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Discussion Starter #1
Hello all, I've been keeping bees for 4 years and always considered that bearding was normal and nothing to worry about. But I got to wondering lately what I can do so those bees stay in the hive working and productive and not hanging outside where they have nothing to contribute. Do they leave the hive to allow better airflow when it's hot? Are there simply far more nurse bee numbers than required to tend to the brood? Does anybody else believe with good cause that massive bearding can and should be mitigated to get the most out of the colony's population?
 

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Personally I don't think bees ever have 'nothing to contribute'. They are usually always doing something, even when outside. Sometimes they are guarding, sometimes washerboarding, helping to ventilate, etc... Foragers will often hang out outside, especially in the warm weather (you will see this even more so at night). As long as you are providing them with ample room in the hive, they will do whatever needs to be done for the colony, which may include waiting outside at night to get the fastest take off as soon as the sun begins to light the sky. The colony is giving all they've got. Don't look at the ones outside like they're lazy...they have a purpose out there, too.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Foragers will often hang out outside, especially in the warm weather (you will see this even more so at night). As long as you are providing them with ample room in the hive, they will do whatever needs to be done for the colony, which may include waiting outside at night to get the fastest take off as soon as the sun begins to light the sky.
I know the bees aren't lazy! I just want to make sure the beekeeper isn't cramping their style.

So yesterday was our first hot day. Temps got up to almost 90. I've got 4 booming hives. 3 of the 4 had little bearding. The 4th (strongest) had major bearding. I do top entrances and had my entrance reducer not off but swung completely open perpendicular to the opening. Bees were festooning off of it like a swarm. Bees bearded 2' tall around the front and side. That hive is 4 eight frame medium boxes high. I feel I need to add a couple boxes at this point. Would you agree?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I was scouring this forum for clues about what to do about massive day and night bearding on one of my strong hives. Everybody was saying not to worry about bearding. The bees were just doing what they need to. But I had a few other booming hives that were not bearding. After reading this post I decided I needed to add an empty box below the brood chamber. I told the wife I was going to get into the bees directly after work and would be skipping dinner. Got out there and long story short the hive was completely full. Top two mediums packed with honey bottom three packed with brood.

I added a box below the brood and another box on top for honey. I do foundationless so below the brood chamber I pulled the outside frame of honey down to the middle of the new box below and above pulled a frame of honey up to the new box above. This morning there was zero bearding. Just a small palm size group up at the entrance. All bees were inside the hive. Lesson I learned: Sometimes bees beard because there's simply no room inside the hive. Give them another box or two and they'll go inside and be productive.
 

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I would put a few of your foundationless frames between the brood nest this will help open up the brood nest. And move a few frames to the new box. Search "opening the broodnest"
http://www.bushfarms.com/beesswarmcontrol.htm

Checker board the honey super, and not just put the new one on top, especially if it's new undrawn comb. they will build it quick and accept the new box easier.

I would also inspect the hive look for swarm cells, I suspect you might have some. Do splits if you do.
You might think about a cut down split.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you Flower Planter! So I'll paste this in from your Michael Bush link for context of other readers, "Opening the broodnest

This, of course is what we want to do. What we need to do is interrupt the chain of events. The easiest way is to keep the brood nest open. If you keep the brood nest from backfilling and if you occupy all those unemployed nurse bees then you can change their mind. If you catch it before they start queen cells, you can put some empty frames in the brood nest. Yes, empty. No foundation. Nothing. Just an empty frame. Just one here and there with two frames of brood between. In other words, you can do something like: BBEBBEBBEB where B is brood comb and E is an empty frame. How many you insert depends on how strong the cluster is. They have to fill all those gaps with bees. The gaps fill with the unemployed nurse bees who begin festooning and building comb. The queen will find the new comb and about the time they get about ¼" deep, the queen will lay in them. You have now "opened up the brood nest". In one step you have occupied the bees that were preparing to swarm with wax production followed by nursing, you've expanded the brood nest, and you've given the queen a place to lay. If you don't have room to put the empty combs in, then add another brood box and move some brood combs up to that box to make the room to add some to the brood nest. In other words, then the top box would probably be something like EEEBBBEEEE and the bottom one BBEBBEBBEB. The other upside is I get good natural sized brood comb."

Here's my question... I added my empty box below the brood nest. I've heard elsewhere that you want to add room above the brood nest and that's what MB says here too. Should I "open the brood nest" by doing the above and moving that box above the brood nest? Or can I open the brood nest and populate the new box below the brood nest from brood frames acquired by opening above?

Short version: Does it matter whether the new box goes above or below the brood nest so long as the new box gets a few frames of brood comb?
 

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>Here's my question... I added my empty box below the brood nest. I've heard elsewhere that you want to add room above the brood nest and that's what MB says here too. Should I "open the brood nest" by doing the above and moving that box above the brood nest? Or can I open the brood nest and populate the new box below the brood nest from brood frames acquired by opening above?

If you put some empty comb in the middle of the brood, that brood goes somewhere. Up or down. It's the empty space in the middle of the brood that changes the dynamics of the situation.

> Short version: Does it matter whether the new box goes above or below the brood nest so long as the new box gets a few frames of brood comb?

A box is a box. The bees don't know it's new or not. You are rearranging the frames, so that both have some brood in them and both have some space in them. But it's easier to add it to the top.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks Michael! Having strong 3rd year colonies is FUN! I've never had colonies this huge before. I've never had honey-producers like these this year either.

So here's what I had prior to yesterday:
HHHHHHHHH
HHHHHHHHH
HBBBBBBBBH
HBBBBBBBBH
HBBBBBBBBH

After my manipulation yesterday they now look like this:
EEEEHEEEEE
HHHHEHHHH
HHHHHHHHH
HBBBBBBBBH
HBBBBBBBBH
HBBBBBBBBE
EEEEHEEEEE

So what I really need to do now is go back in and end up with something like this (to checkerboard honey and open the brood)?
HEHEHEHEH
EHEHEHEHE
HEHEHEHEH
EHEHEHEHE
EBBBBBBHE
HBBEBBEBBH
HBBEBBEBBH
HBBEBBEBBH

Eight boxes high. Four honey supers. Wow. Am I on the right track here?
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I've got the wife's blessing to skip dinner again this evening so I can get out in the bee yard and do this. I've got 4 booming hives that could use this technique (plus inspecting for queen cells). Three of them are 3rd year hives one is a 2nd year hive. I might not do the 2nd year hive depending on how it looks when I do an initial inspection. I've never had a hive stacked 8 high and all full. A month after doing this I guess that's what I might have. Exciting!

If I find queen cells should I cut them out provided I spot the queen or see new eggs? Something tells me No. But I don't know why.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
So I decided to start with my 2nd largest hive. Turns out that's all I had time for. I diverged from my diagram above in that when I checkerboarded my honey I went down to eight frames per box. Other than that it went just according to plan. No crosscomb. Only spotted about 6 queen cups (not occupied cells).

What I started with:
HHHHHHHHH
HHHHHHHHH
HBBBBBBBBH
HBBBBBBBBH
HBBBBBBBBH

After I was done it turned out to be something like this. I took two frames of brood from each brood box and added them to the box I put on top of the brood chamber. I tried to make my new box resemble the other brood boxes. Mostly took worker brood and only added one frame of drone. Now the stack is eight boxes high. Four checkerboarded honey. Four opened brood boxes. No more excessive bearding this AM. That was pretty exciting last evening.

HEHEHEHE
HEHEHEHE
HEHEHEHE
HEHEHEHE
EHBBBBBHE
HBBEBBEBH
HBBEBBEBH
HBBEBBEBH

My spirits were bolstered that everything looked great, no crosscomb, no signs of swarming, initially two boxes of full honeycomb, three boxes of nice manageable 9 frame brood area, booming 3yr old hive. Might have been a dozen SHB on the bottom board, bees dogpiling them and keeping them in check. Happy to see. I did do my best to watch the workers' bodies and look for varroa. I didn't see any. No DWV either. Very happy that I'm not spending my time treating, etc. Just managing healthy colonies! And becoming a better beekeeper! And here's a photo of the hive after I finished.

Daryl next to hive.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #12
The main thing is to not spread the bees too thin where they can't keep the brood warm.
That's a good thing to keep in mind. As I think about that hive I think it'll be in good shape. I think there are plenty of bees to cover the brood and festoon in the opened up frames as well. We have very warm weather too. 91F yesterday and mid-high 80s through the weekend.

For what it's worth, there was evidence of some backfilling of brood comb. But there was other comb that had tiny brand new eggs too. Lots of capped brood. Only a reasonable amount of drone at the margins of the brood areas. I guess we shall see how this turns out.

Do you ever checkerboard honey and open the brood nest more than once per year? Or do you do this on a per flow basis?
 

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Discussion Starter #13
So after checkerboarding and opening the brood nest on my 3 other booming hives I finally returned to the hive I added space to in post #4. The bees had the new honey box almost filled out with honey. I was amazed. Less than a week and they had another box drawn out and filled again. So I checkerboarded the honey supers, resulting in 5 checkerboarded boxes of honey on the hive now.

I also opened up the brood area like I did on the rest of my booming hives (post #10 above). I saw no evidence of swarm prep. A handful of shallow queen cups. But no queens. Plenty of evidence of the queen laying recently (tiny eggs in cleared brood comb). The empty box I added to the bottom of the brood boxes had one small comb and one larger comb drawn out. I now believe opening each brood box is better than putting an empty box contiguous to the brood area.

It was crazy putting the hive all back together because it is now 10 boxes high. I had to stand on a concrete block to put the cover on. Apiary looks like a metropolis with all these skyscrapers now. Is this normal when you're finally getting it right as a beekeeper?

There was a bit of drone crosscomb that I removed. After the hive was all back together I opened the drone comb and pulled out the pupae. I was looking for varroa on the drone but I found none. This hive was from a cutout I did 3 years ago. It has been growing up TF & foundationless for the pasts 3 years. The brood cells are very small and the worker bees are relatively small too. I can't complain.

In another 4 week I plan to harvest from my four boomer hives. Based on the honeycomb I already have capped in the hives but ready to take off we will have a bumper crop this year. Exponentially more than in previous years. I just hope a bear doesn't find our hives!
 
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