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  1. #1
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    Default walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    i'm giving walt's piece another read this winter, and it's interesting how the concepts are making more sense after observing my bees this past season.

    one in particular is the point that walt makes about being able to tell if a colony is expanding (vs. reducing) the broodnest by seeing a clear band of empty/dry cells between the brood and the nectar just above. i had a couple of colonies that i just knew were going to swarm because they built up faster than the rest, and i even saw a couple of queen cells almost capped up in the honey supers. i probably should have checked the brood chamber for backfilling but i didn't, hoping that that band of empty/dry cells was indicating no swarm intent. turns out they didn't swarm and made quite a bit of honey.

    for those of you who have read it and perhaps tried the techniques, which if any of walt's observations jive with your experiences?
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

  2. #2
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    Squarepeg, I'll try to notice that band of empty cells this coming season. Walt (wcubed I believe) has mentioned that his manuscript has changed since the one posted on beesource. Are you reading the old one or the new one?
    Lee Burough
    I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)

  3. #3
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    from what i can tell lee, walt's articles in the pov section here on beesource are bits and pieces of what is in his full manuscript which is about 60 pages in length. you can order the work in it's entirety by sending walt a pm. it's by far the best $10 i've spent on beekeeping.
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

  4. #4
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    from what i can tell lee, walt's articles in the pov section here on beesource are bits and pieces of what is in his full manuscript which is about 60 pages in length. you can order the work in it's entirety by sending walt a pm. it's by far the best $10 i've spent on beekeeping.
    Thanks for the heads up!
    Lee Burough
    I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)

  5. #5
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    I put in a request for a copy a few days ago. His son-in-law,Roy, takes care of all the requests now. He is on Beesource, look for "Walt's son-in-law".

  6. #6
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    Overall, Walt's ideas comport with my experiences. I basically do what he recommends, and it usually prevents swarming. It can also lead to some really big brood areas and hives that make more honey than is typical for around here. I also agree with his idea that the the store of unbroken honey above the brood nest (and the related fact that the queen runs out of room to lay) is a big part of what triggers swarming. If you break that band of honey up well before the bees hit swarm mode, the brood nest expands, the hive does not swarm, and you end up with a big workforce when the nectar flow is hitting its peak. Bottom line, at least where I live, checkerboarding is effective to prevent swarming and increase honey harvests.

    The exceptions and/or areas where I don't really agree with Walt are this:

    1. One thing his manuscript does not account for (and can't, in fairness) is that weather is variable. Weather in Oklahoma is really, really variable. There have been some really early, warm springs when I needed to checkerboard earlier than normal, did it too late, and it did not work too well. In those years, I did not have a way to know what the weather would do, so that is a drawback to the system.

    2. On a related note, I live at a latitude not far off from where Walt lives, just a little North from him. I am not sure how effective Walt's system would be in a place with longer winters. For those folks, reversing hive bodies might be a better option. (For more on that topic, try to find a video of Michael Palmer explaining how he does things in up-State NY.) Michael P. and Walt have had some bantering on here in the past. Don't try to tell either of them that they are doing the same thing in different ways for different locations.

    3. I don't think it makes any difference to have 9 frames in the boxes, as Walt says. I often use 10 frames and don't see any meaningful difference. I do like having 9 frames in the supers for making extraction easier. I don't think the bees care if one box has 10 and the next has 9 frames.

    4. In my experience, Walt's idea of using a bottom box for pollen storage does not usually work -- my bees have not read his articles and don't seem to know that they are supposed to put pollen in that box. I quit doing that.

    5. Walt lets his bees requeen themselves by supercedure. I find that the queens I get from supercedure are often not that great and/or mean. Although I don't always do it due to time constraints, ideally I think it would be best for me to buy queens and requeen them as the nectar flow is winding down in late spring.

    YMMV,

    Neil

  7. #7
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    Neil, I can see weather IS key to all things relative to bees. But, I see through a glass dimly. I've spent some time trying to estimate Walt's location and compare his likely weather to my own here near DFW. The one thing that we experience here, 35 miles SW of Ft Worth, is a nice Spring with three to five dry weeks mid summer, producing a dearth before a somewhat fickle Fall honey flow.

    Do you have that fickle Fall honey flow in the Tulsa area Neil? If yes, do you have any advice? If I'm too far off topic Squarepeg, I apologize.
    Lee Burough
    I try to learn from my mistakes, and from yours when you give me a heads up :)

  8. #8
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    it's all good lee, no worries.

    another of walt's observations that i have found to be consistant with my own is that colonies issuing reproductive swarms will do so in a narrow window of time that coincides with the start of what we in the southeast call the 'main flow' in the spring. in my yard this year that was about a four week window from late april to late may, which was about three weeks later in the season than last year, attributable i think do differences in weather as neil has pointed out.
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

  9. #9
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    Quote Originally Posted by NeilV View Post
    I did not have a way to know what the weather would do, so that is a drawback to the system.
    Well Neil it seems your not alone. There are even political arguments on whether climate is changing when you actually witness the change. Any weather forecast is an educated guess using computer software for weather modeling. About all we can do for climate is measure trending. Unfortunately a warm trend here causes a cold trend over there and we don't really know where over there is. You can tell after the fact three weeks before apples bloom but it really is a guess making it three weeks before the bloom.

    What would be nice is to have a method based on what you see the hive doing in the spring prior to the swarm without taking the hive apart. Maybe something like honey consumption where tracking weight loss would be a trigger. I don't know.

    I don't doubt what Walt sees happening in his hives is happening but up here with temperature swings that we experience in early spring is a crap shoot for checkerboarding. Maybe I don't understand completely his methods.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  10. #10
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    I am not sure how the bees manage this climate change either as it screws up the natural development of things. Case in point the year before last we had and unusual warming trend in the spring which was followed by a severe cold snap. The fruit trees bloomed early and then the frost and snow killed all the buds. That has got to make an impact on a hive that started expanding early thinking the nectar would be there when they needed it.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  11. #11
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    I think your situation in Dallas/Ft. Worth is probably about like Tulsa -- great spring, hot summer, iffy Fall. In town, where I keep bees, the Fall flow is usually there but not great. There's not much Goldenrod in town. At least in the right spots, if we have a normal/wet Fall, people in the country can get a good Goldenrod flow in the fall. There are other things in town during fall, but it's not the same as in the country. However, our early Spring flow in town can be really good.

    I don't know that the Summer dearth and weak Fall flows have much effect on checkerboarding though. Bottom line is you need to leave the bees some honey to get through August. Then, if the fall flow is lousy, you may need to feed syrup going into winter. That's going to be true no matter what you do to manage your hives.

    As an aside, my personal view is that new beeks, mostly out of worry, feed their bees sugar syrup too much. The only times I feed my bees syrup are: (1) when I am housing a swarm I'll give them a quart to help them decide to stay; (2) I will often feed a split to help it get started; and (3) when they need supplemental feeding to avoid starvation in either the Summer dearth or winter. Otherwise, I don't think feeding bees makes sense or is good for them. Sugar is not nectar. (Other exceptions, where feeding makes sense and which don't apply to me, are people who are building up hives to make nucs, and people who are doing almond pollination.)

    As far as checkerboarding in the Dallas area, I would think you would need to do it about February 15 in normal years and maybe 1-2 weeks earlier in warmer years, but sometimes it is hard to know as of February1 what the weather will do on March 1.

    Ace, I think you point to the problems with CB'ing up North. You may not be able to get into your hive at all when you would need to do it. Also, when winter could last into April, you are taking chances by messing with the food supply. Down here, I can nearly always find a day in February where it is warm enough to mess with bees, and the Deadnettle, Willows and Maples are likely to be blooming around or before March 1.

    Up North, you may be better off doing what Michael Palmer does -- super early (before Dandelions) and reverse hive bodies. You end up with the same basic effect on the hive -- move the honey down, open up room for the queen, and give the bees a place to store nectar early in the year outside of the brood area.

    Finally, as far as timing goes, you need to be aware of what flowers are likely to bloom in your area. Really, the issue is not weather, it is flowers, with the weather affecting the flowers. So you need to time CB'ing (and really everything else you do as a beekeeper) with regard to what's blooming now and what's likely to bloom next.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    Based on Mr Wright's comments on a previous thread I gather that you can checkerboard as early as you want to - although waiting until the cluster is anchored by the first new years brood might be good so that they can't just move to the top on a whim.

    Every winter there is a new discussion of checkerboarding with lots of misunderstanding by new beekeepers as to what you are trying to accomplish...

    Open drawn comb above the brood nest is key to swarm prevention, but if you just put a box of empty comb on (which is pretty much what box reversal does) and the brood nest moves into it they can starve if the weather turns cold and causes them to cluster for too long. Checkerboarding puts empty drawn comb above the brood nest but - also every other frame being filled with honey - prevents them from clustering where there is no food. Checkerboarding is not a brood nest manipulation. Only drawn comb will work.

    Don't take my word for it read Nectar Management by Walt Wright.
    5Y-25H-T-Z6b

  13. #13
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    What would be nice is to have a method based on what you see the hive doing in the spring prior to the swarm without taking the hive apart. I don't know.
    Maybe I don't understand completely his methods.
    I would think that you need experience in taking your hive apart to be able to understand Walt's methods. IDK, maybe I am wrong?

  14. #14
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    one of the things i find most fascinating about bees is how they can sense upcoming changes to the environment about a month in advance. this is reflected at the colony level by increases and decreases in brood rearing, and by the accumulation or utilization of food stores in anticipation of the availability or lack thereof of field forage. walt's description of this and his conjecture about the how's and why's is the best i have found.

    i agree with neil about not feeding syrup except in those instances, not only for nutritional considerations, but also because i don't want to give the bees any false cues that might interfere with their ability to sense what is going on around them which might affect their decision making at the colony level.

    another pearl that i was able to glean from walt's work was the importance of keeping track of what blooms and when. in the short time that i have been keeping records i have been able to see a timeline that is more related to blooms than to calendar time. this takes into consideration differences in weather from year to year as others have already suggested.

    as david points out, just having empty comb overhead may not always produce the results that you would expect. due the the late arrival of the spring blooms this year, i had very little honey left in the supers by the time field nectar became available. some of my hives at that point were a single deep with two or three mediums of empy drawn comb overhead. i thought i had it made on swarm prevention and frankly didn't keep a close watch on these. in several colonies the bees worked up to a break between boxes and stopped. they started capping honey at the break and just ignored the empty comb overhead. they ended up backfilling down and swarming.

    the colonies that still had some capped honey checkerboarded with empty comb moved up into the additional supers and did not swarm. these also were able to generate a large field force for the main flow and were very productive.
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

  15. #15
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    Quote Originally Posted by David LaFerney View Post
    Open drawn comb above the brood nest is key to swarm prevention, but if you just put a box of empty comb on (which is pretty much what box reversal does) and the brood nest moves into it they can starve if the weather turns cold and causes them to cluster for too long. Checkerboarding puts empty drawn comb above the brood nest but - also every other frame being filled with honey - prevents them from clustering where there is no food.
    I don't think anyone in the north does a reversal three weeks before a bloom so the risk of starvation isn't there.

    Checkerboarding is not a brood nest manipulation.
    This is one of those things I can't wrap my head around and it has been discussed at length. If you are expecting brood to be raised in the checkerboard box how can you say it is not being manipulated? You may not be moving brood frames at the time it is done but you surely are intending to manipulate the brood area.

    You end up with the same basic effect on the hive -- move the honey down,
    MP says to move the honey down? I never hear of that.

    Another thing I like about mediums is that there are more boxes to play with. I always left a box of honey on top and then suppered with empty comb on top of that thinking the box of honey is the honey cap. I haven't noticed them raising brood above the box of honey and getting into a starving situation but as I said you do this much closer to the spring flow.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  16. #16
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    Checkerboarding affects the brood nest/area. However, you are not actually moving any frames with brood in them. So basically, you're right, depending on how you define "brood nest manipulation."

    As to reversing hive bodies, what often results is that the bottom box has empty space, and it moves up. The second box, often would contain bees/brood and honey, and it goes to the bottom. Bottom line is you end up making an empty area for the queen to lay in the second deep box. In that procedure, you really are moving brood nest frames, so it is by any definition a "brood nest manipulation."

    As far as using all mediums, I think you can still reverse hive boxes and/or checkerboard, but you have to improvise some. I have checkerboarded hives set up as all mediums, and its just a matter of figuring out what's there and checkerboarding the area above the brood nest.

    I would add that you have to improvise some when you checkerboard hives that are set up like Walt recommends (a single deep and then supers above that). In the last two years we had an extreme drought, and you did not really know, from one hive to the next, what you would find. Some hive were so low on stores that swarming was not really a worry. Others (I assume the good robbers) were all full of honey and needed to have honey removed and given away plus checkerboarding.

    And, yes, this is something that would be hard for a very new beekeeper to figure out how to do.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    In support of David's assertion in post #9, "Checkerboarding is not a brood nest manipulation", here is a snippet from one of Walt's papers in the Beesource POV section:

    Variations in the overwintered hive configuration, cluster location in the stack, and area seasonal forage availability require some adaptation of these recommendations. The primary tool for inducing overhead nectar storage where solid capped honey exists is the thinning of that honey with empty brood comb. This serves more than one purpose. Not only does it encourage storing nectar above the brood nest, but it also improves the colony awareness of additional empty comb above the solid capped honey. Often the colony will ignore empty comb added above the overhead solid capped honey barrier. They seem to perceive the top of the capped honey as the top of the residence cavity. But if they store nectar through the honey barrier on empty comb inserted between frames of honey, it improves their perception of the available space above. When the colony consensus is aware that empty space is available above, they delay swarm ambition and continue to increase the size of the brood nest.

    http://www.beesource.com/point-of-view/walt-wright/nectar-management-101/
    Walt is not talking about moving combs in the box with brood. He is referring to checkerboarding the box ABOVE the brood box so that after the manipulation there are alternating combs with honey and empty combs in the box above that was previously all honey.
    Graham
    USDA Zone 7A Elevation 1400 ft

  18. #18
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    another interesting observation that walt describes in his work is that new white wax production does not occur until after a colony either has swarmed or given up on swarming, even though there is plenty of nectar available prior to that time. i definitely noticed this for myself this year. have any of you observed this in your hives?
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

  19. #19
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    another interesting observation that walt describes in his work is that new white wax production does not occur until after a colony either has swarmed or given up on swarming, even though there is plenty of nectar available prior to that time. i definitely noticed this for myself this year. have any of you observed this in your hives?
    I would have to say no. I don't think bees give up on swarming until it is not possible. Just like any other animal that doesn't give up on procreating unless it is not possible. How do you determine that bees have given up on swarming? That would be a neat skill to have.
    Brian Cardinal
    Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping

  20. #20
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    Default Re: walt wright's "nectar management" manuscript

    Quote Originally Posted by Acebird View Post
    How do you determine that bees have given up on swarming?
    it may be due to the fact that walt and i live in the same part of the country, but almost all swarming takes place during a few week period that usually starts just prior to the onset of the major spring nectar flow. the timing makes sense as it provides the best chance for both the parent colony and the swarm to make it, and hence the term 'swarm season'.

    swarming during this time can happen even if there is plenty of extra room in the hive, and it is preceded by the contraction and backfilling of the broodnest, which is easily observed prior to swarm issue. swarming after this time is rare and is only likely to happen if the hive gets extremely crowded, hence the difference between a reproductive swarm and an overcrowding swarm. (mike bush does a good job explaining the difference between the two on his website).

    what is observed in this area is that if a colony doesn't swarm during that short window it probably won't unless the beekeeper lets it get too crowded in the hive. i found it interesting that new wax production doesn't start until after a colony swarms or gives up on swarming, and i wondered if that is what is seen in other parts of the country.

    in addition there is usually no more than two months from when new wax making starts and the flow tapers off signaling the arrival of the summer dearth, so there's not a lot of time to get foundation pulled out here.
    beekeeping since june 2010, +/- 20 hives, tf

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