That is a good question I think for us newbees. I have often thought the same thing. Is it just a matter of bees don't like hives that big? Is it just a logistics/engineering issue where a really tall hive is prone to fall or too tall to pull honey supers off safely?
To split a hive the local bee keeper in my area where I got my bees will kill off a hives queen, have two new queens purchased, place 5 healthy frames in a new brood box and place the new queens in both hives.
So the original hive just gets split before it swarms and he sells or keeps the new hive and builds up from there. So is something like that just better/more efficient then adding more brood boxes?
Swarm control is a negative feedback. Queen Mandibular Pheromone suppresses swarm cells.
If the QMP falls below a threshold for any reason, bees respond by building queen cells. A giant hive (crowded or not) dilutes QMP by volume and results in early swarming. There are lots of other reasons QMP can be dilute (excessive bee numbers, a sick queen, excessive ventilation), and in general all the negative feedback effects raise the fitness of the colony.
I have been running 2 deeps brood chambers for years and have had the same swarming problems everyone else experiences. Last year I had my hives draw comb out for a 3rd deep and in early spring this year I placed this 3rd deep on the hives checkerboarding the drawn and empty combs with the left over winter honey stores of the second deeps. This is the only form of swarm control that I have done this year and I had 1 hive swarm among my 6 production hives, not too bad I think. The population in the hives was greatly increased from last year which increased the foraging quite a bit. Two of the hives are now so heavy that I cannot lift them from the back side and the other four are to where I can just barely lift them so the amount of honey in the hives must be considerable. I also placed three supers on each hive and as of last week the bees are working on them as well.
I have settled on this flexible set-up with the 3rd deep that has varying functions, it starts the year out as an early spring brood expansion deep which helps to control swarming and expands brood count then it switches to a super as the flow kicks in and finally ends up the year in dry storage after extraction, I am happy with this setup.
Sometime in the future I am hoping to start a thread on this configuration and share the results of the honey produced.
Early spring photo this year after the hives were configured.
Due to a severe shoulder injury resulting from a vehicle accident the last week in February I was not able to work the hives very well so I can only say that the clusters were the same coming out of winter as they have always been, I can't give you an estimated population count.
We think 2 deep brood boxes is one tooo many. With frame rotation, one is plenty. The more room you give her, the longer it takes to do an inspection. Choose at will, and have fun separating the honey and brood.
last year when my hives were drawing the third deeps for me the combs were indeed used for brooding but when I extracted they were all capped honey stores, however this year is the first test run of starting with the comb already drawn. What you have stated about separating the honey and brood is indeed something that is continually at the forefront of my thoughts, my hopes are that back filling will have pushed the queen and brood to the lower boxes by harvest time next month, we will see, I am not a commercial beekeeper with automated decapping systems so I can handle a little brood mixed in the frames, this hive configuration is still experimental to me so I will adjust as I go.
When I set the hives up in early spring I did an inspection to make sure the queen was present and laying, after that they are on their own till harvest time in July unless swarming occurs as it did in one of the hives and I had to tear it down to cull the extra queen cells to prevent after swarms. The reasoning behind this hive configuration is to keep swarming to a minimum while providing a bigger work force to collect nectar, my hives are located in an area where I only have wild flowers and forest trees for forage with lots of hay fields which equates to less forage available than I would like.
I have read in your posts where you explain your frame rotation method that entails moving sealed brood out of the brood chamber to another box above and bringing empty combs back down, the two boxes are separated by a queen excluder if I am recalling correctly. I have often thought about this and wondered if this could be something I might be able to use but what I have never been clear on is how do you provide the winter stores, does it come from one of the supers being filled or do you feed all the hives at the end of the harvest and how many supers do you stack above the brood boxes ? Could you please fill me in on these parts and next year I will consider giving your method of operating a run through with a hive I started this year to see how it pans out for me compared with what I am doing now and if indeed your method works out for me then I would give serious thought to running my hives the way you run yours.
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