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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
From what I have been reading, checkerboarding is best done several weeks before the first major nectar flows, as early as maple bloom in the Northeast. That would be beginning to middle of April.

I am interested in trying this, but there is one potential glitch. About that time of year it is still very cold, yet there is apt to be some brood in each of the two brood chambers. Mostly the upper one, which will still contain a great deal of honey (the remaining winter stores). If such a hive is CB'd this would mean spreading the brood in those honey frames way out (by alternating with empties) and would certainly be disastrous to the brood nest. Anyone found a way around this, while still reaping the swarm prevention benefits of early CBing?
 

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From my understanding, checkerboarding is manipulation of the overhead honey band. Part of the beauty of it is you leave the brood nest alone. So if you're into the brood frames then you're doing something other than Walt's intent. Absolutely do not checkerboard the brood frames or you're doing something else- opening the brood nest? - which is a bad idea when its cold- from my understanding. The first manipulation is done early like you're suggesting, but it entails reversing, then checkerboarding with honey above that. And I think for that to follow Walt's intent, the bottom box that is reversed needs to be empty because in another of his papers, albeit quite old
http://www.knology.net/~k4vb/ABJ%20Copies/NCB%20ABJ%20Jan%201996.pdf he specifies that reversing when both boxes have brood is counterproductive. Above the checkerboarded box should be a box of empty drawn comb.

[ December 12, 2006, 11:27 AM: Message edited by: wade ]
 

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JWG,
I'm well below you in Southern Kentucky, but I checkerboarded in December. Walt told me that he does it as early as November at times. The idea that I have about it is that it is done to the "reserve" which is that portion of honey one shouldn't expect them to use UNTIL spring build up (assuming they went into winter strong). Therefore, manipulating here shouldn't disturb their cluster or its normal winter migration through the colony. If done too low in the hive, there might be the chance that the bees will move up into it in the dead of winter and find frames without stores right when they need it.

Waya
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
So basically, for it to work as Walt instructs, one needs to have a chamber of sealed stores in place (without brood in it) to checkerboard with.

Generally in this part of the NE by the time CB would be done there is appreciable brood in the food chamber (which was essentially full of sealed stores at the onset of winter). Apart from the full food combs at the sides, the combs couldn't really be CB'd without separating brood at a cold time of year.

With some colonies, in 2 or 3 storey hives, the early brood nest will be entirely in the middle or top box (depending on the winter, cluster size, etc.) and in this case, reversing is fine, even early, since the brood nest doesn't get split. However, reversing alone probably would not do the same job of eliminating the honey barrier, like CBing would.

Perhaps a partial CB would work, dealing only with the combs that are all stores, and checkerboarding those above the brood nest.(?)

Thanks for the helpful comments.
 

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Hey JWG,

I've been studying this too, and it is difficult to understand everything 100% although we gotta have a firm belief in something, and here is my take.

In a situation like yours in your timeframe, it is somewhat mentioned in his last paper, dated May 06 http://www.knology.net/~k4vb/ABJ%20Copies/NCB%20ABJ%20Jan%201996.pdf. This was the most concise paper he wrote on this I think. Anyway, a situation with 2 deeps both with brood would be a good opportunity to add another box of empty drawn frames on top, followed by a checkerboarded box on top of that, and maybe even another box of empty drawn comb on top of that.

If you're doing it mainly for swarm control then just a reversal will do, but it allegedly retards the brood production for 3 weeks according to the paper cited in the previous post so in that regard is a great swarm preventer. But it goes against the concept of checkerboarding and also not using a queen excluder, which is to maximize colony expansion while still nixing swarming preparations.
 

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Hi all
I have used CB/Nectar management the past 2 years with good success and no known swarms. I use all mediums so it is easier. I overwinter in 3 mediums. For sake of explanation, number them 1, 2 and 3 from the bottom up.

I typically will find 1 (the bottom box) empty of bees and brood, so I remove it at the time. If they are in 2 (the middle box), then it will become the new bottom box. I will alternate the frames of honey from 3 with the empty combs in 1 then add 1 at the top.

So you have now the bees in the bottom box (2), and boxes 3 and 1 are now the top two boxes and are alternated with honey and drawn comb. That is it!

If they are already at the top limit of box 3 then they have used up all of the reserve all ready. So they are starving! So if you have extra frames you can feed them then alternate those frames with empty ones.

In 2005 I did it March 30, 2005. On that date, according to my notes, I had a super of honey left in each hive, so it was easy.

In 2006 I checkerboarded on April 23.

Hope this helps!

[ December 12, 2006, 06:50 PM: Message edited by: BerkeyDavid ]
 

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David,

Your explaination makes sense if you are running a 3 medium set up, which I believe is what the checkerboarding system is designed around. I'm still trying to figure out how this works if you are running a 2 deep overwintering system. As was mentioned earlier, if you start manipulating frames on a 2 deep set up you will end up spreading out the brood too much.
What do you do if you are one who uses 2 deeps for the brood nest and honey supers above an excluder? Rather than checkerboarding should one just be opening up the brood nest later in the spring when the flow starts up and then add supers?
 

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> if you start manipulating frames on a 2 deep set up you will end up spreading out the brood too much.

Checkerboarding does not disturb the brood nest in any way. If you are moving brood combs around, you are not checkerboarding, you are opening up the brood nest, which is something different.

>Your explaination makes sense if you are running a 3 medium set up, which I believe is what the checkerboarding system is designed around.

It's not really designed around any particular setup, but Walt runs a deep with a shallow or a medium above and below it over winter. You'd want to end up with the deep that has no bees in it on top and checkerboard it and the deep that has bees in it on the bottom, undisturbed.
 

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> You'd want to end up with the deep that has no bees in it on top and checkerboard it and the deep that has bees in it on the bottom, undisturbed. <

From what I've seen in my area of the country, unless you have very frugal bees, its not likely that you will end up in this situation in the early spring with a "2" box set up. More than likely there will be brood in the center of both boxes. The broodnest could be opened up later when they begin to build up, but without a "third" box with honey, I still don't see how checkerboarding will work with a 2 box setup.
Guess I'm a little slow.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
That's what I am trying to figure out.

The combs of stores at the sides of the upper box (in springtime) could be placed in a 3rd box, at the top and alternated with empty combs, and an empty super added on top of all three. This would prevent separating of any brood and there would be continuous upward open comb for storage and expansion. Maybe this would give the same CB effect.
 

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<I still don't see how checkerboarding will work with a 2 box setup.>

There are different ways to deal with it if the principal is undertood. If I had a system with brood in all the box(es) I'd add another box checkerboarded on top of that, and another of empty drawn comb. It always requires a bunch of drawn comb, and sometimes some extra capped honey too. If its the proper time in the season, the first box can just be all drawn comb with no honey, but a checkerboarded box still needs to be stacked above it.
 

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>combs of stores at the sides of the upper box (in springtime) could be placed in a 3rd box . . .
Sounds like an "Unlimited Broodnest" arrangement where you have 2 deeps as the brood CHAMBER and a FOOD chamber on top. Swarm control, if needed, is accomplished by simply reversing middle and bottom chambers. No checkerboarding needed.

IMO, checkerboarding is useful where the brood nest area is restricted due to lack of space being provided by the keeper (for whatever reason).
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
That's fine, if you don't mind reversing every week or so throughout the ~2 months of swarm season. But having tried that, years ago, I found it was way too much work at a very hectic time of year.

Not only that, it doesn't prevent swarming in any reliable way. In my experience, anyway. You just end up with BIG swarms. Lost big swarms. lol
 

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> There are different ways to deal with it if the principal is undertood. If I had a system with brood in all the box(es) I'd add another box checkerboarded on top of that, and another of empty drawn comb. <

I thought that the reason for "checkerboarding" a full box above the brood chamber was to give the bees a sense that they have more room overhead and it encourages them to move stores up rather than backfill the broodnest?
Why put on a checkerboarded box at all... why not just add empty drawn supers?
I thought that the prinicpal was to keep things open and not let them feel crowded.

Am I correct in assuming that "checkerboarding" is an "early" spring activity when you have a solid box of honey left overhead, and then when swarm season approaches the beekeeper should move into "opening up the broodnest"?

Still trying to figure all this out.
 

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Hey Mike,

If you haven't done it, you should study those two papers I referenced. Print out the May '06 paper on Nectar Management. I believe there are holes in Walt's descriptions, but there aren't any holes in the concept or how it works.

The purpose of checkerboarding is to break up the honey band that bees like to develop above the brood nest. As this band gets established, the bees will sense this as the top of their space and when nectar comes in, rather than continieing to move up, they backfill the broodnest, and you know that result. But somehow, checkerboarding breaks up the honey band and as the bees move up and therefore expand the brood nest, they come upon frame upon frame of empty comb which they feel they must fill with nectar. This results in the bees not ever realizing that they need to start backfilling the brood nest.

<Why put on a checkerboarded box at all... why not just add empty drawn supers?

I don't feel qualified to answer that, but I think it often works.

<I thought that the prinicpal was to keep things open and not let them feel crowded>

That is absolutely correct. As the bees work their way up and start to work on your top box that is full of empty drawn comb, you checkerboard that box and add another empty box of empty drawn comb, presumably mixing those frames with some of the full frames below it.

This coming year will be my first experience with this. I think I have the concept down, but we'll see by about July of next year.

BerkeyDavid, your comments were very helpful, thanks.
 

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One thing that impressed me about Walt's writings is that he often iterates that he's speaking from his own experience about what works in his area. He makes no garantees that it will work everywhere. If you want to try it, and your wintering system/requirements are different from his, you'll have to tweak it.

Last year, I went into winter with hives in doubles. Since the bees were in the lowest box in Dec., I was able to checkerboard both hives by extracting honey from every-other-one. I was able to do this in South Central Kentucky.

I'm moving toward all mediums. Then I should have even easier time distinguishing which bodies the bees are in to keep from spliting the cluster.

If you're using an excluder to keep bees down, you're don't checkerboarding. One crutch of the system is to allow the bees to expand the broodnest as far as they will/can. That can't be accomplished if you're restricting them to two bodies.

So, I'd recommend letting them go into winter with a medium (at least) of honey above the two deeps. This may give you the comb you need for checkerboarding.

Waya
 
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