Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides
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  1. #1
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    Default Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    For those beekeepers with little drawn comb and wanting a way to prevent swarming, give Opening the Sides of the Broodnest (OSB) a go. It helps to stimulate wax making before swarm season starts and also helps to get heaps of drawn comb. After doing it for a few years I've had no swarms (if done at least twice during the early swarm season). It also doesn't seem to be a problem if you get a cold snap.

    In general I start doing it a couple of weeks before Apples flower (early flowering varieties). The hive should look fairly full, with lots of bees on all frames in the hive and a few frames with capped honey.

    I've only needed to do it around 3 times (using deeps) doing it fortnightly during swarm season. If you are using mediums you may need to check more often.

    There are two steps:

    1. Move the outermost frame from each side of a box up into the middle of a new box.

    2. Insert a new frame (with half a sheet of foundation) between the outer frames of brood and frames of nectar/honey stores. (So that the Broodnest is not disturbed).



    So if the bees wintered with two boxes you end up with 4 drawn frames in the new box. The drawn frames help the bees to move up into the third (new) box.

    Placing a "hole" next to, or inside the Broodnest is what stimulates wax making. I prefer not to disturb the Broodnest in case of a cold snap, so I put frames with half a sheet of foundation next to the Broodnest. The space on each side of the half sheet of foundation are the holes, causing the bees to hold nectar in their honey stomachs and stimulating wax making. The queen starts laying in the new comb as it is being drawn out. The holes will usually be filled with Drone comb but because they are on the outer edges this is often filled with nectar and honey later in the season. The majority of the population at this stage of the season is young and just the right age for making wax.

    You may have all 3 boxes having brood for a little while. If you want to you can then use one box for a split around the Summer Soltice. Also, if you can find her, move the old queen to the new split.

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  3. #2
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    Bellflower, Montgomery,Mo,USA
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Thank you for writing out your method for new and second year beeks. I used your method (partially) last year. I didn't realize that you needed to do that more than once. All of my Italian mutts did great but the Carniolans both started to swarm on me. I removed all queen cells and started a few splits with them. This year I have some more drawn comb but I think I'll still use foundation next to the brood nest. I like drones in my colonies as I'm just as concerned with expanding good genetics.

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Second year beek here--thanks for this excellent, clear explanation. I am going to use this method this spring, thanks.

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    I have tried with good success. The important detail to observe is the population in the hive. You need enough bees so they fill the gap left and start pulling comb. Sometimes you only have enough to pull one side only. You also should ideally keep them supplied with syrup.

  6. #5
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Quote Originally Posted by MattDavey View Post
    In general I start doing it a couple of weeks before Apples flower (early flowering varieties). The hive should look fairly full, with lots of bees on all frames in the hive and a few frames with capped honey.
    Nice post, Mat. I think I'd make this step one, though. A lot of newbs tend to overlook the obvious. Doing this during a late winter warm up might not work as well - as you have pointed out by referencing the Apple bloom. Getting the timing right may be critical in the early season ( not doing it too soon). 'No offense, Matt - it's great of you to share.

    I've had good results applying a similar OSB - more like "massaging"- ( MSB?) since the mid 80's.
    Last edited by Colobee; 02-26-2016 at 10:57 PM.
    After 40 years of beekeeping, I've come to realize that the bees can fix most of my mistakes.

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Thank you for posting. Ill definitely try your method when the time comes. This is my second year (i.e., no spare drawn frames or honey frames for checker boarding), and both of my almost-overwintered hives are Carniolan. I have a few questions.

    1. My bees went into winter in two 8-frame deeps and still seem to occupy both boxes. When I "Open the Sides", should I work on both boxes or just the upper one?
    2. When the brood nest expands near the end, can I put a foundationless frame at the end? In other words, is it ok to put a foundationless frame between a drawn frame and the hive wall?
    3. When should I put a honey super on top of the third deep?

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    >2. When the brood nest expands near the end, can I put a foundationless frame at the end? In other words, is it ok to put a foundationless frame between a drawn frame and the hive wall?

    Because of the extra space, I prefer to put a frame that at least has been started. Ideally, foundationless frames should be between two straight drawn frames. One good comb leads to another.

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    We use mediums, we started adding cut frames in April sometime, opening the brood nest. We had a cold winter last year, this year it is bouncing around. We are going to try and figure out when to start opening the brood nest.

    We went into the hives around every 10-14 days and reopened the brood nest. A few times we added a empty frame with a starter strip. The bees drew the empty space with drone cells, which we cut out, froze, checked mites levels. The bees nicely filled the removed drone comb with new comb.

    We did this until June, I need to get my records out to remember. We had no swarms or even starts of swarms.
    I read your posts last year (Matt Davey), never quite figured out checkerboarding, so used the open the brood nest method you posted about. I mark the frames with cut foundation, foundation less, with a big red X so I can remember where it is to be able to pull them.
    Zone 6b: 27 hives in Maryland, Carniolan, Italian mix mutts: Still learning - started bees spring of 2014.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Thanks so much for posting this. I have one deep and two medium supers. Does this mean:

    1. I add a new deep between the 2 supers?
    2. When I put the drawn frames from the bottom deep in the middle of the new deep, are they surrounded by 8 frames of new foundation?

    This sounds like a great idea. When do you think I would do this for zone 7B?

  11. #10
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Don't start too early, don't wait too long! You will get the hang of it in a couple years. Swarm prevention here is in early April, they are going out the door by the first of May unless it stays cold late.

    Peter

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Quote Originally Posted by Kuro View Post
    1. My bees went into winter in two 8-frame deeps and still seem to occupy both boxes. When I "Open the Sides", should I work on both boxes or just the upper one?
    2. When the brood nest expands near the end, can I put a foundationless frame at the end? In other words, is it ok to put a foundationless frame between a drawn frame and the hive wall?
    3. When should I put a honey super on top of the third deep?
    1. I suppose it depends on how full the hive is (population wise) as to how aggressive I would start out. Start with just the upper box if it's not very full. Note: If you just start with moving 2 frames from the upper box, these will often be emptied out and the bees won't move into the new box.

    2. I've had no problems with putting the new frame with foundation Starter strip on the outside edge of the box.

    3. Put a honey super on when the new box is around 75% or more drawn comb. Move a couple of drawn frames up into the super if you can.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Quote Originally Posted by quattro View Post
    Does this mean:

    1. I add a new deep between the 2 supers?
    2. When I put the drawn frames from the bottom deep in the middle of the new deep, are they surrounded by 8 frames of new foundation?
    3. When do you think I would do this for zone 7B?
    1. I would just use the Mediums for Opening the Sides. The broodnest will usually be up near the top in early spring. Don't split the hive by putting a new box in the middle, especially a deep box.

    2. Yes, but with only 2 frames these will usually just get emptied out and the bees may not move into the new box.

    3. I don't know what zone 7B is like. In general go by a few weeks before the Apple trees start to blossom and daily temps. Nights should be above freezing and daily temps getting over 18C/65F. Ideally you also want fine weather for at least a few days after the first manipulation.

  14. #13
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    My bees seem to want to fill the outside combs with honey and forget them. This year I have been thinking of pulling the outside frames if they are capped and rather than moving them up to a third box I was going to extract them and give them back later. Last year swarm control seemed a bit much so I am looking to reduce the number of locations I keep hives.
    Do you have an estimate of how long between cycles you add new foundation?
    Why do we fall, sir? So that we might learn to pick ourselves up Alfred Pennyworth Batman Begins (2005)

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Unfortunately Opening the Sides needs to be done more than once, as swarm season tends to be around 6-8 weeks.

    With adding 4 new deep frames, they can get drawn and filled within 2-3 weeks depending on the amount of nectar coming in. Also the wax makers mature and start foraging by the third week after emerging, so new bees may need to be stimulated for wax making.

    With deep frames I would check after 2 weeks and with medium frames you may need to check after a week. Of course this also depends on how many new frames were added to the brood box(es).

    Remember also that the bees may also start drawing the frames in the new box up top, but you need to make sure they have actually moved into and are using the new box.

  16. #15
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    It is early Spring here.
    I'm anxious to expand my apiary now.
    The early blooming fruit trees like almonds, peaches and
    apricots are about done. The late blooming trees like apple, pear and
    blackberry are still waiting maybe in late April or early May. The
    El Nino effects caused everything to be blooming earlier this year.
    So instead of waiting to open the sides of the nest, I made a drastic
    shook swarm approach. Basically gave them a jar of syrup on new foundation frames
    to be drawn out. Move all the brood comb into another hive leaving only the
    undrawn foundation frames with the bees and a laying queen of last year.
    The 1:1 syrup will stimulate them to quickly draw out these foundation frames for
    the queen to lay. This is on the start of the early flow. What do you think the result will be for this colony?
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    As long as you keep feeding them until swarm season, (if they need it) they will probably be Ok. But their population will be set back due to missing a couple of brood cycles, because of having to draw new comb.

    I prefer not to feed unless the bees are going to starve, like in a dearth. Due to things like wrong pH, lack of nutrients, and no antibacterial properties which are usually found in honey. So the bees health is also effected.

    You also have to baby them by visiting the hive every few days. So I don't think it's worth it.

  18. #17
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    True, true! So true.
    I don't plan to set back the hive considerably for a few months. Remember those comb donated to a
    laying, growing hive? I can always take the broods back for a combine after the frames are
    drawn out. Only take what you need to rebuild the hive population after you got your drawn comb done.
    The foragers will bring in additional resources to keep the hive going at the beginning of a flow. Any comb drawn they
    will deposit the nectar and pollen. There are plenty of wild mustard blooming now, etc.

    So far so good:
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  19. #18
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Quote Originally Posted by MattDavey View Post
    1. I suppose it depends on how full the hive is (population wise) as to how aggressive I would start out. Start with just the upper box if it's not very full. Note: If you just start with moving 2 frames from the upper box, these will often be emptied out and the bees won't move into the new box.

    2. I've had no problems with putting the new frame with foundation Starter strip on the outside edge of the box.

    3. Put a honey super on when the new box is around 75% or more drawn comb. Move a couple of drawn frames up into the super if you can.
    Thank you, I'll report my result after the swarm season.

  20. #19
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Just a note on the partial sheet of foundation in new frames. It is done to stimulate wax making. As full sheet of foundation may be ignored. This is because the gap between comb and foundation next to it may not violate the "bee space" enough for them to want do anything about it.

    With the partial sheet of foundation there is a large enough hole to stimulate the wax makers in order to repair the hole. Then because they are now stimulated for wax making, they start drawing out the foundation as well.

    If not stimulated to make wax, the bees tend to hold off wax making until they decide whether they will swarm or not.

  21. #20
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    Default Re: Getting bees to draw comb & swarm prevention - Opening the Sides

    Could I put medium foundationless frames into a deep to open the sides? I plan on transitioning to medium, and don't have any empty deep frames. Or is that asking for trouble?

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