Suggestions for managing singles for honey production
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  1. #1
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    Default Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    For those not interested in reading a long first post, the essence of the question is:

    Do you have any suggestions for managing singles for honey production without the use of an excluder?

    Longer post to follow, explaining further

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    History
    In the past, I've always operated my hives as single 10 frame deeps going into winter. Come spring, I threw a deep box of comb/foundation above and let them grow into doubles, with supers on top. The top deep was usually 60-90% full of honey by the time supers came off. No need for excluders. When supers came off, and right before the dearth, I'd then split the double deep into two hives of comparable strength, introduce cells, and give them through fall to adjust their colony size going into winter. And repeat.

    It's a system that works fairly well. I've found (in my latitude) that doubles seem to fair winter about as well as singles, provided enough stores exist. The growth to doubles adds a swarm prevention mechanism, while giving me a chance to rotate old brood combs. The splits give me a chance to replenish losses, and round we go. Only issue is I end up with a deep box almost full of honey for about half the hives. It makes for some heavy boxes when I make splits, but such is life. I don't extract deeps (too much trouble for me) so I just use it for splits. Each split ends up usually getting 4-6 frames of brood, 4-6 frames of honey, and shooting for 8 frames of bees. It's a little more honey than I'd like for a split, but working with what I have. When the dearth sets in, the bees eat all the honey in the hives (whether I leave 2 frames of honey or 7). The goal is to make sure they don't starve until goldenrod, but don't eat you out of house and home in the meantime. The more they eat, the more they brood up, giving you larger populations in a dearth that you don't really need. Occasionally it can lead to more varroa and robbing issues, if you don't stay on it.

    Revelation
    Last year I was reading Randy Oliver's "Understanding Colony Buildup and Decline" series and a number of revelations occurred. First, in Part 12 (http://scientificbeekeeping.com/unde...cline-part-12/) Randy explains how colonies actually prefer a 10 frame deep in population size, where hives with larger than 10 frame colonies decreased in size over winter while hives with smaller than 10 frame colonies actually increased in size over winter. Second, in Part 4 (http://scientificbeekeeping.com/unde...ecline-part-4/) Randy shows how a queen, laying at maximum rate, can really only cover 6 deep frames 70% full of brood. Lastly, in Seeley's Honeybee Democracy, he shows how swarms prefer a 40 liter colony size (roughly the size of a deep), while his recent work shows colonies prefer a 40 liter colony size (and are healthier for it).

    This information led me to believe that my colonies probably didn't need to expand to double deeps. The queen is only laying in 6 deep frames, maximum, anyway. So there really wasn't a need to get them to expand to a double only to have them fill most of the second deep with honey I don't extract.

    So starting in 2017 I was looking more into managing colonies as singles throughout the year. I don't like to have queens laying in honey supers (ends up causing all kinds of SHB and wax moth issues), which required me to start using excluders a little more than I had in the past. Before 2016, if I had a hive that was chimney-ing, I'd throw on an excluder to force the broodnest to stay in one area. But otherwise I didn't use excluders much. But in 2017 I was reminded that the queen doesn't always want to expand horizontally, and if a super is above she'll make the move. So most of my hives in 2017 I ran with excluders. When supers came off, I still equalized my hives through splits, and I ended up with just about as many splits in 2017 as I did in 2016.

    I've always heard the saying "queen excluders are really honey excluders" but never really put much stock in it. Until recently. This year I drove 4 hours west to put 6 hives in the mountains for sourwood honey. I don't have the opportunity to check on them very often, so I have to set them up and let them go for a month or so. I took all 6 singles, of comparable strength, and put 3 drawn supers on each one (I knew I wouldn't get that much sourwood honey, but a man can dream right?). As a thought experiment, for 3 hives I put all 3 supers above the excluders (the "3 above" group"), and for 3 hives I put one super below the excluder and two above it (the "2 above" group"). When I came back a month later, I found the sourwood flow wasn't too good this year, but the results of my mini experiment were remarkable. One hive of the "2 above" group died out from a queen failure issue. The other two hives of the "2 above" group had a super of sourwood honey each . . . from the bottom super. They filled the super below the excluder and then stopped (with the exception of a few cells of open nectar stored in the center frames above the excluder). On the "3 above" group, not a single super of extractable honey existed. One hive had a few cells of uncapped honey in the center patch, but that was it. All of the "3 above" hives packed the deep with honey, but didn't put any of it above the excluder. Suddenly I realized queen excluders really are honey excluders. Quite a revelation for me.

    So I've come to realize:
    A) Managing singles for honey production is better than managing doubles.
    B) Queen excluders really are honey excluders.

    Question
    A long time coming, but here's my question. If I'm operating mostly singles, and I don't want to use queen excluders, and I want to keep the queen out of the supers, what management techiques and tricks can you offer to help me maximize honey yields? It seems to me whenever I operate singles WITHOUT an excluder, the queen gladly just moves up and starts laying. If I use a queen excluder, I'm limiting the honey yield. If I pack another deep on top of the single and let the queen move up I'm reducing my honey yield.

    Any suggestions?

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Specialk.....
    I am really to new to help but thought I would tell you that this post and one you did in another thread really interested me. I really like the threads that say this is what I do and it causes this. So I can't help you but find your stuff helps me.
    Cheers
    gww
    zone 5b

  5. #4
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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Thanks for the kind words, and happy to help

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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    I'm all ears too. This is exactly what I want to learn more about.
    Somebody forgot to give my bees a copy of the book.
    Zone 6B

  7. #6
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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    I think the OP has painted himself into a corner. If you choose to believe that queen excluders are honey excluders then there isn't much I can suggest. The only thing that is going to stop a stimulated queen from moving up out of a single deep, aside from an excluder, is a lid. FWIW I think Randy is a little low on the 7 frames of brood, I'd add about 2 to 3 frames to that total if you are talking stick to stick patterns. In a double you don't often see her laying on more than about 12 frames and a few of those are usually parts. Ian uses a different approach, he lets the queen move up into a medium before the flow then blows the bees back down under the excluder into a single prior to the main flow.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  8. #7
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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Good read spec!

  9. #8
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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    I think the OP has painted himself into a corner. If you choose to believe that queen excluders are honey excluders then there isn't much I can suggest.
    I may be chasing a fantasy.

    I never previously believed queen excluders are honey excluders. Never much noticed a difference, although I never did a side by side comparison. In the past, some hives got queen excluders, some didn't, and my notes never showed one beating another in honey production. But my 6 hive "mini trial" clearly showed to me the disadvantage of queen excluders on single hives.

    Now, there may be some things about my "mini trial" that are not accurate:
    - It could be it was a fluke - it's 6 hives after all, and one hive died out.
    - It could be the queen excluder I used - I've heard others say the woodbound excluders are horrible.
    - It could be that I didn't bait the supers.
    - It could be that it was a second flow for those hives - the main flow ended a month earlier, then the bees were moved there, thus they weren't collecting nectar right after their typical "I'm going crazy post-swarm" mode.

    Or maybe it isn't any of the above, and the "mini trial" results were just that. I don't know.

    If there's a way to do singles without excluders, I'm all ears. If not, maybe I'm chasing a ghost (I'm also all ears to a study showing how queen excluders aren't honey excluders . . . I'm not trying to draw conclusions here, just gather facts and grow).

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    FWIW I think Randy is a little low on the 7 frames of brood, I'd add about 2 to 3 frames to that total if you are talking stick to stick patterns.
    Care to trade math? I'm curious why you believe Randy low balled it.

    According to Randy's math, a deep frame holds 6960 cells. A queen that lays 1,500 eggs per day will lay 30,000 eggs in 20 days. That amounts to 4.3 frames of brood at 100% filled, or 6.15 frames at 70% filled. Or if you'd prefer a 2,300 eggs per day, that would make 46,000 eggs in 20 days, which is 6.6 frames at 100% or 9.4 frames at 70%. I'd love queens that lay 2,300 eggs per day (and 100% make it to emergence) but my queens don't quite produce like that.

    Nolan and Harris, the two individuals Randy cited, actually measured that queens top out at 16,000 cells of sealed brood at a time, which accounting for eggs and larvae, would amount to 4.25 frames at 100%.

    So what math are you disagreeing with? The eggs per day of the queen?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Ian uses a different approach, he lets the queen move up into a medium before the flow then blows the bees back down under the excluder into a single prior to the main flow.
    I've considered this, and may be the only option I have, but would prefer to avoid it (and the resulting SHB/Wax moth issues that come with it) if possible.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    I will sound like Mr. Lyon. I can not give you any help on how NOT to use an excluder. Remember, the bees need a reason to cross an excluder, and if not given one, may be reluctant to do so

    Crazy Roland

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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Heck, I'm not that scientific spec. About the only math i can disagree with is the egg laying rate. I just know I've split lots of big broody doubles in the spring and if you are making them up with 3 combs of brood then we like to refer to the big ones as 3 to 1's because thats about what you can make up out of them. Of course you often see brood on a lot more frames than that but they are usually small patches. I run both doubles and excluded singles and I'm convinced the double will produce a bit more brood, perhaps mainly because the queen dosent have to hunt for empty cells. Hey, we had a guy that used to post on here that claimed something like 30 frames of brood in a 3 high deep. LOL
    As far as excluder use is concerned, if two factors are present they are most definitely not honey excluders. First is a strong single full of brood and bees and secondly a strong honey flow. You must have both, 1 out of 2 isn't good enough. Actually weak bees in an excluded single in a strong flow can be a real problem because they tend to just pack all the honey in down below leaving the queen virtually no place to lay. A third factor which is always a good idea is at least some drawn comb above the excluder, it takes quite a flow to get bees to move through an excluder to draw foundation. Once you have a large established hive that is storing honey above in a strong flow I like to just set the lids back on and not concern myself with sealing it down. If there is an upper entrance or even a crack for ventilation the bees will most definitely take advantage of it, just don't do that when you put the first super on if there is any danger of robbers moving in before the hive can occupy it.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  12. #11
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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Care to trade math? I'm curious why you believe Randy low balled it.
    I've inspected plenty of colonies with more than 6 frames of brood over the years. The best queen I ever had filled 14 langstroth frames and had patches of brood on 4 more frames. Jim can tell you that most queens will lay about 5000 cells in a frame that holds 7100 which suggests my best queen was supporting about 76,000 cells of brood. Fast forward to this year and I had 3 colonies that filled 10 Dadant frames with brood. I equate that with 7,000 cells of brood in a frame that holds 9000 given that the corners and a band at the top were honey and pollen. That equals 70,000 cells of brood.

    For what it is worth, I spent 47 years mismanaging queen excluders. There are two requirements to get the bees to work above an excluder. They need an upper entrance and they need bait to get them through the excluder in the first place. The only bait that is 100% effective is a frame of brood moved into a super. I found out this year that I could put a shallow frame of sealed brood above the excluder and the rest of the frames foundation or drawn comb. So long as the hive was strong and the flow was on, the bees would store honey above the excluder using the upper entrance heavily. Also worth considering, Brother Adam worked with bees a lot longer than I have. He came to the conclusion excluders are necessary if top quality honey is to be produced in the supers. My suggestion is to learn to manage excluders.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

  13. #12
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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    I will generally agree with Dar here though I've found last years extracted combs to work just fine as bait combs providing you meet my previous criteria. Top entrances are, of course, great but I do think its condition dependent as there may be inherent robbing dangers giving that entrance at the time the first box is put on.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Yes, use a bunch of little nucs to provide all the field foragers into each production
    hive. Time it right to harvest the honey. <-- Tried this one with good honey harvest on a short flow.
    Option 2) Combine 2 hives in a 2 queen vertical divider set up. Have them share one super on
    top. <-- Have not try this one yet.
    Don't mix foreign bees into a virgin hive. She might get balled 100% of the time! When will you ever learn, huh?

  15. #14
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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    Heck, I'm not that scientific spec. About the only math i can disagree with is the egg laying rate.
    Randy's article was originally published in May of 2015. I do splits at the end of June every year. When I first read the article I thought to myself "there's no way I should only be seeing 6 frames of bees." If memory served me right, I had dinks that had 4 frames of brood by end of July, and monsters that had 12-16. Memory doesn't always serve me though.

    So in 2015 when I did splits, I counted. And I'll be darned if most weren't hovering around 6 frames of brood. Some were dinks and had 4. Some were producers and had 8. A few had more than that. But most hovered around 6. "Hmmmm" I thought. "That's not right." It couldn't be. The 10 years previous to that I had remembered so much more brood. It must have been a bad year. So I checked again in 2016, and they had the same amount of brood. "Maybe there's something to Randy's math and all those articles he cited to that say the same thing . . . " But I wasn't convinced. I checked again last June, and the numbers were the same. "Holy crap . . ." I thought.

    I didn't write them down, which may have been a fallacy.

    Now I was paying attention. And all scientific articles and studies I've been seeing are saying queens are laying 1,200 to 1,800 eggs a day. At EAS this year Frazier counted the cells from ordered queens, and most were hovering around 1,500 eggs a day (if the queens were good). All the math and science points in the same direction.

    Not proof. But a strong voice pointing in a particular direction.

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    As far as excluder use is concerned, if two factors are present they are most definitely not honey excluders. First is a strong single full of brood and bees and secondly a strong honey flow.
    Which may account for a potential "false positive" in my "mini study."

    My normal honey flow (Tulip Poplar) is a very strong flow. I never noticed an issue with excluders on my normal flow. The "mini study" had hives on a weak flow (Sourwood). While the hives were booming in size (at least one swarmed while I was away), and excluders were baited with wet supers, the flow was not strong this year.

    So what suggestion do you have, as an aside question, when you DON'T have a strong flow?
    Last edited by Specialkayme; 08-22-2017 at 05:25 AM.

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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    I've inspected plenty of colonies with more than 6 frames of brood over the years.
    You may misunderstand what I'm implying, or what Randy's implying.

    I've seen hives with significantly more than 6 frames of brood over the years. But it isn't normal, it isn't average, and it isn't sustainable.

    I can find a queen that can lay 2,300 eggs a day (and you know I'll graft from her too). But it isn't reasonable to estimate over several dozen or several hundred hives that 2,300 eggs a day will be my average for ALL queens.

    Gangbusters and dinks occur. You deal with them separately. But you plan for your average. Which all the research, studies, science, and my own observations say is between 1,500 and 2,000 eggs a day on average.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    The best queen I ever had filled 14 langstroth frames and had patches of brood on 4 more frames. Jim can tell you that most queens will lay about 5000 cells in a frame that holds 7100 which suggests my best queen was supporting about 76,000 cells of brood.
    Are you sure it was a single queen, and not a double queen hive? Or a queen that was in the middle of being superseded and had a daughter queen laying side by side for 2-3 weeks? Recent studies say that occurs in about 10% of hives in any given year, although I've never verified it myself.

    If there were two queens, that would mean they were laying 1,900 eggs per day, which sound about right. If there was only one queen, that would make for 3,800 eggs per day which, without seeing anything to back that up, I'm going to have to call it a rumor. I have the upmost respect for you, and I have no intention of disrespecting you, but if 3,800 eggs per day were maintained the colony size should have exceeded 120,000 bees, which to me sounds like a white whale.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    The only bait that is 100% effective is a frame of brood moved into a super.
    Interesting. I've never heard that before.

    Assuming someone is working all deeps for broodnest, how do you get a frame of brood moved up into a super? Put a shallow frame in the broodnest in winter and cut off the excess comb when you move it above the super? Do you do that to a "dedicated" frame to avoid having the queen lay in a larger percentage of your honey frames?

  17. #16
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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Are you sure it was a single queen, and not a double queen hive?
    It was intriguing enough that I went through the hive very carefully and found the Buckfast queen. She was the only queen.

    Put a shallow frame in the broodnest in winter and cut off the excess comb when you move it above the super?
    Bingo! Having a half frame of drone brood in the hive significantly reduces reworking cells into drone size.
    NW Alabama, 50 years, 20 colonies and growing, sideliner, treatment free since 2005, 14 frame square Dadant broodnest

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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Quote Originally Posted by Specialkayme View Post

    So what suggestion do you have, as an aside question, when you DON'T have a strong flow?
    Cant help you with that one either other than to say if its a strong hive the hive probably isn't going to let the queen get "honey bound" and will eventually begin to work above the excluder to some extent. Again one of the biggest dangers of excluders, and I think a mistake made by inexperienced beekeepers, is to throw an excluder on a small hive particularly with a lot of foundation above it, perhaps because thats what their high dollar starter kit came with. When managed like that the brood nest will quite likely get honey bound and a nice flow will result in a deep box mostly full of honey with little room for brood and a hive that is destined to failure.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    I would say 1,500 eggs a day is typical. Dzierzon, whose statements were always been based on actual observation, says:

    "As the queen is capable of adapting the sex of the eggs to the cells, so she is also able to adapt the number of eggs to the requirements of the stock, and to circumstances in general. When a colony is weak and the weather cool and unfavourable she only lays a few hundred eggs daily; but in populous colonies, and when pasture is plentiful, she deposits thousands. Under favourable circumstances a fertile queen lays as many as 3000 eggs a-day; of which any one may convince himself by simply putting a swarm into a hive with empty combs, or inserting empty combs in the brood-nest of a stock, and counting the eggs in the cells some days after."--Jan Dzierzon, Rational Bee-Keeping, 1882 English edition, Pg 18

    "We occasionally read in books on bees, or works on natural history, that the queen in her lifetime lays about 60,000 eggs. Such a statement is simply ridiculous; 600,000 to 1,000,000 would be somewhat nearer the truth; for most queens, in spacious hives and in a favourable season, lay 60,000 eggs in a month. The queen, as a rule, commences laying eggs in February, and continues until September, though not always at the same rate. An especially fertile queen in the four years, which on an average she lives, may thus lay over 1,000,000 eggs. The Author once had a queen fully five years old, which was still remarkably vigorous, and might have lived for another year or two if she had not been destroyed. It is, therefore, quite credible that the age of the queen occasionally extends to seven years, as we are assured by some bee-keepers who have made this observation; yet when we are told that in exceptional cases queens have continued alive for eleven to twelve years, the assertion probably rests on a delusion, or such a case is as rare as that of a man attaining the age of one hundred years or more. There is certainly a great difference among queens as regards fertility; the best mothers are those that lay a great number of eggs and deposit them in the cells regularly, neither laying two eggs in one cell nor missing a cell. With such a queen in the hive the brood is nicely arranged, and much of it hatches simultaneously, thus making it easy for the queen to repeat the operation of depositing eggs when the cells have been emptied. When such is the case the stock will be thriving, its well-being depending chiefly on the queen, who, as it were, is the soul of the hive."--Jan Dzierzon, Rational Bee-Keeping, 1882 English edition, Pg 18
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 42y 40h 39yTF

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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    Quote Originally Posted by Fusion_power View Post
    It was intriguing enough that I went through the hive very carefully and found the Buckfast queen. She was the only queen.
    Which proves you had one queen when you went through the hive, not during the 20 previous days (or longer) that would provide the greater brood area and hive size.

    But who knows.

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    Default Re: Suggestions for managing singles for honey production

    One would assume that the buckfast queen would have been marked and if this was the case if that colony had 2 queens the younger queen would remain and therefore should not be marked, just a thought.
    Johno

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