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  1. #1
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    Question Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    Hi Guys,

    I'm just getting back into beekeeping after several years and I've recently read a lot about Checkerboarding and Opening the Broodnest to help prevent bees from wanting to swarm and to also help build up larger populations.
    Has anyone done any tests or seen scientific studies with a number of hives that compare the two methods?

    It would seem that Opening the Broodnest by inserting empty frames requires more bees to stay in the hive to maintain brood temperatures, due to the increase in the volume of the nest area. So may not be useful at lower temperatures.

    So what about a combination of both? For example using Checkerboarding in early spring when temperatures are low and Opening the Broodnest in early Summer once temperatures are closer to brood temperature?

    Thanks
    Matthew Davey

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    I think that the only way a brood nest should be opened up is by splitting it in the middle. For example you have two boxes and insert a third box in the middle of the two.

    Moving individual frames like is done with checkerboarding sets a hive back weeks. The brood nest is specifically organized with brood in the center and stores around the fringes. When you change that dynamic bees scramble to reorganize everything back where they need it. This involves moving stores and in some cases they will even discard brood creating a break in the brood cycle.

    It may prevent swarming, but only because the bees are busy undoing the mess their Keeper just created.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    Moving individual frames like is done with checkerboarding sets a hive back weeks. The brood nest is specifically organized with brood in the center
    Checkerboarding doesn't involve any manipulations in the brood nest - the checkerboarding is done in the honey supers above the brood nest. It creates space where the brood area can expand upwards without separating the nest from overhead reserve stores. The theory is that without both of those two elements (space and reserve stores) the brood nest won't expand and the hive will start swarm prep.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    Isn't it supposed to be done early in the spring? Who has supers on early enough to make manipulations within the super as described on Butch's site?
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    To a certain extent checkerboarding begins the previous year when you reserve resources so that come February (in my area) the hive still has 2 supers full of honey, and you have in reserve another super of drawn comb. Then in February you shuffle in your drawn comb with the first super of honey, and still have a full super of honey on top of the stack. So you end up with (from the bottom) - Brood nest, box of alternate full/empty comb, another box of full/empty comb, full box of honey. It's probably not something your going to be able to do during your first year or two of bee keeping.

    Disclosure - I wenta to the seminar, anda watcheda the video - but I've never actually done it.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    I have been at it... 20 years now I guess. I still never keep extra honey on my hives in the winter and definitely don't keep any in reserve. IMO forget "checkerboarding" and just insert a box of drawn comb between the bottom and top brood chamber to expand the broodnest. That way brood stays out of supers because you don't break the honey band that is in the top of the upper brood box and the bees quickly set out filling in the new space in the broodnest with stores and eggs.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    quick drawing to illustrate.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    Quote Originally Posted by bluegrass View Post
    I think that the only way a brood nest should be opened up is by splitting it in the middle. For example you have two boxes and insert a third box in the middle of the two.
    First off, that's a nifty drawing, bluegrass. What's the program that allows you to import it into beesource?

    And I agree with this idea of splitting the colony. It's a trick that's been around a long time and they used to call it "Demaree"...except with the Demareee manipulations, the frames were sorted with the older brood and open brood in the bottom box, the younger brood in the top box along with the stores, and the queen is put in the lower box. Then the two boxes are separated with the empty box of frames/drawn comb.

    Either way, the key to swarm prevention is giving the bees ample room to store incoming nectar (or thin syrup) and giving the queen ample cells to lay eggs. As I continue to keep more and more bees, I like the simplicity of simply interjecting a box in the middle.

    Grant
    Jackson, MO
    Beekeeping With Twenty-five Hives: https://www.createspace.com/4152725

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    I agree, that's a great drawing. Makes the words come to life when you have a visual. The bottom line, as Grant mentioned, is to provide plenty of room for storage and brood rearing. There are numerous ways to go about it, some quick and easy, and others more time consuming. Returning to the checkerboarding concept, the diagram illustrates what I think Walt is attempting to eliminate with his method. As you can see in the drawing, adding a box of empty frames in the center of the brood nest will give the queen much more room for brood and would temporarily curb the swarming impulse. But you still have a solid dome of capped honey above the top of the brood nest. With that dome in place the bees will tend to try to store incoming nectar from the dome "downward". You will need to regularly insert a new box in the center of the brood nest and keep pushing the dome up or the bees would start to backfill the brood nest area. With checkerboarding there are alternating lanes of empty comb going all the way up through the dome and into any supers that are added. The theory is that this will prompt the bees to expand the brood nest up and store excess incoming nectar "up" through the fractured dome and to the highest point above the brood nest. I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but this is my interpretation of his method after reading his material.
    Last edited by Mike Gillmore; 12-21-2011 at 01:15 PM.
    To everything there is a season....

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    But you still have a solid dome of capped honey above the top of the brood nest. With that dome in place the bees will tend to try to store incoming nectar from the dome "downward". You will need to regularly insert a new box in the center of the brood nest and keep pushing the dome up or the bees would start to backfill the brood nest area.
    This is quite contrary to what I have read and was told by older beeks. As long as you have enough space in the brood chamber (defined as two deeps or three mediums) the honey cap will keep the queen from venturing upwards but will not impede the worker bee from storing honey in empty supers above. If you don't have the supers on you will be in trouble.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    This is quite contrary to what I have read and was told by older beeks. As long as you have enough space in the brood chamber (defined as two deeps or three mediums) the honey cap will keep the queen from venturing upwards but will not impede the worker bee from storing honey in empty supers above. If you don't have the supers on you will be in trouble.
    Nothing is set in stone. Sometimes broodnests get backfilled and honeybound. Checkerboarding as I have read on the link I just listed above isn't going to work in our area. You should never have that much honey left in the spring to work with, not without keeping supers set aside strictly for this purpose and placing full comb on a hive in the spring is ludicrous and needless work.

    There are easier methods of preventing swarming.
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    As long as you have enough space in the brood chamber (defined as two deeps or three mediums) the honey cap will keep the queen from venturing upwards but will not impede the worker bee from storing honey in empty supers above.
    In my experience this is true after swarm season has passed. Until then, their #1 priority is to reproduce. That's what they are programmed to do. From Dandelion bloom until the main spring nectar flow their mission is to back fill the brood nest and swarm. During this period if they sense an overhead honey dome they will be preparing to swarm. After this period, if they are not crowded, they abandon swarming goals and switch to honey storage overhead. This is when you can use a dome to contain brood expansion and they start to focus on storing nectar up into the supers. In my region this is about early June.
    To everything there is a season....

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    Wonder if I can revive this thread several months later. This is a topic I'm interested in now. Wish I had read it before looking into my hives - I inserted a box in each of three hives, generally above the main cluster and below the honey packed top box. I didn't split the cluster and insert a box. I reversed hive bodies on one hive. But I'm wondering if it was a mistake to put in mostly empty frames/undrawn comb combos, as I didn't have much in the way of extra drawn comb. Has anyone had any experience with putting undrawn comb above the packed cluster? It may have been a mistake but all the hives had lots of bridge comb, giving me the idea that they are in the wax making mode, and there are plenty of house bees thanks to our early warm spell. Thoughts? Now I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Checkerboarding verses Opening the Broodnest

    The drawing is done in paintbrush, hosted at photobucket and linked here... Nothing special, thanks though. Good to know it has a name.

    Here is a link with another good illustration. http://www.k4vb.com/Walt's%20BIO%20reduced.htm
    Always question Conventional Wisdom.

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