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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
All:

Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation for the helpful community attitude that I see on this forum.

My post has to do with the appropriate timing for the late Mr. Walt Wright's "Nectar Management" technique. I have been reading all of his published writings and his observations make sense to me.

The only thing I have not been able to get a handle on is the appropriate timing for the pollen box maneuver.

I see in some of his later writings he mentions that his initial timing was off and that he subsequently learned some things about when to implement this manipulation to maximize the Fall benefit.

To that end, I was curious if any of you all who checkerboard mind to share with me what you have learned concerning the most appropriate timing for moving the pollen box up and down in relative terms to when you checkerboard? It appears I am in a similar climate zone to Elkton, TN (i.e. USDA Climate Zone 7a) so my timing would ordinarily be within a week of Walt's as I am less than 100 miles north of Elkton in Western Kentucky.

I assume that the pollen box is moved up at checkerboarding and moved down some weeks after checkerboarding when brood is observed in the first shallow above the deep broodnest?

Secondly, I currently run all mediums- assuming this fact, I would assume that the preferred overwintering set-up would be as follows from the bottom up:

1. Pollen Box- Empty Drawn Comb

2. Brood Box #1

3. Brood Box #2

4. Capped Honey Super #1

5. Capped Honey Super #2

Thirdly, have you ever observed the cluster at the vary top of the supers when preparing to checkerboard and if so, do you reverse boxes at this time? Seems like this might be quite a disturbance if the colony were in a loose cluster.

Thank you all for your input. It is most appreciated.

Russ
 

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Russ, checkerboarding and other related manipulations to open the broodnest are usually accomplished during the front end of the season (main flow/swarm season) when large amounts of nectar/pollen are coming in and the broodnest is expanding, comb is being drawn. Months April and May in Louisville.

Currently, the main flow is over and we are soon approaching dearth. If we didn't get the rain earlier this week we'd be in dearth. I wouldn't try any of manipulations on a large scale until next spring when dandelions start to bloom.
 

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Let me begin by expressing my sincere appreciation for the helpful community attitude that I see on this forum.
:thumbsup:



I was curious if any of you all who checkerboard mind to share with me what you have learned concerning the most appropriate timing for moving the pollen box up and down in relative terms to when you checkerboard?
since you are running all mediums in my view you are in effect already set up with a 'pollen box' at the bottom and most likely don't need to do anything in particular. are you running 8 or 10 frame mediums?



I assume that the pollen box is moved up at checkerboarding and moved down some weeks after checkerboarding when brood is observed in the first shallow above the deep broodnest?
yes, keeping in mind walt still had brood in his single deep at that time.



I would assume that the preferred overwintering set-up would be as follows from the bottom up...
that sounds reasonable. in practice the bees will pretty much have themselves set up for overwintering by the end of the season and you generally don't have to do much at all at that point.



Thirdly, have you ever observed the cluster at the vary top of the supers when preparing to checkerboard and if so, do you reverse boxes at this time? Seems like this might be quite a disturbance if the colony were in a loose cluster.
yes, that can happen at times. in my case the super with the broodnest is relocated to just over the top of my single deep at the bottom of the stack, and the remaining supers are checkerboarded above it, sometimes with honey donated from other colonies. doing this actually helps the colony more than disturb it.
 

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I use three deps and medium pollen box (on the bottom) as my wintering stack.

The first manipulation of year, as early as I can, moves the upper deep -which has all the brood in it - one position downward and moves a box assembled from the components of the two lower ones on top. That box is checkerboard with empty drawn and drawn-with-stores frames left over from winter. The bees will expand their brood nest upwards, again, so a second reversal is done bringing the remaining over-wintered box to the top position. This keeps drawn and ready to lay in comb available to the bees throughout the spring and into the main reproductiuve swarming period, without adding to swarm pressures at all.

Around dandelion bloom time, I "super" up with drawn comb in whatever size box I am using for supers that year. (Recently that has been deeps, not mediums.) After that box is filled, then I under super with another deep with just extra-waxed foundation to get more deep comb drawn while they are hot to draw to comb and it is easy to do. After that, because I am not particularly interested in honey at the moment, I will add additional deeps or mediums, depending on what else is going on. If these are not fully drawn, that's OK. I still will have honey frames to harvest or make up winter boxes with. With the extra drawn combs, I can easily feed in syrup late in the year to top up their winter weight. I can't bees to draw combs on later-season syrup feeding, though, they just crowd it into the nest, shutting down early, or getting swarm-y looking.

I have been leaving the medium pollen box under the brood boxes, year-round, without cycling it up to super-duty. This year I was unusually short of drawn comb, so I did move it up, and the bees obliged. But I found that they also didn't use my lowest brood box as eagerly as they do when they've got it under them in May/June. So I may go back to my lazy ways, and just leave them the medium to arrange as they see fit, because normally I have a great deal of brood in the lower two boxes and at least two 10-frame deeps overhead filled honey. This year, they have chimney of brood in the middle and top, and even into the new deeps added as a super, largely ignoring the lower box. I haven't used queen excluders in the past, relying on the bees making a natural honey cap over a large brood nest area. But if they aren't using 1/3 of the available brood space, then are naturally brooding higher up right now.

In the next few weeks, they will get one more thorough check, and a final reorganization before settling down into our slower-but-steady summer flow. I may just move that pollen box down and leave it there, for good. Then move the brood frames downward into the lowest box, and just have deeps overhead for the rest of the year. I like to get them working on a fourth deep every year so I can cull some combs, and have extras to share around, where possible. But in imagining a honey-collecting operation added on to my current regimen, maybe I should consider using mediums, or even shallows, simply to make the boxes lighter. (All honey deeps are killers, but mixed honey and brood deep boxes are manageable.)

I started using Walt's ideas as swarm-prevention tactics, and I find them to be very useful for that (along with opening the sides of the brood nest). But since most people keep bees for honey, I'm trying to figure out ways to combine what I've learned about keeping bees alive and strong and content to stay in my my boxes, with getting honey, too. My mentor often chides me for my single-minded focus on perennial colonies with excellent survival and swarm prevention. But for small-scale and hobby beekeepers, I think survival has to be the first goal since losing even one or two colonies equals disaster if that's all you have.

Hope my thoughts have some use to you. I really regret that I didn't ask Walt more questions when I was working out my plans from his writings. I was too shy, and missed an irreplaceable opportunity. He was quite patient with questions, too. It was a great loss for Walt's family and friends, but also for the beekeeping community because he was an original thinker about bees, and not afraid to challenge the conventional wisdom.

Nancy
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
burns375:

Thank you for your response. I sincerely appreciate your feedback. Like you, our flow is largely over less a little dutch clover that they seem disinterested in working at the moment- our bees are largely laying around and being grumpy at the moment.

My purpose for asking about checkerboarding at this time is to have my Spring goals in mind as we look to get our overwintering set-ups prepared this Fall.

Thank you again for your input. I sincerely appreciate it.

Russ
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thank you, squarepeg. I sincerely appreciate your input.

We are currently running all eight frame mediums and the bees have in-fact loading the bottom box up with quite a lot of pollen.

So in your experience, it is easiest to simply leave the bottom box fixed and complete all your manipulations in the subsequent boxes?

I suppose the only real challenge in this approach is maintaining a super full of empty drawn comb at the ready for each hive for use in the checkerboarding effort given that you are leaving the pollen box in the same position year-round?

Your description of what to do should the cluster be at the top makes sense, and opens up room for them to expand upward.

Thank you again for your input. I sincerely appreciate it!

Russ
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Nancy:

Thank you for your detailed and helpful reply. I sincerely appreciate it!

Your manipulation approach is intriguing- do you mind to clarify what you mean when you say that you complete your first manipulation "as early as you can"? Are there specific markers you look for that suggest it is the right time to make this manipulation?

I too have observed that timing seemingly has a lot to do with how a colony will respond to the addition of either empty foundation or drawn comb, and this is where Walt's observations seem to bring clarity to hive objectives. This is what prompted me to ask the question about the move of the pollen box- too early and you might get chilled brood and too late and you might not get the benefit.

I sincerely appreciate those who learned under Walt being willing to share their feedback. Thank you again for taking the time to respond.

Sincerely,

Russ
 

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Russ,

The definition of "as early as you can" up here in northern NY is completely driven by when the winter weather starts to break off, at long last. It can range from the last week in March, to (this year)after the middle in April.

My hives are heavily insulated (R-15 or -20 ) so I can get away with perhaps an earlier first manipulation than most in my areas as I replace the insulation after doing this (same number of boxes, just rearranged so the panels still fit.) Often there is only a short window on a given day when I can do a single stack. Temps at 60 and no wind are what I look for during the manipulation. I do not work hives, though, if we have an extra early period of above average temps in say Feb. or early March. Those are false springs and risky because any queen loss then cannot be recovered from (if you even knew about it, during the long 4 to 6 weeks you have to wait for the next chance.) I operated a vegetable farm here for many years, so I have no trouble telling when it's a premature, and temporary, warm-up, and when the real-deal has finally arrived.

But note I do not move the pollen box as the earliest change. I just bring up one of my three brood boxes, checkerboard it from the abandoned remnants of the winter stack below and place it above the upper deep which has all the brood in it at that time. The pollen box stays below until at least dandelion bloom, which is well beyond when Walt was suggesting the first checkerboarded box be set over the brood area. (I don't think he was moving the pollen box at that time, just adding a checkerboarded super. But I may be wrong about that whether it was actually the pollen box or not.)

The phenological clue he sometimes referred to was the blooming of the small wild daffodils (jonquils) that are naturalized in the woods in the mid-Atlantic states. As it happens, I lived on a farm in northern VA for a awhile. When I moved here I brought some of those early daffodils up here with me. They bloom early, here too, compared to my garden "trumpet" daffodils, perhaps as much 18-20 days beforehand. I do use them as a marker to confirm for me that I haven't missed the right time, but I don't know if the timing is the same. At least every year they make me think about Walt and his unique ideas about beekeeping.


In the end you'll just have to feel your way through. I still don't think I've got things compleetely figured out. And sometimes I am tempted to skip the extra work involved and just leave the hives until dandelion bloom signals the need for supering. But then I remember that I have almost no swarm preps even in very strong colonies with queens a year or two old. I still keep a very close eye on that, but I don't have to struggle with it like some of the beekeepers in this area do. And since I don't want to use splitting to control swarming, I have to do something.

My bees just seem to appreciate the supply of drawn overhead brood comb space that this makes continuously available to them. Right up to the time when if offered a box of fresh foundation, they'll start making drawing it like mad on their own. That's my signal, the "white wax sign", that we are pretty much over the swarm-hump for the year, providing I keep giving them room to store the spring flow's copious nectar. They need much more room to sock it away before they condense it down to honey so sometimes I throw on an extra deep (drawn if I have one) just to give them nectar-parking space when the locust trees are practically dripping with juice.

We don't typically have any complete summer dearth, the flow just slows down from here on out until we hit goldenrod in late August through the end of our foraging year in mid-October. So over the next few weeks I'll be working each hive to see what can be pulled off if it's unused, or needs to be culled. In a certain way in July I am starting to arrange the hive furnishings for the next winter. The bees work that far ahead, so I figure I can, too.

Doing it early also saves messin' around with open boxes later on when robbing is more of an issue.

I really wish I had "worked with Walt". But I didn't, really. I read all his writings in the Resource section, and thought a lot about how to implement them, and asked a few timid questions here on BeeSource. He always responded cordially, to what were probably things he'd already written about beforehand many times. By the time I had been doing it for a few years up here, and had some more substantitive queries, he had already fallen and broken a hip. I put off asking the questions until it was too late. I was really shocked when I read the news that he had died. He wrote a book about his ideas, which I wish I could find a copy of. I suspect that the more experience you have, the more the little nuggets of his sharp observations would make sense. His patience with explaining his somewhat unorthodox notions is my mental model when I try to describe the off-beat stuff I do, too. I think it was Square Peg and Michael Bush that had more personal communications with him than I ever did. (Both of them are also free-thinkers when it comes the the Received Wisdom of Beekeeping. One of the great things about BeeSource is that breadth of opinion.)

Nancy
 

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Thank you, squarepeg. I sincerely appreciate your input.
you're welcome russ! it's a great topic, thanks for starting the thread.


We are currently running all eight frame mediums and the bees have in-fact loading the bottom box up with quite a lot of pollen.
that's kind of what i thought might be happening.


So in your experience, it is easiest to simply leave the bottom box fixed and complete all your manipulations in the subsequent boxes?
i don't have experience to draw from as i've not employed the pollen box maneuver myself. walt found his pollen box empty enough by late february to bring it up and use the empty comb to checkerboard the honey supers with. in your case the super that next occupies the bottom position will become the new season's pollen box.


i think you can expect some differences with running all 8 frame mediums compared to walt's 10 frame single deep and shallow supers. if you are indeed successful at preventing your colonies from swarming and they grow in size comparable to what walt's colonies did you may end up with too tall of a stack to be stable and easily worked.

walt was able to achieve hives having a single ten frame deep with 10 shallow supers overhead, or the equivalent of 6 deep supers. This volume translates into a little over 11 eight frame mediums.


here's a recent thread where checkerboarding with 8 frame mediums was discussed:

https://www.beesource.com/forums/sh...me-mediums&highlight=swarm+prevention+mediums


walt and i found differences in outcomes between me using mediums supers over a single 10 frame deep compared to his use of shallows over a single 10 frame deep, although we couldn't be sure if the differences were due to equipment or strain of bee or some other factor we couldn't identify.

you'll notice by my posts in the thread linked above that i modified walt's methods in some ways. you can also look at the thread i have been chronicling my last few years of experience (especially the posts between january and april) to see how i deviated from walt's exact prescription.

here's a link to that thread:

https://www.beesource.com/forums/showthread.php?306377-squarepeg-2015-2018-treatment-free-experience

you'll notice that my approach has been evolving and will continue to do so going forward. in the same way don't be afraid to get creative and see what a little trial and error teaches you.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Nancy:

Thank you again for your detailed and thoughtful response- it is most appreciated and makes great sense. To distill your commentary, I understand you to say that the wild jonquil bloom would generally correspond to the appropriate timing for the first of the season's manipulations (i.e. brood box checkerboarding) and that dandelion bloom would generally correspond to the earliest date for subsequent manipulations (i.e. pollen box maneuver)?

This year, I recorded the following approximate bloom times for both of these sources, which like most were later than in typical years:

Jonquil- February 20th

Dandelion- March 12th

Your feedback about overhead brood space seems to support Walt's fundamental premise, and I look forward to exploring this concept.

His writings appeal to me in that he used his analytical problem solving approach to seek out the "why" of internal colony operations- and being unafraid to challenge prevailing notions if what he was seeing did not support those paradigms. That said, you see his humility too in that he was willing to publicly acknowledge both things he had not confirmed and also things he supposed in previous writings only to come to different conclusions after more evaluation.

Thank you again for your very helpful input- I sincerely appreciate it!

Russ
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
squarepeg:

Thank you again for your helpful feedback. I had the opportunity to read all the comments associated with the 8 frame medium checkerboarding thread and it was insightful. Based on Walt's writings, it appears to me that the following videos seem to generally capture the procedure as he described it in his published writings?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brvZeuPewoM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoNYaHkXAFo

That said, I appreciate the fact that you continue to evaluate ways to improve the process, and I look forward to joining in this spirit of experimenting.

I acknowledge that 8 frame mediums present a challenge provided one could produce the amount of honey that Walt did- do you think one could routinely harvest supers, being careful to leave enough for successful overwintering? I recall Walt discussing in his writings of returning wet supers to his hives, provided that he had his overwintering volume established in time to fill with nectar (even if it meant supplemental feeding) in advance of fall brood rearing.

I read several pages of your chronicle, and I look forward to getting caught-up with your lessons learned to-date. As a fellow TF proponent, I look forward to seeing what you have gleaned on your journey.

Thank you again for all your help, and have a great evening.

Russ
 

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Based on Walt's writings, it appears to me that the following videos seem to generally capture the procedure as he described it in his published writings?
yes, the videos provide a decent visual aid to how walt set up for overwintering and accomplished his 'pollen box maneuver'.


I acknowledge that 8 frame mediums present a challenge provided one could produce the amount of honey that Walt did- do you think one could routinely harvest supers, being careful to leave enough for successful overwintering?
i was thinking more in terms of having enough hive volume to prevent a non-swarmed colony from becoming crowded enough to go into swarm mode, even after turning the corner on what walt referred to as 'reproductive cut-off'.

what i recall walt sharing with me is that he did all of his honey harvest in one fell swoop, applied his mite treatments, and then set his hives up into the overwintering configuration.

walt was fortunate to have plenty of drawn supers on hand and his approach was to "super optimistically". :)

my approach is to harvest throughout the season and put the extracted supers back out and in this way i can prevent the stacks from getting taller than i am comfortable working.

perhaps if there are others on the forum with experience using all 8 frame mediums and having success with swarm prevention will chime in with their experience.

successful checkerboarding tends to result in very large and strong non-swarmed colonies which are going to produce very good honey crops so long as they have room to do so. about the only exception to this that i observe is when there is a less than seamless supercedure during the weeks leading up to our main spring nectar flow.


I read several pages of your chronicle, and I look forward to getting caught-up with your lessons learned to-date. As a fellow TF proponent, I look forward to seeing what you have gleaned on your journey.
the journey continues and i get much satisfaction from learning as i go and coming up with tweaks and improvements. many thanks for your interest!
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
squarepeg:

Thank you again for your experienced and well-considered feedback. In response, your thoughts on a potentially unmanageable broodnest stack are both intriguing and a bit intimidating. I can only hope that this is the worst problem that I have to deal with employing nectar management techniques! :)

In all seriousness, your point here is well-taken and certainly opens-up potentially unique wrinkles relative to nectar management when standardizing around 8-frame medium woodenware. I could see it might mean the prospect of having to complete splits at some point in the build-up process. I too am hopeful there are others on the forum who have experience in this area.

Your admonition about supercedure is duly noted as-well. Based on Walt's writings, I get the sense that his general recommendation would have been to complete your initial checkerboarding, follow-up pollen box maneuver and then stay out of the hive until after Reproductive Cut-Off to minimize the risk of endangering the hive's supercedure efforts?

As an aside (based on your comment about mite treatments), how would you say that following a TF paradigm has impacted the way you approach nectar management? In other words, have you found that your TF colonies respond differently to nectar management versus Walt's observations in treated hives?

Thanks again for the input- it is appreciated.

Russ
 

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I could see it might mean the prospect of having to complete splits at some point in the build-up process.
it's only a guess on my part russ but that's what i am predicting all things being equal based on what i see happening with my hives. all things may not be equal however for example with respect to your strain of bee and/or forage availability compared to mine.


Based on Walt's writings, I get the sense that his general recommendation would have been to complete your initial checkerboarding, follow-up pollen box maneuver and then stay out of the hive until after Reproductive Cut-Off to minimize the risk of endangering the hive's supercedure efforts?
yes, that is what walt settled on after he was comfortable that his methods were producing the desired result for him. however after a couple of seasons here and despite walt making several trips down to oversee my manipulations we did not achieve the same widespread success at swarm prevention in my operation that he did in his.

again, that may have been due to my use of medium supers instead of shallows and/or me having a different strain of bee than what walt had as well other factors unknown to us...

but i found it necessary to add opening up the broodnest and pyramiding brood up to the next super to keep the upward expansion of the broodnest going until my colonies turned the corner from build up mode to honey storage mode thereby getting them past the point of swarm ambition or 'reproductive cut-off'.


As an aside (based on your comment about mite treatments), how would you say that following a TF paradigm has impacted the way you approach nectar management? In other words, have you found that your TF colonies respond differently to nectar management versus Walt's observations in treated hives?
as mentioned my colonies do respond differently than what walt's did but i don't think it is because they are not treated. an advantage of being treatment free however is the flexibility to harvest honey all through the season right up until the end on my own time frame and not have to worry about coordinating the harvest schedule with the timing of treatments.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Great points, squarepeg. I sincerely appreciate it.

Like Walt, I am focusing on capturing feral swarms and leaning on local survivor genetics to hopefully support a TF regimen. This might very well mean an ever more diligent effort toward swarm prevention given feral's reputation for having a propensity to swarm.

I am glad to hear that TF has not proven to be an impediment to nectar management for you and that you are having good success in this area.

Thank you again for all the input, and have a great weekend!
 

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you are very welcome russ and i wish you much success with your efforts.

the greatest challenge is amassing enough drawn comb to be able to make it all work.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thank you, squarepeg. Your help is most appreciated.

The challenge of drawn comb seems to be ever-present, doesn't it. It is like having too much woodenware... there's no such thing!

Have a great weekend.

Russ
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
All:

Thank you again for your helpful input. I thought of another wrinkle that I am curious as to your thoughts namely;

Several sources have suggested that the pollen box maneuver itself may not be necessary/beneficial with all mediums given that this volume represents both your brood and honey/pollen divisions.

One thought I had was possibly putting a wet empty on the bottom of the stack in early fall to be available in early spring for pollen storage and brood rearing in the spring and brood replacement in the fall, and instead checkerboarding only with drawn empties stored off the hives?
 

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One thought I had was possibly putting a wet empty on the bottom of the stack in early fall to be available in early spring for pollen storage and brood rearing in the spring and brood replacement in the fall, and instead checkerboarding only with drawn empties stored off the hives?
a couple of thoughts:

my guess is (and assuming you have bottom entrances) that putting a wet empty at the bottom in the fall would be risky in that the wet empty is going to bring on the robbing bees in full force.

putting a 'dry' empty on the bottom would be safer, and if you do have bottom entrances having the empty there might offer some advantage by providing a little dead air space between the wintering cluster and the drafty entrance during the cold of winter.

it would be a 'safe' place to store a super of empty comb as the colony would protect it, and it would be available for checkerboarding when the first tree pollens start coming in which is typically the trigger for the first rounds of brood being reared coming out of winter.

i have come to learn that the longer i can keep the colony expanding the broodnest upward through the checkerboarded supers during the build up period the better my success with swarm prevention. my goal is to get the broodnest expanded all the way to the very top of a third or fourth super over the single deep.

when that happens the deep at the bottom is usually becomes emptied of honey and pollen and pretty much abandoned in the process. left to their own devices most colonies will later migrate the nest back down to the deep as they backfill what was the broodnest in the supers with honey, but a small percentage may go on to swarm.

with most hives nowadays however i've started moving the queen back down into the empty deep below an excluder to start a new broodnest. i've not had a single swarm issue after doing that, and it's possible to go back into the supers a week later to harvest queen cells and a frames of brood, bees, and stores to make medium nucs with.

this approach is different that what walt was doing in that with his pollen box maneuver he put brood into that bottom shallow while there was brood in his single deep which resulted in the broodnest being maintained at the bottom of the stack.

since your configuration is different than both walt's and mine it will take some trial and error to see how your colonies respond to your manipulations. we're looking forward to hearing about how it goes for you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Squarepeg: Thank you for your helpful response. While I am unsure whether I will attempt this "nadiring" approach, I am trying to evaluate potential work-arounds associated with utilizing all mediums. The fact that the broodnest is already in mediums may mitigate the value of moving an upper broodbox downward in the build-up phase under the auspices of the pollen box maneuver. My thought of having/leaving a empty on the bottom in the Spring would be to allow for early season pollen storage and additional room for broodnest expansion as the expansion progresses in the vein of what Dee Lusby recommends for swarm prevention. I have contacted a few forum members who have experimented with Walt's method in an all-medium set-up to see what they've learned. Your idea of utilizing the queen excluder to expand the broodnest is intriguing and I am glad to hear this is working reliably for you. Thank you again for the help, and have a great day. Russ
 
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