What constitutes a brood break?
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  1. #1
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    Default What constitutes a brood break?

    All,
    I have heard the term "brood break" thrown around a lot and understand the concept but how long without a queen constitutes a "brood break"?
    Are there any other ways to simulate a brood break besides removing the queen?
    Thanks!

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    Quote Originally Posted by ericweller View Post
    All,
    I have heard the term "brood break" thrown around a lot and understand the concept but how long without a queen constitutes a "brood break"?
    Are there any other ways to simulate a brood break besides removing the queen?
    Thanks!
    In the context of interrupting the breeding of varroa, when there is no capped or upcapped brood in the hives, this is a brood break. Any varroa will live out it's life cycle, and will not be able to produce young varroa.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    A brood break means they need a period of time when there is no brood in the hive. Some folks say it's a great way of slowing mite growth. Others (including myself) consider it a great way to set back the hive dramatically, possibly setting the bees back more than the mites. To reach no brood in the hive means you have to go without a queen laying for 21 days. If you have a period with no laying for 21 days, then the queen starts laying again, the last drone egg deposited in a cell will have emerged just before the first egg laid hatches to become an open brood cell.

    Now if you want to use the brood break as a mite control method combined with use of a miticide of some type, then there are ways of optimizing. A worker cell will remain capped for 11 days, and a drone cell for 14 days. If you stop the queen from laying for 16 days then allow her to start laying again, 8 days later all capped brood (including drones) will be emerged, and there will be no brood capped in the hive. This gives a very short window of opportunity to put a miticide in the hive before they have a chance to hide under a brood cap. There can be no mites hiding under capped brood, they will all be phoretic, so a single application should do the trick. But, that still leaves the colony short on brood, with bee dieing off at a normal rate, so 21 days after you stop the queen from laying, no more workers emerging, normal die-off rates still happening, population will drop off for a couple of weeks.

    I'm sure the topic of brood breaks will generate endless opinions, and I have one of my own. My opinion is, the brood break sets the bees back as much, or more than it sets back the mites, if it's used as a mite control method unto it's own. From the day the last capped brood emerges, until the brood starts to emerge again, the bee population will be falling off on a daily basis, and I've seen no evidence that it causes the mites to die off at a similar rate, it just stops them from reproducing over that period. What really matters for bee health with regard to mites, is not how many mites are in the hive, but, what is the ratio of mites to bees, so if bees are dieing off faster than mites due to the brood break, then in reality, you come out the back side of the endeavor with a higher mite load when you measure bees per mite, even tho the absolute number of mites is lower than it would have been without the break.

    If indeed the mites do die off completely due to a brood break, why do my hives always have mites in the spring after a 4 month period with no brood ? They should all be long dead by that time if the mites cant survive thru a brood break.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    Nice analysis grozzie.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    Eric - As stated by Grozzie and Phillip a brood break would need to encompass a queenless period long enough to render a hive completely broodless for more than 24 days (the gestation period of drones).

    The idea of using brood breaks to control mites has been floated by many but is a central part of Mel Disselkoens OTS system of keeping bees. BTW - I cannot recommend Mel's book highly enough, truly insightful. My cliff note version of Mel's theory and how he got there. Back in the 90s, Mel, like most beeks was losing an increasing number of bees to varroa every winter. While some theorized they could breed genetically superior (mite resistant) bees, others turned towards chemicals. Mel, a student of past research remembered G.M. Dolittles observation in 1908 that bees naturally supersede in July more than any other month. Mel studied his hives, found the same to be true and then kept track of which hives survived his harsh Michigan (I think) winters. His hives with post solstice queens, those that had a summer brood break were not dying from varroa. His conclusion, was that genetics had little to nothing to do with fighting mites, it was a brood break that disrupted the mites breeding cycle at the very time that mites were about to reach their peak population that kept them from being able to destroy a colony going into winter.

    The why it kills them and how many it kills is a fascinating read and one I am glad Mel discovered and shared with those interested. Mel does not claim that the brood break kills all mites, it simply knocks them down to very low levels before winter. The largely broodless period thru winter allows remaining mites to live but their numbers are low and without brood they cannot effectively reproduce till spring.

    Can't say who's right or wrong but I've been following Mel's methods and am very, very happy with the results. Healthy hives, robust (free) queens without all the chemicals.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    Sometimes the bees engineer one on their own. They start queen cells and dispose of the old queen. By the time the new queen is laying there is no brood left in the hive, open or capped. I would call that a complete brood break. Any bacteria that is totally dependent on larvae to live will have nothing to live on. Also, Varroa will miss a turnover of new mites.

    > My opinion is, the brood break sets the bees back as much, or more than it sets back the mites

    The results are all in the timing. If timed right it is an advantage to the bees by maximizing foragers during the flow and minimizing the mouths to feed after the flow. If timed any other way, you may be correct.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  8. #7
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    If you cage the queen in something like this http://www.ebay.com/itm/like/3114014...lpid=82&chn=ps the hive will still feed her and she can still distribute her pheromones, but there will be no eggs laid (or queen cells built).

    I, however, like to pull the queen to a nuc so she can continue to lay and let the hive requeen itself. I usually do this after the summer solstice mid June. So typically by mid July, a queen is laying again. If she doesn't come back from her flight, I can re-introduce the original queen to the hive.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    I do nearly the same thing Ruth, pull the queens to a nuc on July 1 ish. Only difference is I sell off the nucs and load extra cells into the mating castles for two frame insurance queens. The nuc buyers get robust 60-90 day old queens and my hives that fail to requeen still get a post solstice queen introduced if they need it.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    The results are all in the timing. If timed right it is an advantage to the bees by maximizing foragers during the flow and minimizing the mouths to feed after the flow. If timed any other way, you may be correct.
    Can you give me an idea of what to look for to start this process at the right time. I know there has to be drones, if I wait till I see swarms is that too late? So would the correct timing to be as soon as I see drones in most of my hives and numbers approaching swarm conditions?
    Robbin NW Florida(8A) / 14 hives / 5 Nucs / 6th Year / T {OAV & MMK}

  11. #10
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    Robbin, here in the north I aim to split a week before I think they are going to make swarm cells which for me on average means splitting the first week of June. One has to bear in mind your location. In the north a summer brood break, a winter brood break, and overwintering in 5 frame equipment has been successful for me.
    In Florida a single broodbreak may not be enough to control mites by itself as you have no winter brood break that i am aware of.

  12. #11
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    >Can you give me an idea of what to look for to start this process at the right time.

    Two weeks before the main flow is perfect. Right at the main flow isn't bad.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

  13. #12
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    Quote Originally Posted by philip.devos View Post
    In the context of interrupting the breeding of varroa, when there is no capped or upcapped brood in the hives, this is a brood break. Any varroa will live out it's life cycle, and will not be able to produce young varroa.
    I'm not saying that a brood break can't help. But the idea that any varroa will live out it's life cycle and not be able to reproduce? Let's say colonies are done rearing brood around November 1 here... and they start rearing brood around February 1. That's roughly a 90 day brood break... yet varroa still "alive and well" in colonies in the spring. Set back a bit perhaps. But the idea that a broodless hive somehow kills off varroa just isn't true. And it's still enough varroa to kill off a colony by fall, how effective is a brood break?

    Now... brood break with a well timed application of OAV during the summer months is another story.

  14. #13

    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    I'm a 2nd year beek and loving this hobby, but on my learning curve I still feel like i'm drinking from a firehose.
    My questions relate to the immediate consequences for the hive following a brood break.

    If a hive is queenless for at least a full cycle (>21days), say in the case of delayed supersedure (due to weather e.g.), will the new queen's own health and her new laying be affected specifically by the dwindling # of nurse bees (which are becoming foragers)?
    Would I need to supplement the hive with a new frame/frames of brood from another hive to ensure sufficient nurse bees to tend to her new eggs? Or will the hive sense this need and turn enough foragers back into nurse bees?
    How long of a queenless brood break would it take before a new queen wouldn't be enough to save the hive?

    Thanks in advance.

  15. #14
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    Default Re: What constitutes a brood break?

    Any bee can do any job in the colony. Anything over three weeks is probably pushing it but three weeks isn’t a problem.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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