Walt Wright Swarm Control - Page 2
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  1. #21
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    understood grins. i believe '96 or so was when walt first began his efforts to find a more productive system than what the double deep was giving him.

    my comments above are more representative of where walt arrived after a few years of tinkering and fine tuning.

    in the end, he had settled on wintering with an empty shallow 'pollen box' on the bottom of the stack, then a deep, then 2 shallow supers over the deep. he fed if necessary to ensure the deep and 2 shallow supers over it were plugged out with stores.

    in late february, he brought up the empty shallow pollen box and checkerboarded it with the second shallow super above the deep, leaving the first shallow super completely full of honey.

    after this he left the hives alone, until a little later in the spring at which time he moved a shallow super of brood back down to the bottom of the stack to become a pollen box again.

    this is an accurate description the checkerboarding method that walt wright describes in the manuscript linked above, and what he was discussing in the years leading up to his passing.

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  3. #22
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    Quote Originally Posted by Grins View Post

    As to the bees leaving the feed band intact while still moving into the MC shim- it's been my understanding that bees much prefer their own food stores over my sugar, whether it's in the form of MC, blocks, or syrup. Perhaps I need to revise this. I think my clusters are just under the MC sugar, perhaps the top of the cluster are the bees I see in the sugar. My more thrifty colonies are leaving the top of the MC sugar intact as they feed underneath. We do get a bit chilly here in Montana and my short history as a beekeeper has shown me clusters move up to the sugar leaving the (colder?) outer frames filled with honey alone. I have deep frames full of honey that could be 3 years old.
    Grins,

    I have 5 hives with sugar bricks on the top frames inside a feeding shim. All of the hives still have honey available. Four of the colonies set up the cluster toward the sunnier side of the hives. They will come nibble on the sugar when temps are warmer.

    However, one of colonies moved the cluster directly under the sugar brick soon after it was put on. They are still there. My theory is that they can use the sugar as a ceiling, trapping a bit more heat in the cluster. It also makes the sugar warmer for consumption. As you pointed out, it may be that the warmer sugar is just more convenient for the bees.

  4. #23
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    My Understanding is that the timing of the checkerboarding is critical. It has to be done weeks before the flow starts. Growing Degree Days of 50 or less or XX weeks before apples bloom, etc. This timing and the checkerboarding are both important because if you have feeding shims on when the timing hits, the bees look up and see solid food and it is OK to swarm. But, if you take your feeding shims off at the right time but only put supers on, the bees may starve before the flow starts. You need to have broken food stores, early in the season/late winter for it to work.

  5. #24
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    understood grins. i believe '96 or so was when walt first began his efforts to find a more productive system than what the double deep was giving him.

    my comments above are more representative of where walt arrived after a few years of tinkering and fine tuning.

    in the end, he had settled on wintering with an empty shallow 'pollen box' on the bottom of the stack, then a deep, then 2 shallow supers over the deep. he fed if necessary to ensure the deep and 2 shallow supers over it were plugged out with stores.

    in late february, he brought up the empty shallow pollen box and checkerboarded it with the second shallow super above the deep, leaving the first shallow super completely full of honey.

    after this he left the hives alone, until a little later in the spring at which time he moved a shallow super of brood back down to the bottom of the stack to become a pollen box again.

    this is an accurate description the checkerboarding method that walt wright describes in the manuscript linked above, and what he was discussing in the years leading up to his passing.
    Thanks for your help, Squarepeg. I have a ways to go and every bit helps.

    Lee
    5 Production colonies, 1 side by side 5 frame nuc for support- 7 working queens is all I want.

  6. #25
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    Quote Originally Posted by abrando1 View Post
    My Understanding is that the timing of the checkerboarding is critical. It has to be done weeks before the flow starts. Growing Degree Days of 50 or less or XX weeks before apples bloom, etc. This timing and the checkerboarding are both important because if you have feeding shims on when the timing hits, the bees look up and see solid food and it is OK to swarm. But, if you take your feeding shims off at the right time but only put supers on, the bees may starve before the flow starts. You need to have broken food stores, early in the season/late winter for it to work.
    Yeah, I can see that as a concern but there is probably 60 lbs of honey they can use on side frames. That time of year the cluster is able to move around frequently. It does seem the earlier the better to give the bees time to accept the new space. At this point I'm not thinking checkerboarding because here in Montana the nest will be in the upper box. To checkerboard I'd have to reverse boxes and like Dudelt I tend to think space beneath the nest is most easily utilized by bees since that's where they find it in nature.
    5 Production colonies, 1 side by side 5 frame nuc for support- 7 working queens is all I want.

  7. #26
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    Quote Originally Posted by clong View Post
    Grins,

    I have 5 hives with sugar bricks on the top frames inside a feeding shim. All of the hives still have honey available. Four of the colonies set up the cluster toward the sunnier side of the hives. They will come nibble on the sugar when temps are warmer.

    However, one of colonies moved the cluster directly under the sugar brick soon after it was put on. They are still there. My theory is that they can use the sugar as a ceiling, trapping a bit more heat in the cluster. It also makes the sugar warmer for consumption. As you pointed out, it may be that the warmer sugar is just more convenient for the bees.
    I think you're right, the cluster would seek warmth and the top is where the warmth is.
    5 Production colonies, 1 side by side 5 frame nuc for support- 7 working queens is all I want.

  8. #27
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    Quote Originally Posted by Grins View Post
    Thanks for your help, Squarepeg.
    you are very welcome lee, i'm happy to share what i can. i have some thoughts about what you might try when the time comes based on a few double deeps i have checkerboarded in the past.

  9. #28
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    I like to keep my bees brooding constantly upwards in the brood nest (and I trick them into keeping it up by moving empty boxes from below to the upper position as soon as they moved the brood out of a lower one.) I have observed in other people's hives that once they start to brood in a downward direction, backfilling above themselves with a honey cap, that means they are on their way out on a swarm path. I try to avoid that honey cap formation at all costs when they are still likely to swarm. Later on ,once the early summer flow begin in earnest, then I am will allow them to start filling and capping supers. But by then they are quite past what Walt called the reproductive swarm cut-off.
    i believe this is the key to it nancy.

    i have referred to the diagram on page 40 in walt's manuscript in the thread containing the link to it. this diagram shows clear polished cells made ready for the queen to lay in between the very top of the broodnest and food stores above. as long as one sees this the colony has not yet entered pre-swarm mode.

    the first signs of turning the corner from intensive build up to swarm preparation are the loss of that band of open cells, the backfilling of emerged brood cells with nectar starting at the top of the nest, and the failure for the queen to lay in frames of empty comb added after checkerboarding that have been placed in the middle of the broodnest. in time the backfilling is seen lower in the nest and swarm cells are not not far behind.

    in my opinion the genius of checkerboarding frames of empty comb and frames of honey above the broodnest during the spring build up is that it creates the ideal condition for the bees to expand the broodnest upward.

    this upward expansion is what they already naturally set themselves up to do by provisioning honey up toward the top of their cavity. coming out of winter they 'eat' their way up into that stored honey and replace the emptied comb with brood.

    it makes sense that they would do it this way, taking advantage of the rising heat to help keep the brood warm, and taking advantage of the rising moisture which is used to dilute honey for brood feed.

    if there is enough honey overhead, the bees may not eat all the way through to the top of it before nectar starts coming in heavy enough to meet the dietary needs of the colony without having to use last year's stored honey. that's likely when backfilling is started and swarm preps begin.

    in my opinion checkerboarding works as well as it does because it provides the perfect combination of empty comb for the queen to lay in along with readily available stores for brood food, all in the rising heat and moisture of the growing broodnest.

  10. #29
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    Default Re: swarm prevention question

    Quote Originally Posted by dudelt View Post
    I did not want to hijack the thread on "Walt Wrights Swarm Control" started by Grins so I started a new one with a related question.

    I have seen lots of posts where beekeepers put sugar blocks on their hives as soon as winter comes. My opinion is that this practice can lead to swarming issues in the spring. My reasoning for this is as follows. If a hive makes it to the spring swarm season with a hive still loaded with capped honey, it immediately puts a strain on the amount of empty comb available for the queen to lay. Any good nectar flow will quickly fill in all of the empty comb in the hive. That shortage of space appears to be a major trigger for swarming. Providing sugar blocks all winter long keeps the bees from reducing the amount of capped honey in the hive. If on the other hand you allow the honey stores to get significantly depleted before the swarm season comes, the queen is given plenty of room to lay, larger bee populations, and there is way more space for the bees to put nectar when the spring flows begin. My theory is that the chances of swarming should be reduced significantly by not adding sugar block until they are actually needed. I am certainly not suggesting that the hive should be allowed to get critically low on stores but there needs to be a "cleaning out" of the old honey and the creation of space for the spring build up. Is it not better to wait until the hive actually needs the sugar block rather than on a "just in case" basis? I would appreciate any thoughts on this matter.
    DudeIt,
    It is interesting that thread is based on a thread about Walt Wrights Swarm Control.
    The instinct of bees to throw a reproductive swarm is tied up with the size of the hive which controls how much honey they can store for winter survival and how much brood they can rear. Adding a deep with empty comb below the nest in the spring probably changes the brood rearing calculation and delays swarm prep until after the cutoff data.

    Going back to WW's actual theories, he defined the stages of swarm preparation as:
    1. Building broodnest volume up to the bottom of the honey reserve. (Honey reserve is what the hive needs as the minimum resource to safely rebuild the hive after a reproductive swarm.)
    2. Midway to this goal, drone rearing is started to support the mating season.
    3. When the bottom of the honey reserve is reached, the upper broodnest volume is backfilled with nectar as brood emerges.
    - This frees up young bees nursing duties to support swarm needs,
    - starts storage of next year’s food for the parent colony,
    - and corrects the temporary expansion back to being proportional to the cavity. (This also causes crowded conditions which is a pre-condition of swarming not a cause.)
    4. When the broodnest is sufficiently reduced, the commitment is made to swarm by starting queen cells. (The reduced broodnest lowers the pressure on the honey reserve.)

    Walt found that checkerboarding broke the honey reserve but left the resources for the bees to continue broodnest expansion. He did this before 2 months before the start of main flow. Without being able to see a top to the honey reserve, the bees can not know where the bottom is. So they can't start backfilling the empty broodnest with nectar and must keep gathering nectar. If more supers are added to the top through the main flow, the bees will have to continue adding nectar until it is too late for reproductive swarming.

    Walt also recognized the bees instinct for a broodnest in a deep.
    He used one deep for the broodnest which he never disturbed and shallows for all his supers. During the spring build up, he took one of the supers with broodnest and moved it beneath the deep. While maintaining an uninterrupted broodnest comb, it caused the hive to build a pollen reserve. The colony’s instinctive preference for locating the broodnest in a deep took over and the shallow was backfilled with long-term pollen (bee bread) as the brood emerged. This pollen was then used in the fall for winter broodnest expansion to rear young wintering bees. Walt found it reduced winter losses and resulted in a consistent cluster size in February. (Natural food is always better.)
    In the spring, this empty drawn comb was used for the first 2 layers of checkerboard.

  11. #30
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    Default Re: swarm prevention question

    Quote Originally Posted by AzaleaHill View Post
    Without being able to see a top to the honey reserve, the bees can not know where the bottom is. So they can't start backfilling the empty broodnest with nectar and must keep gathering nectar.
    AzaleaHill:

    I appreciated this word picture- it is a helpful analogy.

    Russ

  12. #31
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    Quote Originally Posted by enjambres View Post
    In my stacks, recall that I have a pollen box underneath the lowest (not-occupied at the time) brood box, the box with active brood in it is in the middle position, with new, reversed "brood expansion" box in the the warmest position on top.
    Nancy:

    Just wanted to comment that I am always impressed with how much time and detail you invest in your replies. You are a real wealth of knowledge and generous with it too- thank you for that.

    I am also intrigued by your use of the pollen box- your description above of the relative temperature benefit of such an approach adds another layer to the 'pros' of this management technique.

    Thanks again for all your help and good advice.

    Russ

  13. #32
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    Quote Originally Posted by squarepeg View Post
    it's interesting that you found adding drawn comb at the bottom is helpful.
    Dudelt:

    I also found this observation interesting- I am still deliberating, but I am considering adding an empty drawn box to the bottom of a colony stack this Spring and observe the result. Thanks for sharing your experience with this.

    Russ

  14. #33
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    azaleahill and litsinger, i took the liberty to move your posts to this thread as the comments are more on the topic of walt wright's methods.

    i'll return to share the back and forth walt and i had about the so called 'honey reserve'.

  15. #34
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    This is a fascinating thread. I’ll confess I find Walt’s writing a bit hard to absorb, but I’m getting a much better idea about his management methods from this thread. Thanks to everyone who contributes.
    Do you think a medium under a deep will get used as a pollen box? I have lots of mediums and no shallows. Could I run a deep brood box and manipulate mediums above and below it?
    Megan Hughes

  16. #35
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    Quote Originally Posted by Meghues View Post
    This is a fascinating thread. I’ll confess I find Walt’s writing a bit hard to absorb, but I’m getting a much better idea about his management methods from this thread. Thanks to everyone who contributes.
    Do you think a medium under a deep will get used as a pollen box? I have lots of mediums and no shallows. Could I run a deep brood box and manipulate mediums above and below it?
    Megan Hughes
    Yes you could Megan. I know a few beekeepers who use only one deep and manipulate mediums above and below. My wife and I only use deeps but the bottom box is where our bees store the bulk majority of the beebread to over winter.
    Feeding early patties. https://youtu.be/bUDd3vk7bgY

  17. #36
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    Quote Originally Posted by Tennessee's Bees LLC View Post
    Yes you could Megan. I know a few beekeepers who use only one deep and manipulate mediums above and below. My wife and I only use deeps but the bottom box is where our bees store the bulk majority of the beebread to over winter.
    Good information, Kamon.

    Also- it's off-topic, but I am impressed with your mandolin work:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8-VLiG-UVg

  18. #37
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    1. As soon as the bees start bringing in the food they will replace the honey band. So if they don't want to move up pat it put a frame of brood up there and the nurse bees will follow it up. So just checkerboard with one or two frames of brood and watch the bees respond.
    2.Honey on frame 9 and 10 in the brood chamber. Bees much prefer to go up and down than sideways. So when you have a nice day move them next to the brood chamber and move those empties to the outside.

    I am certainly am not an expert and maybe reading into things but Walt seems to be saying see what the bees want to do and then use thier instincts to get them to do what you want them to do insted of fighting with thier instents.

  19. #38
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    Default Re: Walt Wright Swarm Control

    Quote Originally Posted by Litsinger View Post
    Good information, Kamon.

    Also- it's off-topic, but I am impressed with your mandolin work:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8-VLiG-UVg
    Aw shucks, thanks. When I was a kid my family played gospel and bluegrass all the time. It was great, but the bees took over most of my bluegrass picking.
    Feeding early patties. https://youtu.be/bUDd3vk7bgY

  20. #39
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Tennessee's Bees LLC View Post
    It was great, but the bees took over most of my bluegrass picking.
    I imagine you are not the first (nor the last) to make the statement that, ... the bees took over most of my _______."

    It looks like you all have quite an operation going on and that you have a good handle on implementing the nectar management method.
    Ecclesiastes 11:4

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