(1) In February on a sunny day you shrink the broodnest down to the number of brood combs, that have bees and brood on it. Usually that is 3,5 or 7 frames. Depending on the queen and cluster size. Brood combs, follower board (insulated). Hang the combs with food only behind the follower board. Even if it has bees on it. (But no brood.) Bees will go behind the follower board and transfers the food into the broodnest. This way you create some sort of 'inhive nectar flow' plus you restrict the queen. Also bees are more crowded in the restricted broodnest, which means more warmth and combs get more brood from side to side, bottom to top.
Hint: You can best rate the queen during wintertime after they started brooding again. Do notes on how the queen do. It is my prime selection criteria for breeding queens. They have to winter with lots of bees, stores. Half of our honey is made during the early Spring. Mark the weaker and the stronger hives.
Hint: Keep an eye on winter stores. Once all the stores are eaten up, add more combs with winter stores on it. Some do variations on this. I for example, remove all combs except the brood+bee combs. I throw on the queen excluder right away, and install a package of fondant right above the winter cluster. This way, the bees are getting used to the upward direction, rather than the sideway direction. Also checks on winter stores are easier: pop up the lid, bag empty = new bag of fondant. Done.
(2) Mid to end March all the hives are equalized. The weaker hives receive capped brood combs from the strong hives. The strong hives receive open brood combs from the weaker hives. This way you push the weaker hives by adding capped brood that will emerge soon and does not need to be nursed. Nursing larvae is costly. The strong hives are not weakened by donating the brood, because they get open brood as replacement. The strong hives are strong enough to nurse the open brood.
I do a lot of requeening at that time, as Brother Adams advised. All duds get a new queen. I winter many replacement queens in Warré hives. The good queens are taken to the wintering yard, the weak queens are taken out, good queen in cage and candy plug is inserted straight away. The weak queen is taken home to the hive that donated the strong queen. Weak queens still are useful to produce some brood for further use.
It is important to equalize the production hives, so all following manipulations are the same for all hives. You better have a raised average instead of few good ones, and many weak hives. So much easier to manage the yards if the hives are all the same.
Give more combs. In case you have a weak hive, no more combs are given. Is it strong and running low on winter stores, add a comb of winter food. Is it strong and able to build new combs, cut off the half of the last comb before the follower board. Bees will draw drone comb on the lower half of that cut comb. The strongest hives get a drone frame. Frame with starter strip. Right before the follower board. Repeat with every inspection: if all combs have eggs: add another frame+foundation between drone comb and broodnest. Repeat until 7 combs in total are reached. Do not add no more. Add one more, you get swarm fever. You find a full pollen comb: chuck it out. Reduce number of combs.
Rule of thumb: rather than expanding the broodnest, better expand the honey supers!
(3) Add honey supers as the nectar flow hits. Not too early, not too late. As said I have the fondant bag in that super. Once I see nectar coming in, I throw out the fondant, and add drawn honey combs. First super has no foundation. Just drawn honey combs. (Before wintering you can let some of the honey combs be drawn in the brood chamber, behind the follower board. In summer. Remove before winter feeding.)
All the young bees want to draw fresh comb. Give enough foundation in the supers to let them do their thing. In the supers! Fresh combs really satisfies them. Much less swarming. Also Buckfast bees are known to love to store honey in fresh combs (unlike the Carnica bees). Thus the foundation at the top will draw the honey up into the supers, preventing the backflooding of the broodnest with nectar very sufficiently.
(4) Start your queen production very early in the season. Produce young queens! Replace 70-80 % of all your hives with young queens as soon as possible = no swarming tendency anymore. By doing this, you can skip swarm controls.
(5) Before a particular flow starts, I go through all the hives. Open the lid, remove the one super that I leave on after extracting, push combs apart in the middle of the nest: take out one center comb. I find a dud, I will place a split right in the middle of that hive. Bees, brood and a young queen will solve almost all problems. Troubleshooting is the most time consuming thing in beekeeping, so I completely stopped fixing things. If there is an issue, I take a split and push it into the trouble maker. Fixed.
For this I move the combs to the left and right, leaving a gap in between for three to five combs of the split. Old queen removed. Split inserted, done. Of course you need a special yard that is designated for split production only. Always have enough splits and heaps of queens at hand. I run 60 hives for split production all the time. Hives have 12 combs. Take out three to five combs and the queen for a rescue split. Replace with foundation and a young queen from a mating nuc. Feed!
I don't do any swarm controls anymore. Just before the next flow starts one short inspection. It has brood, eggs, queen and all combs have brood: supers are given. I find a hive that somehow struggles: swarm cells, no queen, not all combs having brood, lots of pollen and so on: split inserted. Supers given. Done. You get a lot of honey of those hives that have splits inserted. Just do it right before the next flow hits.
Lots of brood, nectar, pollen and a young queen.
Hive in trouble: make a gap
Three combs of capped brood: 15,000 bees emerging soon. 3-6,000 adult bees already on the combs. That boosts the hive and no honey is lost. Productivity is secured.
(6) End of season I remove all brood from the production hives except one comb of brood. Rest is filled up with foundation. (12 combs.) Feed and treat. Old queen thus has one comb of open brood and all foragers. All failing old queens are replaced with splits. (I know it starts to get boring to have only one answer to all the problems in beekeeping. )
Brood combs are distributed to other apiaries to make new splits with young queens, making a lot of spare hives. Three combs per split. Fill with foundation, feed and treat. Alternatively, if you don't want to increase or sell splits, you can pool the brood, add queen pheromones, let it emerge, treating during hatching, make package bees, or add the treated bees back to strengthen weaker wintering hives.
(7) End of summer, when you break up all your mating nucs, you remove 2 brood combs and 2 honey combs from each hive, making one new hive from two hives. Add the spare queens. All hives are wintered on 8 combs then. Feed the last time of the year after that. So all bees can settle for winter. Winter strong hives only.
To reduce the material used, I use divider boards to make 2 splits per hive/brood chamber. More or less this is the very first step into 2 queen hives. Winter two colonies in one brood chamber. In Spring you use the good queens/colonies in one brood chamber only. Run the weaker queens as 2 queen colonies. This is easy, just put two colonies divided in one brood chamber, let them settle for some weeks. Add a queen excluder and a honey super, preferably wet with honey, to start the 2 queen colony. It produces at least the same amount of honey as your strongest single queen hive. Extra queens can be pulled to start mating nucs or for starting new splits. (I start all hives, including mating nuts and splits with mated and laying queens. Once the broodnest is stabilized, queen is pulled and ripe queen cell given.)
Do run 2 queen hives with four combs per queen, no more. You add more combs, you get swarm fever. I fill the rest of the space with double frame feeders.
Making a two queen hive from weaker colonies at Springtime.
Hive body and floor is divided by a divider board.
It makes two chambers of one brood chamber.
Notice the divider board extends above the top of the box. Thus the inner lid will be closed tight enough to keep the queens separately.
There is one slat in the bottom, with a groove that holds the divider board in place. It also keeps the 2 queens away from each other, which would pass through the bottom to fight the other queen. Note that the slat extends out of the entrance. Queens do run a little outside to reach the other broodnest.
Frame feeders, double frame size.
One could make three compartments out of one brood box (four frames x 3 = 12 frames) – but I found it a bit fiddly to prevent the queens from running over to the other broodnest. The feeders keep them apart very well. Also you have some space to move frames a little.
Ready to receive splits. One food comb, one frame+foundation per compartment. Now insert two brood combs and a queen.
Dadant System of Beekeeping
C. P. Dadant => Son of Charles Dadant
You will find interesting hints there. What you can do with a Brother Adam hive (12 frame Dadant) you can't really do with any other hive. Of course you can improvise here and there, but that never will lead to the results, the Dadant hive delivers: Least work, best results.