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I've read some articles and posts about how to open the brood nest for swarm control, but I'm a little confused as to when to start the manipulation. I'd like to try this swarm prevention technique and would appreciate if people who successfully control swarming this way would discuss what goes into their decision of when to begin.

I have no intention of suggesting that this is the only swarm control technique, but at this point in my beekeeping hobby, I think it's a good place to start. I'm going into my third year and I don't have the empty comb yet to try checkerboarding although I plan to test that also when I have the resources. I realize there are other ways to try to control the swarming instinct, but this year I'm going to try opening the brood nest. Please don't let this thread turn into a "what's the best" way to prevent swarming. There are a lot of threads where that has been discussed. What I'd like to find out is what people think is the best way to open the brood nest. :)

If it helps, I live in zone 5 in north central Kansas, Chinese Elms can bloom anytime between the middle of Feb. to the first week in March with Maples about a week or less later. Dandelions usually show up around the middle of March, Red Bud around the middle of April and Apples about the first of May. I have two hives and maybe a nuc if it survives. (Keeping my fingers crossed)

Thanks for any help!

BB
 

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It takes some practice to recognize a hive that is on the verge of swarming. The number of bees, the activity, the crowdedness of the hive etc. In Greenwood, I've seen bees that far along in March, rarely, but typically I see it in mid to late May. It's not so much the time of year as the strength of the hive. If I can remove a frame from the brood nest and the bees fill it with festooning bees in a matter of a minute or less, then I could open the brood nest at least that one frame and probably two. Some hives are so strong, you could put an empty between each full, but that is pretty rare.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beesswarmcontrol.htm#opening
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you for your reply Michael. I read the link you sent and also the experiment page comparing checkerboarding to opening the hive nest, which brought up my confusion on timing as my blooms last year at least are farther apart than Walt's and even yours. Seemed to be closer if I ignored the elm bloom, but maybe you are looking at red elm or another variety that blooms later. Weird weather in late March and early April could have skewed the dates also. I'm going into my third year and didn't record bloom dates until last year.

Both of my hives survived winter last year, but one swarmed on April 19 and when I opened the hive, it was full of bees in two 10 frame deeps, so I made two nucs for a friend who was just starting and everything went well from then on with that hive. They didn't store any extra honey for me, but went into winter pretty large. They still seem to have ample reserves and I can't see bees when I removed the cover, but they are flying on warmer days.

The other hive was a dog all summer and only drew out about 5 frames in a medium on top of the deep they wintered in. I requeened in late August and by the end of Oct. they had drawn and filled two mediums. When I checked about two weeks ago, they were visible from the top, but seemed to have capped honey as far down as I could see above the cluster. This hive is now a deep with two mediums on top.

I'd really like to keep this queen as she seems to be a great layer who produces great workers. Also, before I start expanding my apiary, I'd like to get a handle on swarm prevention as my bees are in my backyard and I don't want to freak people out with swarms! I also don't want to do anything stupid.

Depending on the weather, do you think I should start looking in mid March or should I start looking earlier if there are warm days? I'm thinking late Feb. or early Mar. would have pretty cold nights around here, but I guess if there are enough bees to fill the empty frame I shouldn't worry? One thing everyone seems to agree on is that it's easier to control swarming if you start whatever manipulation before they actually start preparing to swarm. :scratch:

Thanks again!

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Michael,

very informative page (and a recent addition to your site, no?)

Do you and/or Walt know anything about 'Pyramiding' ala Dee Lusby and can you point me to any references or web links on the subject?

I am interested in all three of these techniques for swarm prevention: Opening the Broodnest, Checkerboarding/Nectar Management, and Pyramiding and would like to better understand the similarities and differences between them.

-fafrd
 

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You can also open up the brood nest by moving frames of honey up into the super and replacing them with foundation or drawn combs if you have them.
I do not recommend the very old method known as spreading brood. You might want to read up on the method just for background.
Ernie
 

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Well, there are still some "very old" beekeepers out there that "spread the brood". My Great Grandfather was accused in 1925 of being old fashioned, and we seen to be carrying on the tradition. Having a feel for exactly how much manipulation they can handle is essential. We use only a deep for a brood chamber, and seldom have any sucessfull swarms(that we can tell). If you doubt me, ask Sheri. Last year we were able to push (through spreading)all of the packages from her, and split each one in the first week of June.

Roland
Linden Apiary, Est. 1852
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the reply Ernie.

For the 2 deep hive, I had planned on taking a frame from one or both sides of the upper box and saving it. I will then put an empty frame or two in the brood nest with two frames of brood on each side. For the other hive with 2 mediums on top of a deep, I thought I'd do what you suggest and pull a frame from one or both sides and move them into another medium on top. I'd put one or two empty frames in the brood box as above and put all empty frames on each side of the frames I moved up to the new top box.

"You can also open up the brood nest by moving frames of honey up into the super and replacing them with foundation or drawn combs if you have them."

Looked up "spreading brood" and found two references. 1 in 1914 Gleenings and one in 1917 ABC XYZ which stated they didn't recommend doing this for beginners. Looked to me the only differences between spreading and opening were using drawn empty comb instead of empty frames and the manipulation needed to be done later in the spring to prevent chilling of brood and bees.

Am I correct in thinking that by adding empty frames the queen will not be able to lay immediately and therefore the manipulation can be started earlier because foragers will festoon the empty space when it's too cold leaving enough nurse bees to warm the existing brood? If I had waited until the night temps are consistently above freezing, as suggested by XYZ, my hive would still have swarmed last year.

When it gets a little warmer later this month or next, I'll start checking the hives. I hope I can post some photos so I can get some help in determining when (or if) I should start.

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>Depending on the weather, do you think I should start looking in mid March or should I start looking earlier if there are warm days?

You can look. But I wouldn't expect you to need to open it up until late April where you are...

> I'm thinking late Feb. or early Mar. would have pretty cold nights around here, but I guess if there are enough bees to fill the empty frame I shouldn't worry?

Cold at night is an issue.

> One thing everyone seems to agree on is that it's easier to control swarming if you start whatever manipulation before they actually start preparing to swarm.

True.

>very informative page (and a recent addition to your site, no?)

No. It's been there since 2006...

>Do you and/or Walt know anything about 'Pyramiding' ala Dee Lusby and can you point me to any references or web links on the subject?

Basically it's just what you do with the frames you pull out. You move them up to the box above in the center, which makes a sort of pyramid.

>I am interested in all three of these techniques for swarm prevention: Opening the Broodnest, Checkerboarding/Nectar Management, and Pyramiding and would like to better understand the similarities and differences between the

Time for an experiment.
 

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Well, there are still some "very old" beekeepers out there that "spread the brood". Last year we were able to push (through spreading)all of the packages from her, and split each one in the first week of June.

Roland
Linden Apiary, Est. 1852
It can work as you said. If, you know the essentials.
Did you spread the brood with foundation or drawn out combs?
Your local weather must have been settled too.
Ernie
 

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This is all very ineresting And Michael- your link is very helpful.

Now I have a question or two. Going in to winter I had one strong hive and one relatively weak hive.

1. Do I need to worry about swarming from the weak hive? I was thinking that since it was weak to start with they wouldn't want to lose half their population- but now I'm not sure.

2. Does expanding the brood nest need to be done more than once or will one time suffice?

3. Does anyone know when I should start concerning myself with this in northern Wyoming? Spring weather around here can be unpredictable- most of our winter storms come in the spring- March and April.
Thanks,
Gareth
 

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>1. Do I need to worry about swarming from the weak hive?

Of course. If it makes it through the winter it may take off and swarm.

> I was thinking that since it was weak to start with they wouldn't want to lose half their population- but now I'm not sure.

If they build up enough, and they can build up explosively, then they probably will swarm if you don't interfere. If they are still struggling and don't take off, you may not have that issue.

>2. Does expanding the brood nest need to be done more than once or will one time suffice?

That depends. Some years once will do. Some years you have to do it two or even three times.

>3. Does anyone know when I should start concerning myself with this in northern Wyoming? Spring weather around here can be unpredictable- most of our winter storms come in the spring- March and April.

A real boomer might be ready to swarm in march, but Mid May is the most likely time where you are.
 
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