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Is it better to give a frame with brood or shake bees off and return brood to original (stronger hive)? I'm concerned about weakening potential honey producing hives? Any rule of thumb as to how many frames of brood U should have before considering donating bees to a weaker hive?
 

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When we equalized hives this spring, we started out by leaving at least 3 frames of brood in the donor hives. We shook off the bees and only shared brood. The next time we equalized we left 4 frames of brood in the donor hives. When everything had 4 frames of brood to work with we let them build up without any further help. The ones that didn't build up got new queens as they became available from our better stock.

Here is a pic of 1 yard that was taken this past Saturday that shows how our approach is currently looking. We are running all deeps here. I think there are 2 singles and 1 quad with the rest in doubles and triples.https://www.dropbox.com/s/pkriptxd8x7m2zu/IMG_0427.JPG
 

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Good question brooder, there's a few things to consider. But as a general principle, if honey production is the goal, then transferring brood from strong hives to weak hives is a good idea, the reason being that an apiary as a whole, will make more honey if all the hives are balanced up or equalised, than if there are some big ones and some little ones.

So, how to do it. First thing to consider is if there are weaker hives that need a boost, why are they weak and should resources be used on them. There could be quite a few reasons why they are weak, and if it was due to a disease such as say, mites, adding brood could be a waste of resources unless the mites were dealt with also, by treating the hive. But there could be other reasons for a weak hive such as it was not left with enough feed in fall in which case boosting with some brood is an excellent idea to get it up to par.

Something people often forget is a weak hive, if it has a normal queen, will often have all the brood it's few bees can cover. So simply adding more brood can overstretch what the bees can keep warm & result in dead brood, meaning we do more harm than good. In these situations it is necessary to find the queen in the donor hive so brood, with nurse bees on it, can be given to the other hive. Always give brood that is close as possible to hatching, so there is a smaller time window of risk for brood chilling. If it is known that weather over the next few days will be warm, brood without nurse bees could be given provided it is within a day or two of hatching.

The advantage of "balancing" hives in spring, is that strong hives that are the ones that would be most likely to swarm, are reduced in strength so will go on to make a better honey crop than if they had been allowed to swarm. The weak hives benefit also, and go on to make a better honey crop than if they had not been boosted with some extra bees. So it is win win, and standard procedure in a lot of honey producing commercial apiaries.

Has to be done right though & requires some skill to really do it to best advantage. IE, don't spread disease, although it is mostly not the strong donor hives that have disease but keep disease in mind. Know the weather forecast & other conditions so as not to give weak hives more brood than they can care for. Only give brood very close to hatching. View brood removal from the strong hives as a method of swarm control & attempt to achieve that aim by what you remove, plus how the hive is manipulated such as spreading remaining brood, etc, to ensure full advantage from the time you spend in the hive. Ensure all hives end up with all necessary feed & good potential to go into the honey season in good shape and top honey producers. Do not allow any poor hives or "dinks" as people call them. Fix them, or break them up for nucs, or do something with them, having non productive hives in a yard is sheer waste. Ensure every hive is enabled to produce an excellent honey crop.

That, to me, is one of the big things beekeeping is about, getting the best from ALL our bees not just a few of the best ones. Even though hives are equalized, breeder queens can still be chosen by keeping motes about suitable candidates written on the hive mat.
 

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Our mentor is trying a Snelgrove board, a bizarre spacer/double screen board rigged with a complex combination of doors that fool the bees from upper brood boxes into moving to lower levels. My head hurts just thinking about it. I see discussion of these in some old topics, but it seems to be a pretty rare piece of equipment.

Any of you old pros ever used this gadget?
 

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I'm concerned about weakening potential honey producing hives? Any rule of thumb as to how many frames of brood U should have before considering donating bees to a weaker hive?
I used to equalize my colonies to 6 frames of brood at the beginning of the dandelion bloom. As colonies were reversed in late April/early May, the frames of brood were counted. Colonies weigh more than 7 frames of brood, donated frames of brood to colonies with less than 6. If there were more strong colonies than were needed for use as brood donors, I would make splits from the rest.
 

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Mike Palmer: "I used to equalize my colonies to 6 frames of brood at the beginning of the dandelion bloom."
Do you still equalize them for honey production?
 

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Old timer even though I am not the original poster I wanted to thank you for such a generous post. Great information thoughtfully given.
 

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The wise OT wrote:

Something people often forget is a weak hive, if it has a normal queen, will often have all the brood it's few bees can cover.

Therefore, in the beginning of the season, it is often more usefull to switch positions of hives to equalize. It is fast, and with propper records, will determine why the weak hive was weak, If it blossoms, it was just short on bees. If it fails with the added field bees, requeen.

Crazy Roland
 

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>Our mentor is trying a Snelgrove board... I see discussion of these in some old topics, but it seems to be a pretty rare piece of equipment.

Not so rare. I have several I bought from several different suppliers. This is not a complete list, just the ones I found quite easily from the big suppliers:
http://www.mannlakeltd.com/beekeeping-supplies/category/page34.html#!productInfo/2/
http://www.kelleybees.com/Shop/21/Queens-Bees/Queen-Rearing/4527/Cypress-Double-Screen
http://www.betterbee.com/Products/10-Frame-Hive-Components/10-Frame-Double-Screen
http://www.brushymountainbeefarm.com/10-Frame-Double-Screen-Board/productinfo/694/
http://www.dadant.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=1454
http://www.gabees.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=202

These are all ten frame but several of those had 8 frame versions as well.
 

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I like the way and do it this way, like Brother Adam did it: transfer a comb of open brood from the weaker to the stronger hive & transfer a comb of capped brood from the stronger to the weaker hive. This way you boost the weaker hive while not weaken the stronger one too much. Not only that a comb of capped brood is producing a lot of workers, the removal of open brood decreases the burden of feeding the larvae.
 
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