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Unlimited brood nest and drawn comb, a cautionary tale

1883 Views 5 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  ksp107
Following Walt Wright's advice (more or less, since I intended to checkerboard my hive this spring and couldn't because I had not capped honey left) I let the bees brood as much as they wanted and supered up early.

I started with what a friend said was "too many boxes" -- a medium on the bottom, a deep, another medium, (narrow frames in these boxes mostly), a third medium and a shallow, both fully drawn but with some honey last fall. I was going to pull the top two boxes but it got too cold to mess with the hive before I did, so I left them.

I fed a bag of dry sugar (four pounds I think) and a partial protein patty at the end of Feb since the bees were all the way up to the top of the hive and it was very light.

I put on two more shallow supers of drawn comb in April when we started our packages because there were quite a few bees in the hive (as in all the frames were covered) and they were hauling pollen and nectar like crazy. I was thinking that they would use some room for brood and then start filling supers for me.

Well, they did raise lots of brood, but not in the bottom boxes. They stuffed them with pollen, then the queen laid the upper medium with narrow frames full of brood. The two honey supers had brood on three frames on the east side of the hive. I switched the two lower mediums to make sure the queen had room to lay and left them alone.

A couple weeks later I checked and they had brood in all the boxes (six now) on the east side, three or four frames, top to bottom. Lots more bees, so I left them alone, figuring I'd have to move some frames around to consolidate the brood nest in the upper boxes and coax the queen back down.

Ha, two weeks ago I had nothing but brood in the supers, last weekend they had filled all but a couple frames in the two shallows (some brood still in those frames, but mostly emerged) and filled a good part of the medium as well, although there was still some brood in there. I checked for swarm signs, found a couple queen cups on the bottom of a few frames but no larvae. My two foundationless frames in the medium box were drones, side to side and top to bottom!

Didn't get in there last weekend, but today my neighbor and I took another look. I'd added a third empty super with a couple drawn frames and the rest foundation to the top for a total of seven boxes.

Almost more than I can do to move that top super now, it's almost completely capped, so is the next one down. New super has the drawn frame nearly full with some capped at the top, although they aren't doing anything much with the foundation yet. The medium honey super still has quite a bit of capped brood in it, but they are backfilling with nectar or honey as the brood emerges. The medium with narrow frames has most of the drones out now, and it's full of honey too. Lots of capped brood in the rest of the frames. The deep has TEN frames of brood, some capped and some open, solid, no gaps, no honey on top, just brood. Even on the outside of the outside frame! Didn't look at the bottom box, but I'd guess from the smell of bee bread it's mostly pollen.

So it looks like letting the bees make brood wherever they want in a hive full of drawn comb can drown you in honey -- it's the middle of May, and I'm going to have to extract next weekend as we are still about in the middle of the spring flow here, and the weather is great for clover and they will work that all summer! I have more honey on this hive now that we got all year from two (including this one) last year.

I'm going to have to buy an extractor, I think -- and make plans for next year when I expect to have the same problems!

Drawn comb is really worth it's weight in gold, I think -- I'd have maybe one super drawn and filled if they were starting from foundation if their behavior in that last super I added is any indication. Not much action at all on the foundation, not even any bees to speak of, while the drawn frames are full of honey.

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Too bad you have to buy an extractor,,,,we should all be so lucky. Good news any ways and good luck.

My dad had family in Evansville.
Poor guy. Sorry for you problems....... :D

Can I borrow some drawn comb?
You'll have to wrestle the bees for it now, it's full!

I shall be very much more careful with drawn comb in the future, believe me!

I read through your opening post with particular interest to compare your findings with my own, I am running 3 deep brood chambers of drawn comb on 9 hives for the first time to see if 30 deep frames would help in suppressing the urge to swarm. So far I have had 1 hive swarm on me ( not too bad ) and I hived the swarm which brings my hive count to 10. I inspected hive #4 two days ago and found 17 frames in the top 2 boxes full of capped brood and bees, the bees were capping nectar in the top arc of some of these frames so I am certain that back-filling has begun and will continue as the brood emerges. I never looked into the bottom box but now I am wishing I had to see if it is full of pollen similar to yours.

After reading your post I am convinced that I will continue to use queen excluders to keep the queen out of the supers, the 3 deeps seems to be an adequate brood chamber for limiting swarming and too much open brood comb only delays the storage of honey because their focus seems to be on filling all remaining comb with brood before back-filling begins. :)
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If you feel like you have TOO much drawn comb and honey, just give me the word Peter and I'll start down the road to Evansville!!! :)
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