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Walk away or natural split of a monster brood queen hive. Over 20 frames of brood!


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Hello, this is my first year beekeeping (since Feb this year). I finished a year long fortnightly one day course on beekeeping in July. But there is just so so so much to learn! And no one way of doing it as i've discovered. My bees overwintered well and have been absolutely cranking since the start of August. Bayvarol came out start of July and I've seen no sign of Varroa (in drone cells or on bees) since. I'll do a sugar shake test the next fine day and check this way too. I have three boxes of brood with 7 frames of brood in each one and a honey/pollen frame either side (I run 9 frames a box). I put a honey super on when I did some rearranging a few weeks back with a queen excluder. When I checked this on Sunday (7 days later), they hadn't put any honey in it but had filled the three empty frames with brood which I'd put in the middle of the middle box (I was recommended to do this at the monthly bee meeting). I made an amateur mistake and didn't put the queen excluder back on after this inspection..
When I went in again yesterday, I saw I'd not put it on and yep, she'd laid in 2.5 frames in the top box and they had drawn loads of comb and lots of nectar in the other frames. Since Sunday! So that then totalled (after I went through and checked all the boxes again) 23.5 frames of brood. The comb at the bottom is quite dark and it was patchy hatching brood, because it was so dark I couldn't see if there were eggs laid. How do you get rid of these dark frames? I've heard about putting them above the queen excluder but don't fancy harvesting honey from these frames as they are a bit old and manky? 


I'm also planning on doing a walkaway/natural split with this hive and taking one whole brood box and putting it next to the current mother hive. I'd reduce the entrance, ensure there are eggs and also plenty of capped brood to hatch out and make sure they had plenty of stores. Maybe also shaking a frame of nurse bees into this box for good measure?

Would I also add another box with a few more honey frames? 
Would this split work being right next to the mother hive? I'm guessing a lot of the flying bees will go back to the mother hive. Would they then report there is a hive to be robbed just next door? Or is that just a risk you take?

Can you please let me know if this would work and any tips and tricks on how to do it? If they don't make their own queen, I would look at bringing in a queen cell or caged queen. Or could I add another frame of eggs?
I have a lot of drones and have done since mid August. I'm residential in Hastings and this is the only site on my property to keep bees.

 

Thanks!

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thats is of concern. usually with boomer hives brood pattern is pretty solid. one of the issues is the strongest hive is the one that searches the furthest and tends to be the one that finds

Not a good plan, put it at the least 2 meters away. Some people put the queenless hive in the original place and move the queenless hive away, which reduces drift.     Exactly.  

Ok great thanks for all the responses! Being in a backyard and with young children, my bees are behind a bamboo scrub fence i've erected to make them fly over it and off without flying into people. Th

Welcome to the forum @backyardbees.

Welcome to the steepest learning curve, but well done being aware there are very many styles of beekeeping.

In your other post you mentioned your tutor was going to come and look at your monster. As long as there is no risk of swarming, I think it would be good to get his/her advice before you make any changes, as from your description you have the opportunity to get two productive hives this season, especially if you could obtain a queen or cell.

 

Others will be along to offer further advice / opinions, meanwhile are you confident to look for swarm cells?

Are you confident the queen is now below the Queen Excluder?

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, backyardbees said:


Would this split work being right next to the mother hive? 

 

Not a good plan, put it at the least 2 meters away. Some people put the queenless hive in the original place and move the queenless hive away, which reduces drift.

 

3 hours ago, backyardbees said:

I'm guessing a lot of the flying bees will go back to the mother hive. 

 

Exactly.

 

3 hours ago, backyardbees said:

Would they then report there is a hive to be robbed just next door? 

 

Yes they will. Wether or not the robbing happens depends just how you have set everything up, and wether there is a nectar flow on to keep the potential robbers otherwise engaged. No nectar flow ='s high risk.

 

3 hours ago, backyardbees said:

Or is that just a risk you take?

 

It's a risk some people take. But, why take risks.

 

 

A thought. Success with getting a mated queen in a walkaway split is often around 70% or so. So if you make your split you will probably end up with a queen but maybe not.

Since your hive is so populous, why not make 2 or 3 splits. That way your odds of getting at least one queen are high. You can always recombine later.

 

If you make say, 2 splits, here is how I would position them to minimise drift. One queenless split a meter to one side of the parent hive, one queenless split a meter to the other side. Then move the parent hive (the one with the queen) well away, to the other side of your section.

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17 hours ago, backyardbees said:

t was patchy hatching brood,

thats is of concern.

usually with boomer hives brood pattern is pretty solid.

one of the issues is the strongest hive is the one that searches the furthest and tends to be the one that finds AFB.

check before doing anything.

 

splitting, i would only do a single split. multiples throw up a few challenges which are best avoided.

you can do the split next to the hive.

simply move the hive to the "new" spot facing the opposite way, then take back a box of brood WITHOUT the queen (make sure it has eggs). i typically just shake all the bees off to make sure the queen is not on there.

put the supers on the nuc thats in the old spot.

no need to close up entrances.

 

the large amount of brood and queen will keep the bees in the old hive, while field bees will all fly back to the original spot and make a new queen there. generally you end up with most bees back at the old spot (nuc) and they will decline in numbers untill the new queen gets up and running. the old hive will loose most of its bees but will repopulate as all the brood hatches. 

if the nuc fails its not a big loss as the old hive is still strong.

 

 

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6 hours ago, tristan said:

thats is of concern.

usually with boomer hives brood pattern is pretty solid.

 

Not so sure it would be a major concern in this case. The more likely scenario is that since it is now a 3 brood box hive (with the top one being a nice shiny new one that the queen will be super keen on) the queen is probably ignoring the bottom box for the moment and there is still some emerging brood in there.

I'd try to find a local beekeeper that breeds nice gentle bees and buy a queen cell or two for your splits rather than doing walk away ones.

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4 minutes ago, Otto said:

Not so sure it would be a major concern in this case. The more likely scenario is that since it is now a 3 brood box hive (with the top one being a nice shiny new one that the queen will be super keen on) the queen is probably ignoring the bottom box for the moment and there is still some emerging brood in there.

I'd try to find a local beekeeper that breeds nice gentle bees and buy a queen cell or two for your splits rather than doing walk away ones.

its a case of something is a bit odd so be careful. usually if they are laying at a great pace they usually lay nice pattern. even tho shes moved up it still should hatch out reasonable well and not patchy.

 

its something to watch with strong hives that are getting out there as the weather warms up and finding all the dead ones that died over winter.

 

as always its best practice to afb check before splitting.

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13 hours ago, tristan said:

as always its best practice to afb check before splitting.

Or any other removal/swapping of equipment.  And base it on risk: think about how many hives might end up with the equipment.  I remember one of Mark Goodwin's explanations, giving (I think???) the example of equalising brood between two hives.  You put two hives at risk, so you should take reasonable care in inspecting.  But take a box of honey from what turns out to be an AFB hive and the risk goes up to 8 or more hives put into possible risk.  Any removal or swapping of equipment is a time to remember (possible) consequences - and if the risk is higher, make your inspections more thorough accordingly!

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Ok great thanks for all the responses! Being in a backyard and with young children, my bees are behind a bamboo scrub fence i've erected to make them fly over it and off without flying into people. There is enough room to walk around the hive and for another hive to go next to the current one. Also when I go in, I can open up one whole side to have more room to work. This would make it tricky with putting the queen right hive metres away. With the putting it the opposite way, this hive has its back to the fence (About 80cm away from it and if turned to face the fence it would be facing South..). This wouldn't work right?

I am not confident looking for swarm cells, i've sent through a few false alarm drone cells to my tutor already but I know where to look for them and look each time i'm in the hive. I didn't put the queen excluder back on as I wasn't sure where she was and didn't want to trap her back up there. My tutor is interested in taking 6 frames of brood (to make two small nucs) in exchange for helping me out and doing the DECA check at the same time. Figured she could make a few more brood frames for him in the meantime! :) If she is as good as I say she is, he wants to do some natural splits and keep her genes.
The thought of doing more that one split is a bit much, but thanks for the tips Alastair.  The 1m away wouldn't work with my hive as mentioned above. How do people get two hives exactly side by side? Bringing in two seperate hives initially? Should I split the hive and get it queened and healthy somewhere else and then move it on so I can put it right next to my original one? Could even see if my tutor could take an extra split and use that one if it takes??
With AFB Tristan, I've done to AFB course in preparation for applying for the DECA so I had a good look for this but didn't see any but my tutor is coming through to check it all out so will make sure its all healthy. My guess is you are right Otto and she's laying in all the nice new comb they've made for her as its pretty manky in that bottom box with the black comb. Any tips on getting rid of this?
Thanks again for all your great comments. 

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46 minutes ago, backyardbees said:

 This would make it tricky with putting the queen right hive metres away. With the putting it the opposite way, this hive has its back to the fence (About 80cm away from it and if turned to face the fence it would be facing South..).

 

Yes that could work also. You can only do what you can do 🙂.

 

50 minutes ago, backyardbees said:

  The 1m away wouldn't work with my hive as mentioned above. How do people get two hives exactly side by side? Bringing in two seperate hives initially? 

 

Putting 2 normal hives side by side is not a problem. It just may be an issue if one of them is a queenless split from the other one and you are wanting to get a queen mated. But if as above, you turn one 180 degrees that may help, turn the queenright one.

 

53 minutes ago, backyardbees said:

Should I split the hive and get it queened and healthy somewhere else and then move it on so I can put it right next to my original one? Could even see if my tutor could take an extra split and use that one if it takes??

 

Moving the split somewhere else entirely is the ideal, it eliminates drift and also the chance of robbing by the parent hive. However for a newby, moving hives can be a mission, just do what you are comfortable with.

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you can do a split next to the hive. best thing is to do it on a nice sunny day when there is lots of bees flying.

the idea here is to have the bees drift back to the site of the old hive and populate the split.

 

that distance away from the fence is fine.  bees are surprisingly adaptable to site locations. the big thing is that its not dark and damp.

 

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I'll wait for the mentor and ask him/her to graft.

If that is not an option and you said the room around the hive is limited I'll go plan B. I'll do a Demaree setup(1 bottom board; 1 lid; 1 queen excluder; 4-5 boxes; and the relevant frames + bees etc). Its a straight forward method. Queen into the bottom box with 2 frames of capped brood + empty frames, preferably drawn comb but I used new frames in past too. Cover with queen excluder. Second box, frames with capped brood in center at the sides honey and pollen frames. Third box empty frames. In your case maybe fourth box same as third. Top box will have all the uncapped brood and pollen. If you are short on pollen(maybe not the case with this monster hive) then take 1 frame with pollen from the second box. Then hive mat and lid. I assume you don't have a top entry lid so I'll push the top box 30mm back to create a gap and that will be the top entry.

Leave the hive alone for 3-4 days and check the top box. Remove queencells except 2. You'll have a good queen in the next three of weeks. When your top queen is laying a nice pattern and you have capped brood too you just do the split. A week later you equalize them by moving more brood frame around.

 

The one very important question, possible I missed this in your posts, what varroa treatment you used?

 

PS - first read about the Demaree method and watch videos to understand it properly.

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17 hours ago, backyardbees said:

she's laying in all the nice new comb they've made for her as its pretty manky in that bottom box with the black comb. Any tips on getting rid of this?

Bees may have a different view of black comb than us Lovely yellow comb looks nice to us but often the queen prefers to lay in used brood comb. A rule of thumb is that if you hold the frame up to the light and cant see through it, the frame should be cycled out. Depending what is on/in the 'manky, comb, move the frame to a position near the side of the box and insert either drawn comb (for a newbee, not always available) or foundation towards the centre of the box.  

 

If your mentor is going to take frames of brood, that will be a good time to set up a method of cycling out what needs to go.

 

17 hours ago, backyardbees said:

There is enough room to walk around the hive and for another hive to go next to the current one.

Don't leave yourself short of space to work. Remember if you are working a hive you need space for the boxes you have taken off also. Its preferable to not trip over them.

 

Hope it all goes well, and look forward to hearing what you do and how it goes

 

 

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3 hours ago, Mummzie said:

Bees may have a different view of black comb than us Lovely yellow comb looks nice to us but often the queen prefers to lay in used brood comb.

i've never really found that to be true.

the only time it tends to hold true )at least for me) is absolutely brand spanking new frames where it takes a while for the to clean up and repair it.

i've had plenty of hives over the years that have mediocre brood patterns, put a fairly new frame in and patterns are great on the new frames.

i just have never seen them prefer old black frames to new frames.

your mileage may vary.

 

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Thanks again for replies. I'm remembering when I went a first picked up my Nuc (which was actually a full 3/4 box of bees from my tutor) and had to do my first solo beekeeping at night with ANGRY bees getting them onsite. Can't say i'm in a hurry to repeat that. But its looking like a safe option. If I turned the queen right hive around (once moving to the side from the original spot and putting the split in the original spot). How would you then turn it back? I thought bees can be confused really easily if you move the hive even a little? Would you turn it back to face the same way in increments?

The Demaree method sounds interesting, i'm surprised they make a queen up there when they are all still one hive? With the pheromones from the queen? Once that top box is queen right, would you then be able to split and place it next to the mother hive with more chance of staving off robbing etc? I'll look up the method more.
I used Bayvarol for the last treatment.


This info on splitting has been really interesting and i'll have some good questions to ask my tutor this week.
I'm just wondering now if I don't split this season, how on earth do I manage this hive so it doesn't swarm??
My understanding was that as long as the bees have enough space to deposit nectar, they should be happy (as well as disease free etc).
At the bee meeting this month, I was told that the queen can run out of room for brood? I can understand that if she's honey bound or coming out of winter and not having enough space with pollen jamming up frames etc.
With my queen currently laying in four boxes, how do I get her to stick to 2 boxes?? Would she run out of room in there if restricted to that and swarm? Even if I have honey supers on top? How do you know how much space in a brood box is enough? I've heard of some people running single brood boxes?! She was in three boxes through winter and they were surprisingly active on fine days. Being residential I guess people plant flowers for all year round so they would have had good pickings. 
I went in again this afternoon to count and its 6 brood frames in the bottom, 7 brood in the second box, 7 frames in the third and now four frames of brood in the top. Loads of drones and nectar coming in.
 

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Also is there such a thing as a brood hive where she produces 'too much' brood and this doesn't equate to exponentially that much more honey with that many bees? It would take a lot of bees and resources to keep this four brood box hive operating? Even three brood boxes?! When they were just 3 brood boxes and I put the honey super on, I thought they would have been really busy on it but didn't do anything! Maybe they are just still in brood rearing stage? As soon as I forgot and left the QE off they were up there and going for it though. I guess the queen dictated that one.

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On 19/09/2020 at 11:21 AM, tristan said:

thats is of concern.

usually with boomer hives brood pattern is pretty solid.

 

my guess here is that the bees have moved up to the top, and the queen is laying top-down, so the bottom box is effectively now not-in-use. Hopefully that's the case anyway!

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On 21/09/2020 at 6:21 PM, backyardbees said:

Also is there such a thing as a brood hive where she produces 'too much' brood and this doesn't equate to exponentially that much more honey with that many bees?

 

not really.

its more about bee numbers. the problem with boomer hives is they can quickly go above maximum size and swarm.

however should swarming be adverted they can pull in huge amounts of honey.

 

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Interesting. What % of each frame is covered in brood?

You May find if you total it up the total area the number of frames is significantly less than you think.

sounds like no queen excluder is being used. Keeping the queen in x2 FD brood boxes may give you a better indication of her actual performance.

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Hi everyone, just an update on my hive. My tutor came around and said the hive is humming and healthy and was amazed at how much brood she was laying and in all four boxes there were larvae and brood. 
He took 6 frames of solid brood and we put 6 frames with foundation back in the second box.
Regarding splitting I said I think I will stick to just the one hive this season.

I went in the hive the very next day and found a queen cell that was on the top of a frame made out of a brood cell and next to two drone cells but no other brood as it was a frame she was hatching out of in the bottom box. I took a photo then squished it (whoops). I found other queen cups at the bottom of other frames amongst drone cells and squished these too. These didn't have eggs or larvae in them. 
I think i'm dealing with a swarm imminent. My tutor said it was indeed a queen cell and they were queen cups when I sent the pics through and said the swarm has been started and no way would they be superceding her.
I was going to get him to come and take the queen away for me but i'm thinking now of splitting after all but this time taking the old queen out and putting in a hive next door facing the other way and leaving the old hive with a swarm cell. I'm just going to go with the one cell and hope it turns out well as being residential I really don't want a secondary swarm. Or a prime swarm for that matter! If it doesn't work out with the swarm cell I would look at reintegrating the hive.

I am going to go in and check in the next day or two and see if they have built any other queen cups or queen cells and make a decision from there as to if they are actually swarming or if that was a supercedure cell? I went in last on Friday when I squished all the cells. Seems strange as she is a young queen and is laying like the clappers. Have learnt so much with reading about swarming and splitting and watching videos. There were some signs I missed in early August as mine built up so so early. I will go in July sometime next year and start swarm management then and go in weekly after that and keep an eye on things. So much to learn.

Hopefully I can avoid a swarm now (for the neighbours but also disease risk) and either keep the one hive intact or have another hive facing the other way if they are determined to swarm and have built more cups.

Any pointers I should watch out for or consider from this?

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On 27/09/2020 at 11:44 AM, dansar said:

Interesting. What % of each frame is covered in brood?

You May find if you total it up the total area the number of frames is significantly less than you think.

sounds like no queen excluder is being used. Keeping the queen in x2 FD brood boxes may give you a better indication of her actual performance.

Oh and you are right, when I think about it, some of the frames had smaller patches of brood and some areas of pollen and drones instead (all indicators to swarming as I now know with filling up the brood chamber).

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