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Discussion Starter #1
Hi,

Tried checker boarding again this year on a hive and believe I got it right this time. Got it done late Feb (Pa) about 9-10 weeks before apple bloom. Had good stores and drawn comb to checker board and did so with 2 deeps AND 2 mediums over the brood nest! Yes, 4 total boxes check boarded over them.

So hive setup from bottom after CB was: M(cluster here)-DCB-DCB-MCB-MCB

(Oddly I could do this as the bees did not use a ton of stores over a pretty darn bad winter. Only difference was I tar paper wrapped the hive? Could this help increase the ambient hive temps enough for them to use that much less? Well something was up, they like must have been rationing or something!)

Checked on 4-9. They had good brood patterns in the bottom medium and the deep above that. Lots of brood in all stages, good number of bees. I added 2 med drawn supers at this time as I was going out of town.

Checked yesterday. Top 2 supers, have sign of some new wax on drawn frames and a few cells here and there w nectar.

3rd Medium down, has at least 3+ full frames of stores, some already being capped.

4th med down has some stores and pollen in outside frames and center frames have some brood in them, some capped, some larva, some eggs w typical band of stores at tops. Noted that in some of the missing brood cells, they are putting nectar. ***Found 2 half built queen cells on bottom of 1 frame in this box. They have "vanilla pudding" (aka royal jelly) in them soooooo, something is on!

From reading Walts stuff I remember him stating that with the fast buildup due to CB, they will often re-queen and that these supercedure cells are often at the bottoms of the frames "like" swarm cells.

Now seeing that this hive has 2 deeps and 1.5+ mediums full of brood, I could see that she might be "worn out" already and maybe they want to replace her.

However, what scares me is that they seem to be "back filling" some of the open brood cells with nectar. I did see some new wetted eggs in these open brood areas as well, but they are sure putting some nectar in these open brood cells as well especially in the lower boxes.

So, is my CB going to work or are they swarming in a about 2-3 weeks? I don't have enough experience to know, anybody educated guesses?

Next this has me thinking, if buildup or congestion can contribute to swarming, then why not time with CB'ings quick buildup, and either cage or kill or remove the queen just before or at the main flow or signs of queen cells to deter swarming but still allowing for a large population for the main flow that would only taper just before the summer dearth anyway?

This hive is 2X the size of any hive I have run. I would think that without a queen, they are not swarming without her, and instead focus on making a new queen and by the time she is ready in a month the "swarm cutoff" should be past quelling their desire to swarm, right? I'm sure folks have tried this, does it work?

Thanks,

MP
 

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Sounds like the checkerboarding worked. If you are not planning to split then it's time to "open the broodnest" to slow the urge to swarm.

We are in similar climates and this year the swarms seem to be at least 2 weeks later than "normal". We usually start getting swarm calls at the beginning of May. Haven't heard a peep yet. Should be very soon now. Keep an eye on your brood nest area and don't let them backfill.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Mike,

From my readings, I thought the whole purpose of checker boarding was to eliminate the need for the laborious "Opening of brood nest"?

Next, my brood nest "IS" open! Where the last batch of brood had emerged, there majority of the frame center cells are open areas, with just the remnant of still capped brood cells on the outskirts. You can't open the brood nest much more in this case.

So what this tells me is that and "open brood" nest is not the key in swarm prevention, if that is what they are going to do. They had TONS of room to expand (but downward), and a pretty much OPEN brood nest (at this point anyway) for her to keep laying.

My guess is that they decide to make swarm plans as soon as some type of an "upward" lay cycle is complete. She had lots of open brood comb to lay back at the bottom. It APPEARS to me that once they got to some upward point for brood, they decide that is enough and its time to make swarm plan since they reached their goal. And they had 3 more supers above that to keep going if they wished.

Now as I stated, the queen cells i found are only 2 right next to each other, on the bottom of the same frame, in the medium above 2 deeps and a medium that were full of brood. From what I gather most SWARM cells are on bottoms and in an "upper" honey super. Oh no.

Anybody have a take on stalling / removing / caging the queen to slow her down to prevent swarming?

I think the CB really aids in fast buildup which would get you high flow numbers, but then at just the right moment maybe a couple week before the flow, you stall her and I think they would change their mind about swarming. Especially if you remove her. Can you get swarms with newly hatched queens with the original queen removed?

Thanks,

MP
 

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In western PA, I have very poor information on your season timing. It's one of those east/west states that has several planting zones from end to end, and the mountain range for isolation in the middle.

You are seeing several of the fringe benefits of checkerboarding (CB) right now:
.. Automatic supersedure (2 SS cells)
.. Increased brood volume
.. Potential increased honey production
Why would you want to dabble with a superior system of management when it's working well? The easiest way to discredit the system is to add your own "improvements." We have seen many beekeepers, who can't believe that the extra strength is not going generate a swarm. So, they add some more shuffling of their own , and actually get a swarm. The result is reported as CB failure.

About backfilling: That's the bees standard broodnest reduction technique. In swarm preps, it serves several purposes:
A reservoir of open nectar cells for the swarm to take with them, and to stoke up the wax makers needed by the swarm.
Gets the broodnest back to proportional to cavity size and stores, after the temporary surge in brood volume to generate swarm bees.

A more gradual broodnest reduction, using the same technique of backfilling, starts at reproduction cut off. The colony that did not complete the requirements for swarm commit (starting swarm cells) starts brood nest reduction at a more leisurly pace - for the same reasons. The upshot of monitoring for backfilling is that you need to have a "feel" for when repro cut off occurs at your location. Here, repro c/o is about the beginning of apple blossom. Or two and a half weeks before the start of new wax of "main flow."

Walt
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Walt,

Maybe there is a bit of miss-communication here? In the start of this thread I eluded to "IF" they swarm. LOL. Since I'm just dabbling in CB'ing and the back-filling in this hive had me worried as it is engrained in my mind as only a SWARMING habit. I did not know that there would be a gradual back-fill as well in a CB'ed hive. It is only that right now, gradual, a little here and a little there. Now that you mention this, if they were going to be leaving in 1-2 weeks from the date of my inspection I would think that there would be LOTS MORE back filling for the leaving bees as you mentioned. I'll keep an eye on it.

The whole reason I'm trying the CB technique is that I have some odd sub conscious understanding that in theory it works. My first go around I did not set it up correctly nor at the right time, I was way too late. (as you pointed out)

The rest of my post was my brain just flowing with possibilities of why, IF they swarmed. Ha ha.

I do recall you said that the CB supercedure would "likely" take place. I see it as a benefit. What hive would not benefit from a fresh new queen every year that has GOOD LOCAL genetics to boot? (yes, in all my cases of buying queens or packages, these SOUTHERN HYGIENIC queens ALL had issues of failing to mate and all but one ended up queen-less! I have not had a SINGLE problem with feral swarms I caught locally, its got to be the genetics. They may not flick off mites like those others but at least they do everything else correct so I don't have to fix a bunch of laying worker hives!)

Anyway, here in Pittsburgh, the apple bloom this year was at the end of April, about the 21st I noted the first apple blooms. Our main flow usually starts the first week of May and it was about right on.

Now I'm not going to mess with them for a couple weeks as if they elongated those 2 bottom frame queen cells and stuck them to the tops of the frames below, I will tear them in half if I try to inspect. Actually, they are probably past that point by now.

Walt, how do you inspect without messing with a supercedure?

Next I will say that you are correct on these things, this hive is HUGE. As I said, 2 deeps and 2 mediums FULL of brood. They build up VERY fast with this method. The stores are coming in and I will check / super them even more if needed. I have never had Crazy good surplus where these hives are at, and the rains are not helping much, but we will see.

Thanks!

MP
 

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Mike,
From my readings, I thought the whole purpose of checker boarding was to eliminate the need for the laborious "Opening of brood nest"?
MP
Glad it worked for you. Checkerboarding works here for me too. Sometimes it ends up being a little later than I would like to do it because of the weather.

I also like to go into the broodnest and open it up during and after swarm season. To me it's not laborious, but simply part of my spring routine. It helps keep in check those colonies that seem to be more intent on swarming, and the best part for me is the beautiful brood combs I get from the empty frames inserted in the brood nest during the flow.

I know Walt considers this dabbling with the system, but it works for me.
 

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The first test season of the concepts, an outyard of 12 colonies was used. That outyard was surrounded by hundreds of acres of fallow fields - wintered well and swarmed well for the preceding couple years. Plenty fall weeds.

Checking weekly for swarm cells, we fractured SS cells on 5 of the twelve. two had to start over on the supersedure process. So, we quit looking for swarm cells and never started looking for them again. With reliable supersedure instead of swarm cells, the need for broodnest inspection goes away.

We did add a couple fall checks to insure that all colonies start into winter in the bottom deep and that it is properly backfilled with nectar/feed to keep the cluster located there through the winter.

We monitor for storage of nectar at the top during the swarm prep period to provide confidence that CB is working. Another fringe benefit of less effort on the part of the beekeeper in the spring season.

Walt
 

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Similar experience here, although I didn't checkerboard -- no capped honey to speak of, had to feed dry sugar in early March.

Hive consisted of a medium, a deep, a medium, a medium, and a shallow. The two bottom mediums I was going to use to checkerboard, but in early March the bees were in the top two boxes so I left everything the way it was. The two extra boxes had some honey in them in the fall and I was going to remove them before winter, but it got cold very early and I didn't want to open the hive.

I added another shallow of drawn comb in early April, when the hive was full of bees. Once it thawed out, they hauled in copious amounts of maple pollen and nectar, so I didn't need to feed them.

The queen laid in all the boxes, all six. Two or three frames of brood on the east side of the hive (it faces south), all above each other. A couple weeks ago, when the black locust was in bloom, I decided I should probably move the brood down as far as possible to get them working on honey production, but the bees beat me to it. Both shallows and most of the uppermost medium were filling up with nectar and honey, and they were capping the top of most of the frames. Still very large amounts of brood in the lower boxes, so I put on another shallow with what drawn comb I had left (two and a partial frames), the rest in foundation.

This week I have two shallows completely capped, the uppermost medium is getting backfilled, the next medium down is mostly brood except for the foundationless frames from a couple years ago that were wall to wall drones, now getting backfilled, and the deep has brood on every frame, even on the outside of one and ten.

No signs of supercedure or swarming -- found a couple queen cups a couple weeks ago, but didn't really dig down to check this time, no need. If they supercede, that's fine, if not, the queen I have is great.

I'll be extracting soon, I don't want to waste any of the tulip poplar honey, and we have white dutch clover everywhere. Sweet clover is starting, should be a good honey year.

Now if I just hadn't done that split at the wrong time last year I'd have three hives going like this!

Peter
 

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I noticed that tar paper was added to the fall/winter management. Wonderful-your hives responded by having to produce less heat to maintain the same temperature. This is another thing we all can learn from in the North. Since we can have cold winters there is no doubt that heat loss is a factor. How to accomplish the right amount? We we know this works. Look at what Tim Ives has done. Combine a good strong Fall Cluster with good winter management, and then checker board in the Early Spring like ya should. Bang! Got that honey/ That is the thing about good management-it begets better management and better results. Conserve the Bees/
 
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