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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have one hive that is going gangbusters: in three mediums for a brood chamber there were at least 10 full frames of capped brood yesterday, and all boxes full of bees. And we're early in the flow and they're already working on nectar storage in their third super. This could be my most productive hive, by far, for honey... or it could be the hive that swarmed. This is a hive that built up to swarming last year , swarmed, then returned to the hive, and when I split the colony three ways this one got last year's queen. She is very productive: solid brood pattern, a prolific layer.

I have been doing OSBN this spring and have robbed two-three frames of capped brood twice so far to build weaker colonies. I don't know if that's enough to keep them from swarming. Once all that capped brood that's in the hive emerges, they will be a very large colony, as they're already crowded in their 3med brood/3med supers stack. Zero mites on last check.

I'm not so keen on invasive colony manipulation. Any suggestions as to how to keep this hive strong but prevent swarming? I should add that I don't have space for increasing my hives. I'm thinking that removing the queen to a nuc for a short brood break could be helpful in a few ways: reducing hive strength a tiny bit, varroa control, having the colony make some queen cells to requeen other hives. I'm wondering about timing for that. Right now, before the main flow hits? Or after ? They're doing a great job of storing honey above the QE, so not crowding the brood nest.

One surprising thing: Last week I found three supersedure cells, two capped, which seemed puzzling since this queen is so strong. Didn't fit the pattern for swarm cells. I pulled two of the cells for another hive, and left them with one. Yesterday on reinspection I found the remaining cell and one more; both had been torn open : possibly being torn down by the colony. Wondering why they might start to supersede such a strong queen. I saw eggs yesterday and last week, so for sure the current queen is not out of the picture.
 

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Hi Karen, fellow cincy beekeeper here. Since you have a QE, I would move all frames of capped brood above it, and replace the empty spaces in the brood nest with either drawn empty comb or foundation frames. Make sure the queen stays below the excluder when moving the frames up; easiest way is to shake all the bees off the frame before moving it. This does several things: keeps the brood in the hive so the hive stays strong, the brood above the excluder will emerge and leave empty comb that gets filled with nectar, and gives your queen plenty of space to lay. I use this method a lot and its very effective at heading off swarming and making lots of honey.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hey. Glad to hear from a local! Glad to know you have used this method successfully. It seems really easy. Question: Some or most of the capped brood frames have little tiny patches of open brood around the edges. Someone cautioned me about pulling open brood above the QE, as it might have the effect of pulling the brood nest too far apart. What are your thoughts on this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
one more thought: i just did a full inspection yesterday so I'll give it five days. and then pull the brood up. That will make four supers above the QE!
 

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Hi Karen,

If you have a large population and not enough queen pheromone is getting around the hive, the bees will start Supercedure cells. Hopefully they were torn down before a virgin emerged.

Having said that, I do not worry about swarming once the Main Flow has started, as long as you provide plenty of space in the Supers so that they are not too crowded.

I would not be adding a lot of empty comb below the excluder. Just replace frames that are only honey/nectar. If you give the queen a lot of empty comb to lay in, then you will be continuing to increase the population. And the bees produced from that may not even see the Main Flow. Then the population in summer is too high and they will need a lot more feed, especially if you have a dearth.

Instead I would be reducing them down to 2 Mediums for the Broodnest and giving the brood frames from the 3rd Medium to your other hives, such as Nucs or weaker hives.

Also, make sure you maintain 2 frames of foundation in each of the Supers during the Main Flow to keep the young bees busy drawing out comb.
 

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I put frames with brood in the center over the QE; this keeps the brood nest together vertically and in the warmest part of the hive. I don't worry about a little open brood on a mostly capped frame as they are usually past the point where they would start cells with them. Just don't move up frames with eggs or new larvae and you are fine. You don't need to move all the capped brood up at once, but 2-3 frames a week over a few week period is usually enough to keep the queen busy.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Matt, interesting reply. I love how asking a questions of beekeepers gets you as many answers as there are beekeepers! It's a good point about making that hive build up too much by giving the queen so much space. And I appreciate the suggestion to keep a couple of frames of foundation in each super. Do you put them by the edge or toward the center? This hive isn't drawing comb, surprisingly. It must all be about what age the bees are and surely the weather plays a large role. Seems pretty complex. I am a bit skeptical about suggesting going in the other direction- to reduce space by 1/3 in the brood nest. With a hive already quite packed with bees, it's hard for me to believe that the queen will abruptly reduce her laying by such a drastic amount. Seems like it could almost encourage swarming.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Beebeard, what do you think about Matt's suggestion that this approach would allow the colony to build to a much bigger size than is needed? Do you keep removing frames of capped brood to feed other hives, or do you split the hive when it gets to be a giant? One thing I'm sure of: I've learned from experience that the bigger they are, the harder they fall - when it comes to varroa. I will definitely be monitoring this hive for mite levels!
 

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I have been dealing with a booming hive this summer and autumn (fall). I wish I had done what I am suggesting.

By removing 1/3 of the Brood you will also be reducing the number of bees adding to the population by 1/3. Especially if you take mostly capped Brood. It is high numbers of underemployed house bees that influences swarming. And the Main Flow is the cutoff point for reproductive swarms. As long as they don't feel too crowded.

I tend to put Foundation towards the outer edges. Placing beside combs that are straight. But it probably doesn't matter that much. I know of others who prefer to put them in the middle of the box.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Interestingly, this busy hive does not seem interested in drawing comb. Other hives are drawing out foundation but this one not. What do you think leads to that? Maybe they got promoted to field bees earlier than usual because they were an available workforce with no space to draw comb? So they turned to nectar collection? Usually I see some white wax on the underside of the inner cover as a sign the hive is ready to draw comb, and on this one, no white wax, so it's not like the house bees have been twiddling their thumbs, so to speak. Or maybe they've been fullly occupied with brood care. The complexity of this seems to have factors such as: when did it warm up enough for the colony to start brood production (we had a warm late winter) , followed by lots of rainy and cold weather keeping the bees inside in spring when it's usually warmer. Maybe they missed their phase of wax building. I can't quite parse it all out- so many factors.
 

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I've never had a hive get too big, and I occasionally move brood from mediocre hives to my biggest hives to make them bigger just before the flow. More bees=more honey. Bigger is better right on through the flow. Remember that the attrition rate of field bees during the flow is very high, and a box full of younger house bees can take the incoming nectar from the returning foragers much faster than a hive depleted of young bees (and dry it down to honey faster). Populations in my hives seem to really drop off in july-august on their own.

I check for mites when I pull the honey towards the end of the flow, and treat as necessary then, often while I'm pulling the honey: supers off, mite wash, treatment in. I do OAV at thanksgiving, so my hives go through spring buildup with really low levels. I only had to summer treat about half my hives last year. Some had a mite wash of 1 or 2 at the end of june, having had no treatments since the previous november. I monitor mites thru late summer/fall and treat as necessary then, usually very rarely. All my bees are local swarms and cutouts, and I raise my own queens from the best performers. I eliminate dud queens and scratch drone brood from bad hives to try and keep the genetics in the area tipped to the better.
 

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I have one hive that is going gangbusters: in three mediums for a brood chamber there were at least 10 full frames of capped brood yesterday, and all boxes full of bees. And we're early in the flow and they're already working on nectar storage in their third super. This could be my most productive hive, by far, for honey... or it could be the hive that swarmed. This is a hive that built up to swarming last year , swarmed, then returned to the hive, and when I split the colony three ways this one got last year's queen. She is very productive: solid brood pattern, a prolific layer.

I have been doing OSBN this spring and have robbed two-three frames of capped brood twice so far to build weaker colonies. I don't know if that's enough to keep them from swarming. Once all that capped brood that's in the hive emerges, they will be a very large colony, as they're already crowded in their 3med brood/3med supers stack. Zero mites on last check.

I'm not so keen on invasive colony manipulation. Any suggestions as to how to keep this hive strong but prevent swarming? I should add that I don't have space for increasing my hives. I'm thinking that removing the queen to a nuc for a short brood break could be helpful in a few ways: reducing hive strength a tiny bit, varroa control, having the colony make some queen cells to requeen other hives. I'm wondering about timing for that. Right now, before the main flow hits? Or after ? They're doing a great job of storing honey above the QE, so not crowding the brood nest.

One surprising thing: Last week I found three supersedure cells, two capped, which seemed puzzling since this queen is so strong. Didn't fit the pattern for swarm cells. I pulled two of the cells for another hive, and left them with one. Yesterday on reinspection I found the remaining cell and one more; both had been torn open : possibly being torn down by the colony. Wondering why they might start to supersede such a strong queen. I saw eggs yesterday and last week, so for sure the current queen is not out of the picture.
Never assume that you think the same of the queen as the bees do, they sense she is failing and replaces as needed, you did say she boomed last year as well, and this one so she may be approaching her last days. if they want to supersede I normally either let them or remove the queen let the cell hatch and the queen take over. The tear down could be a virgin emerged and destroyed the rest, or the bees changed their minds.

GG
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks GG. I have not been successful finding the queens this spring. Don't know why this year in particular. One goal for this year is to acquire the skill of queen marking. I had hoped to pull the queen out for a week or two and really get some queen cells for other hives. No dice.
 

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Thanks GG. I have not been successful finding the queens this spring. Don't know why this year in particular. One goal for this year is to acquire the skill of queen marking. I had hoped to pull the queen out for a week or two and really get some queen cells for other hives. No dice.
Mark about a 100 drones first :) practice practice practice and maybe have a spare queen good luck.
I was thinking of marking as well but fear wrecking queens.
I need to make a tunnel they walk thru and opto trigger spray a dot.
Old clumsy fingers, I need a kid to train up on marking :)

GG
 

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Karen, did you give this hive Drawn Comb? If the bees have plenty of empty comb, then Wax Making will stop.
Getting them to start Wax Making again can be a challenge.

I believe Wax Making starts to happens when house bees don't have enough empty comb to put nectar, so they have to store nectar in their Honey Stomach.
With OSBN I am triggering Wax Making and then trying to keep it continuing throughout Swarm Season.
(This is also why using a Partial Foundation works to trigger Wax Making, by causing the bees on the outer edges of the Broodnest to store honey in their Honey Stomach).

So Wax Making stopped in this hive, possibly due to lack or incoming nectar because of the weather or because of plenty of empty comb.

Going back to the Broodnest, most commercial beekeepers use a Single Deep for the Broodnest during the Main Flow.
Two Mediums is actually more space than a Single Deep. So giving some capped brood to other hives and reducing the Broodnest to Two Mediums shouldn't be an issue.

The fact that they made Supersedure cells and not Swarm cells also tells you they are not wanting to swarm. Again, now that the Main Flow has started their focus will be on bringing in as much nectar as possible. Swarming from now on is much less likely and the Broodnest naturally reduces in size due to the incoming nectar.

So don't give the Queen heaps of space from now on. The hive's focus has switched to gathering nectar, so making sure they have space to store that nectar is what is needed.

You may be able to use the other hives that are still Waking Making to make Drawn Comb to give to the booming hive, and boost their number of young bees to make wax by giving them those frames of capped brood.
 
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