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Removing Queen for Brood Break, Increased Honey and Nucs

1546 Views 7 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  RayMarler
I am thinking ahead to next year, and I had a thought. What if, from strong hives early in a good honey flow, I removed the queens and some brood to make nucs? As the brood in the hives emerged, the nurse bees would be free for other duties, and there would be more foragers. Honey production would be increased, there would be a brood break to help with varroa, and I would have nucs to keep my hive numbers up so I would be more self sufficient and not have to buy bees. This should also help with swarm control.

I realize this is not an original idea. I was wondering if there were any books that covered this specifically? Would this encourage a laying worker, since the hive would be queenless for a time? I welcome any comments and opinions. I would really like to hear from anyone who does this.
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First of all, I wouldn't do this (cut down split) unless I had empty honey supers of drawn comb available and the hives I was doing it to were very strong to start with. But I have done it, about a week before the main flow starts, take the queen and all the unsealed brood, and a few frames of food, and make another hive and move it to another location in the same yard. Leave one frame of eggs with the original hive for them to make a new queen. The new hive you made will lose most all the foragers back to the original hive. The original hive will have nothing but one frame of eggs, the rest sealed brood, and all the foragers. It'll be about 3 weeks, maybe a bit more, before you have a laying queen in the original hive. Put on a couple supers of drawn comb to start with, and you may need more if the flow is real good, they will store lots of honey to be sure with no brood to take care of.
A lot of us do this. I do it with any queen that is over a year old for swarm prevention. It works great for that as long as their not in swarm mode already.
If timed just right they can put up a lot of honey. However most of it will be in the broodnest. When the new queen starts laying they will move some up out of her way.

I haven't worked out the timing exactly yet but the flow has to be on. Comb has to be drawn. My bees don't draw well without a queen. While there's a lot of bees free to gather mine seem to be a little lackluster until they have a queen.

I can usually get about as much honey as a queen right hive beside them but I may have to take some of it from the lower boxes.
They will certainly make more honey than a hive that swarms. On my younger queens that are not as prone to swarm I just keep the broodnest open and the queen a place to lay.

Due to supersedures I generally don't have more than two or three queens over a year old.

There's been a lot of talk about this method and other peoples experience may be different. There's only one way to know if it works for you.
Woody Roberts
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As Wolfer said, much honey will initially go into the broodnest vacated by the emerging bees, that's why I try to leave as little brood comb as possible for them when I do the split, just the really full frames of sealed and emerging brood is what I give them. I normally run smaller brood nests anyway, so usually I can get all the brood in one box, and then pile on the supers. I have heard others doing this method and not realizing much gain in honey production over a normal hive, but the few times I did it I did see significantly more production from the cut down split hives, could have just been the year though.
This year I tried something different. I had double deeps with brood. I put a super between them until time for the queen to start laying.

No idea how it worked. It rained nearly every day for the next 3 week. I didn't get honey put up in any hives. To top it all off I raised 10 queens from the excess cells. It rained or was cloudy every day of their mating flight window. One I haven't checked yet but of the others 3 are still laying. The rest have been superseded.
I'm certain the rest will fail soon.
I did not do it, but it looks like it happened anyway. Had a substantial die off, including the queen. Still had brood, so left it to hatch out while I waited to see it the hive would recover. Looks like it did, with bees bringing in a lot of nectar, so ordered a queen which should get here next week. Went through the hive and it looks like a lot of honey, consolidated into two boxes which are quite heavy. When the queen gets here I will switch out some of the frames full of honey, install some frames of comb and put a super on since we should have 2-3 months left for honey production. It will be interesting to see what happens.

At least it has been very interesting for a first year beek.
I tried it this year with poor results. I think the biggest thing was, I did it about a month earlier than I should have. I did get a really nice nuc and what appears to be good laying new queen in the original colony. The queenless colony put up a lot of honey, but it was in the brood chamber. I think it will work, but Wolfer's advice on drawn comb is spot on. I had no extra drawn comb to give them. They have rebounded nicely, numbers-wise and I recently put a medium of foundation on top of them. I haven't had a chance to check and see if they're drawing it.
For the times that I've done it, I find it works better if done halfway through the flow. Or when there is still a week or so to the flow, towards the end of it. The bees forage stronger and build wax if the queen is there with brood. Waiting till towards the end of the flow, there is a reduction in brood feeding as the flow is starting to slow, so seems to work better, for me.
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