would suspect at the same times. My guess is if you stop that cycle either way you will loose most of them.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  8. #228
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    >"This is being done well before the flow in late winter. They would starve. The idea is to not deprive them of food while creating an illusion of the lack of food."

    so there is nothing magical about alternating empty/full frames, one just needs to have some space and some food in some combination. for us yankees, keeping the empty frames somewhat clustered should help keep brood concentrated and warm during our harsh springs.

    >"That confuses me too. If you create an illusion of the lack of food why would the queen want to increase the brood nest which would require more resources? Spring can be a killer up here. The honey needs to be close by and the brood needs to be concentrated not spread out. Cold nights can do them in if they are all spread out. I think the northern bees have figured this out because they survived. I think if you move bees back and forth (north and south) you always have to move them back and forth and I would suspect at the same times. My guess is if you stop that cycle either way you will loose most of them."

    so how do you open up a NY broodnest acebird?

  9. #229
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    I don't. I think the bees do by eating the honey through to Spring. All I have to do is add supers when the flow comes so they have a place to put it. Does that make sense?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  10. #230
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    thanks ace. that does make sense. but i've read on this site (if i understood) that the bees deliberately backfill the 'natural' broodnest below the honey dome to induce a swarm when they think there is a sufficient number of bees to do so. i thought that was the point of checkerboarding and such, to maintain continuous open space adjacent to and above the broodnest to prevent the swarm. anyway, if you don't tweak the broodnest, what if anything do you do for swarm management? thanks

  11. #231
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    You are talking to a new beek. That being said I have yet to have that problem. The first year I lost the bees due to moisture in early Spring. They got wet and all died in a pile on the SBB. This last winter was so long the bees barely made it. It was like starting with a package. This year I will leave more honey and based on what I see is left in the Spring I will either throw an empty box on just under the honey or try some form of this checkerboarding. If at least halve of the top box is empty I might do nothing until they fill it in and then just throw the supers on. It is my understanding that if the queen has space to lay brood they won't swarm.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  12. #232
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    Aug 2005
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    Silicon Valley, CA
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    A question for Walt....

    If I recall correctly, you and your articles indicate that you overwinter with a minimum of 1 super of honey.
    So, at the end of winter, if one were to look at your TOP deep brood box, would we find a layer of capped honey across the center frames
    ( Frames 3 thru 7 ) ? Or would we find brood cells all the way to the top bar of the deep ?

    If there is no honey across the top of the brood box, that would explain why there is no need to manipulate the brood chamber. There is only capped honey in the super above and by then alternating empty drawn frames this satisifies the bees need for free space.

    Here on the west coast, mild and temperate, most of us do not have a super of honey on for the winter because there is forage year round. However at the end of January, there is always a layer ( 2-3 inches high ) of capped honey across the top of the deep box.
    In order for ME to be successful with nectar managment, I must either substitute empty frames into every other brood slot in the top box, or go thru and scrape out the capped honey on every other frame. I have done just that and it works just fine as long as I add supers before the nectar flow.

    Fuzzy

  13. #233
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    Been out of touch for a couple days.
    Working backward from Fuzzy's question:
    Locally, the overwintered cluster is maybe 5 frames of bees - not necessarily centered in the deep basic brood chamber. We take care in the fall to insure that their deep is backfilled at brood nest close out (sometimes feeding.) Located over feed/nectar, the cluster stays in the deep. When they start building brood in mid winter, they typically expand laterally to fill the deep. With a single shallow of capped honey overhead, they typically open no honey in that shallow and swarm preps/issue all takes place in the single deep. The center deep frames are filled during expansion with brood, bottom to top. end to end. If we don't break up the honey in the shallow, swarming is a lock.

    In the double deep, they maintain their capped reserve in the upper part of the upper deep. That makes it tough to stop swarming in the double deep. One of the reasons we shifted away from double deeps. Reversal does get brood above the capped honey reserve, but is time-sensitive. With a group of hives at different stages of brood nest expansion, reversal should be done piecemeal for best results.

    Removing cappings on alternate frames meets the basic concept of CB. But it would be easier if you had a super of honey at the top at that point of the season.
    Walt

  14. #234
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    Brood staying in the bottom up here? I am not buying into that. My concern is even with a full super on top of two deeps they are going to be right at the inner cover in the spring with honey below. Anybody else in the north witness anything different?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  15. #235
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    Acebird:
    Don't think I said, or implied what happens in NY. The question was about what happens in the Southeast or here. Didn't need to comment about the exchange between NYers. And definately didn't need to be corrected about the northern perspective. I think I understand what happens in more northerly locations. Do you?

    At first frost timing, your colonies have substantial brood in the lower deep. Full-time clustering is close at hand. The colony does not have time to fully backfill the brood nest before field forage is frozen out. Here, they normally get it done - a more liesurely transition from mild to cold, but we have seen a few seasons where they needed help by feeding after first frost.

    If the broodnest is not backfilled after the brood emerges, the colony is reluctant to winter on empty cells - they need warming fuel underfoot in the cluster. About full time clustering, the cluster relocates into the upper deep on solid capped honey - vacating the empty broodnest in the lower deep. Of course, they will still be there in late winter and the lower deep will be essentially empty. They didn't eat their way up there in early winter. They eat very little in early winter. Consumption of warming fuel makes empty cells to start mid winter brood.

    Have only seen this happen in two seasons of 20 here. The first time most colonies had more brood, later than normal, and the second time a fall flow bust caused it. Extrapolating those two seasons to more northerly locations is the basis for my opinion. Hence, "I think I know."

    Most northern beekeepers are aware they need to feed in the fall. But feeding in the first frost/freeze period is iffy. It's tougher for them to feed than it is here where the cluster-breaking period lasts a little longer. I doubt that you folks are always successful in getting enough feed into the brood nest to keep the cluster there.

    Walt

  16. #236
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    I am sure you know way more than I know but I have picked up a few tidbits that make sense to me.
    First of all warming fuel (I presume this is honey) is at a much higher consumption rate in the fall and early winter and spring than in late winter. In the fall you have an abundance of bees and next to nothing coming in so somebodies got to get the axe. The drones are the first to go. I don't know what happens if you start feeding because I don't. I think if you feed you always have to because you are creating a condition that normally wouldn't happen. In my area we have a lot of flip flops, frost then warm days, frost, snow and more warm day before the hammer finally hits and then it is snow, snow, snow. In the Adirondacks it is more like a light switch, snap - fall, snap - winter.
    I can see where timing would be a problem ... the queen is suppose to stop laying in the fall because she knows winter is coming and there will be too many mouths to feed. I can see in a feral hive that the bees would back fill the brood nest but I don't see why they would do it if there were supers on top with space to store honey. Pulling off the supers and having the top box crammed full of honey would leave just the brood nest for space to put more honey. Maybe that is the reason why some people do that up here. You tell me.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  17. #237
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    Ace, if you have brood at the top bars and honey below, something went wrong. Maybe the outside frames in the lower box might have honey in them. But, generally, come spring, the bottom boxes are empty. In the North.
    Mark Berninghausen #youmatter

  18. #238
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    Yes, mine was too but if I keep an extra box of honey on this year and they go to the inner cover there should be something below them even if the bottom box is empty. Either way, if the bottom box is empty what is the need to expand the brood chamber? The queen has all the room she needs to start laying and building up the troops.
    Now I plan on pulling my bottom deep out next spring so I can have all mediums. I may be forced to do some type of checkerboarding because the brood nest will be confined with honey on top. But after this one time there shouldn't be a problem. Do you agree?
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  19. #239
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    Quote Originally Posted by wcubed View Post
    Been out of touch for a couple days.
    Working backward from Fuzzy's question:...
    Walt
    Hello Walt,
    Thank you for your patience and for sharing your knowledge. Any input for post #225?
    Thanks
    Serge

  20. #240
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding

    Sorry SERGE, Other prioities got in the way of backing up. Most recently - eye surgery. Can almost see again in the good eye.
    I think you can get some of that early nectar in the supers above the wintering config. All it takes is a box of honey above the brood nest to CB.
    The first experiment with CB was done in December. Was home for Christmas. The results were amazing. One of the fringe benefits of CB is that it is not time sensitive, if done early enough. There is enough honey in the alternated frames to feed the expanding colony, and enough empty comb to encourage storing of nectar overhead. That may not be true everywhere, but it's true here.

    Walt

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