Re: Maintaining amount of hives
pamela's biggest challenge to checkerboarding her five hives that she is starting out with is that she may not have enough drawn comb in reserve to do it with.
i went from 4 hives at the beginning of last season to 10 last fall by splitting and adding nucs.
9 of 10 made it through last winter, but i only had comb in reserve to checkerboard one of them this spring. i realize this is only one, but this colony did not swarm and produced very well.
of the remaining 8 that were not checkerboarded, i was able to catch 2 of them prior to swarming by noticing the swarm preps described by walt in his papers. i.e. first the backfilling of empty cells just above the upper broodnest 'arch', and then backfilling in the broodnest proper. i split these two hives prior to their swarming.
the other 6 were hives were not expected to swarm, because they were overwintered nucs ranging from a few frames of bees to one deep of bees. they went on to swarm anyway, (i wasn't watching them for that, but i was able to catch 4 back).
i am looking forward to being able to checkerboard more hives next season, now that i have surplus drawn comb.
disclaimer: novice beekeeper here who knows just enough to be dangerous