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Alastair

Single Brood Box and Swarm Control

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Looking for advice here, this is my first season running hives in single brood boxes. Or should I say they were run in single brood boxes last season when leased to another beekeeper, they used their own methods which they said would work, but to be honest it was a swarming disaster with the majority of hives swarming.

 

So this season the hives are back on my own sites and I'm running them. The current configuration is a single brood box, excluder, and empty honey super on top.

 

Issue is most of these hives are scarily strong. It's not quite swarm season yet but soon will be and I'm not sure how to control it, all my life I've always run 2 brood boxes which gives a lot of options to stop swarming, but a strong single brood box I'm just not sure what to do.

 

Hoping a few guys running single brood box hives will share how they do it, any advice appreciated.

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Like @Kiwifruiter says put another brood box on top then split it off with a new queen on the flow.

Alternately take a nuc off it to sell.

 

That way you can make money from selling bees and not be totally reliant on honey.

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@Alastair , I'm intrigued as to why you'd want to change from doubles?

I generally run singles because it's a hobby and I like to create 'bee work' for myself and I enjoy splitting etc. Honey production for me is not a priority, but an end of season bonus, and we don't get a flow till around Christmas time, so there is no point in me having big powerful hives before then, so splitting singles keeps them relatively under control and they don't need to swarm,most of the time .

That said, I'm moving to 3/4 boxes which effectively will be double brood boxes , but that's a different story

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@Alastair , I'm intrigued as to why you'd want to change from doubles?

I generally run singles because it's a hobby and I like to create 'bee work' for myself and I enjoy splitting etc. Honey production for me is not a priority, but an end of season bonus, and we don't get a flow till around Christmas time, so there is no point in me having big powerful hives before then, so splitting singles keeps them relatively under control and they don't need to swarm,most of the time .

That said, I'm moving to 3/4 boxes which effectively will be double brood boxes , but that's a different story

Because that's how I run my hives therefore it must be correct....

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I run all single brood with an excluder and a honey box on top because I find them easier and faster to work than doubles. Once hives start getting strong through spring I lift a frame, sometimes two of young brood above the excluder each time I'm in the hive. This provides more room below if the queen needs it and brings nurse bees up to reduce congestion in the brood box. A bonus is that when I need brood for nucs or anything else I can just pop open the hive and grab one from above the excluder without having to make sure the queen isn't on it.

I hardly lost a swarm last season like this (from my hives anyway, nucs were a different story...)

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A different approach, along the "Easy Beekeeping" method is to use all 3/4 boxes, and start the season with 2 or 3 boxes. When they get hot, insert a box (A) with a mixture of drawn and foundation INTO the brood nest between boxes, and this gives the bees more space as well as lots to do. Its works.

 

If you don't use a QE you can carry on this process as needed, up to 6 or 7 boxes. If you use a QE your honey boxes go on the top, and if the hive gets too hot either:

 

insert another box into the brood nest

 

or a brood box can be split off easily and replaced with an (A) box mentioned above, the hive has fewer boxes.

 

In autumn the hives go down to 2 or 3 boxes.

 

Lots options.

Cheers.

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After seeing @Shaun jumbo hives, experimented with one by attaching a spacer below and made up 10 jumbo frames. Cannot recall if I did have a swarm out of it.

What if you just add a spacer below on the one full depth brood box when it's strong and allow the bees to build comb under. This will probably be drone cell any way. End of season, cut off comb and use spacer for top feeder. Thinking of doing a few more jumbo.

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Looking for advice here, this is my first season running hives in single brood boxes. .......

 

Hoping a few guys running single brood box hives will share how they do it, any advice appreciated.

most of it i think you already know.

the biggest difference is lack of laying room. you just have to manage that instead of bees managing it.

it gets a little tricky if you have fed sugar syrup as any frames of stores you lift up will have sugar in them and risk getting that into your crop.

swapping brood frames can have some quirks because they don't always use the new frames.

the hardest thing i find is simply getting around them quick enough.

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Thanks for the ideas. Yes some may wonder why I ask such a "simple" question, but in fact swarm control is one of the things I find the most difficult of all, it's also one of the most important, get it right and get heaps of honey, get it wrong and possibly run that hive for nothing that season.

 

Run two brood boxes through swarming season.
yes was thinking of that but hoping to avoid it for several reasons, thought maybe everybody running 1 brood box knew some trick that only I don't know.

 

@Alastair , I'm intrigued as to why you'd want to change from doubles?
End of day it's about greed. A box of honey can easily be worth $300. In the past when everyone ran 2 broodbox hives this honey was left for the bees. Now, running 1 broodbox hives that 2nd box $300 worth can be removed and replaced pre winter with $30 of sugar. Financially it's a no brainer.

 

I was picking the brains of a beekeeper couple weeks ago, believe it or not he puts a bit of excluder across every entrance through swarm season. If he finds a hive that tried to swarm but couldn't so killed the queen, he goes through it and finds and kills the virgin, and replaces from a stock of caged queens he keeps in his truck through that time.

 

Seems fairly extreme to me, but hey, if it works...

 

So I'm thinking there may be more other ideas also.

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There are some other fairly significant reasons for doing it-assuming you are up to maintaining it. Like it is a lot easier to rotate out old comb (therefor reducing inoculum loading in the brood nest) plus it takes a lot less time to do a full brood nest inspection/place varroa treatments etc as the brood is contained in the bottom box.

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thought maybe everybody running 1 brood box knew some trick that only I don't know.

not likely ;)

 

End of day it's about greed. A box of honey can easily be worth $300. In the past when everyone ran 2 broodbox hives this honey was left for the bees. Now, running 1 broodbox hives that 2nd box $300 worth can be removed and replaced pre winter with $30 of sugar. Financially it's a no brainer.

and that if the early honey that tends to get trapped in the brood box is manuka its big $$$$.

 

i don't think double FD is that much better at swarm control. it can be worse as they tend to overpopulate earlier than single broods.

but a lot of it does depend on location and when consistent flow starts.

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I saw the first few cells of newly collected manuka today. Those hives hardly got any drones yet so swarming still a way off.

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Thanks for the ideas. Yes some may wonder why I ask such a "simple" question, but in fact swarm control is one of the things I find the most difficult of all, it's also one of the most important, get it right and get heaps of honey, get it wrong and possibly run that hive for nothing that season.

 

yes was thinking of that but hoping to avoid it for several reasons, thought maybe everybody running 1 brood box knew some trick that only I don't know.

 

End of day it's about greed. A box of honey can easily be worth $300. In the past when everyone ran 2 broodbox hives this honey was left for the bees. Now, running 1 broodbox hives that 2nd box $300 worth can be removed and replaced pre winter with $30 of sugar. Financially it's a no brainer.

 

I was picking the brains of a beekeeper couple weeks ago, believe it or not he puts a bit of excluder across every entrance through swarm season. If he finds a hive that tried to swarm but couldn't so killed the queen, he goes through it and finds and kills the virgin, and replaces from a stock of caged queens he keeps in his truck through that time.

 

Seems fairly extreme to me, but hey, if it works...

 

So I'm thinking there may be more other ideas also.

 

Not as extreme though as having to check the hives for swarm cells, having to remove the top boxes etc to do so. It seems quite easy to implement, just run some plastic excluders through a table saw, probably get 15 strips out of each Q excluder, then fix it in place on the box.... seems worth considering?

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Not as extreme though as having to check the hives for swarm cells, having to remove the top boxes etc to do so. It seems quite easy to implement, just run some plastic excluders through a table saw, probably get 15 strips out of each Q excluder, then fix it in place on the box.... seems worth considering?

I suck at finding virgin queens.... So im out of trialing it lol

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I was picking the brains of a beekeeper couple weeks ago, believe it or not he puts a bit of excluder across every entrance through swarm season. If he finds a hive that tried to swarm but couldn't so killed the queen, he goes through it and finds and kills the virgin, and replaces from a stock of caged queens he keeps in his truck through that time.

how does he let the drones out?

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He goes through the hives at 7 to 10 day intervals and says that is enough to let them out. Although he did say he has lost the odd hive to smothering.

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Do they need to be let back in or do drones go walkabout & drop in to any convenient hive ?

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As he does all the hives I assume the drones stay out & die. That and a few other reasons Is why I thought the method was rather extreme.

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He goes through the hives at 7 to 10 day intervals and says that is enough to let them out. Although he did say he has lost the odd hive to smothering.

seems like a difficult way to manage a not that bigger problem....

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Technically I run singles, but really they're just doubles with an excluder on coz I'm too lazy to look for the queen in 2 boxes.

 

The queens are down all through winter and when I put in the spring strips I take out the excluders so the queen can build up the top box, this buys a bit of time.

Then when they're split and knocked back the queens are put back into the bottom box with the excluder again.

And then if they still try to swarm I'll lift brood into the honey supers and put comb down for the queen.

These ones that won't stop trying to swarm are really annoying as I hate taking the supers all off to get down there when they're stacked up.

If I have to cut cells or lift brood more than once I'm going to squash her and chuck a cell in coz I'd rather not lose all the flying bees.

 

Singles are a bit more mucking around during swarming but I spend half as much time looking for queens, and I find I'm always looking for queens so overall I save a lot of time with singles.

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I run 11 frame single jumbos (same comb area as 19 3/4 frames)

If I have more than 6 frames with brood I split a 2 frame nuc off.

If I find swarm cells I do a 4 way split into nuc boxes.

Some hives I double jumbo in the spring primarily to build new comb.

My main honey season starts late Dec (it actually starts early Nov but the unsettled weather doesn't allow the bees to do much flying)

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Hi Alistair. All of mine are single full depth brood box with 9 hoffman frames, Queen excluder and 3/4 honey boxes on top with 8 manley frames. Requeened in late Autumn on the Towai flow. Hives are checked for swarm cells every 5 days (no more than 7) from mid September. I try to have these hives at or close to the beach or on the way to the beach as that encourages me to go ... If cells are found the hive is split and any honey boxes transferred to another hive to finish. First swarms start in the latter part of September - although nothing yet ... we'll see today. I raise Queens in anticipation of this. Come November 1 (only 4 weeks away now!) I'll take a frame or two from each hive for nucs. I'm usually over it by November and don't check so often so I put out swarm traps.

Given your years of beekeeping up here you'll understand why I think (rightly or wrongly) that there isn't enough time to allow a hive to build up to 2 brood boxes if you want to maximise your manuka crop. I reckon I'm more than halfway through my manuka season already for the Far North. Some of them are well into a second honey box already - thanks for some of the genetics btw. Around here you probably should have had a honey box on for the last couple of weeks.

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Thanks Wayne good info sounds like you are right on top of it!

 

Interested in your comments about your manuka flow, here the manuka is in flower but the weather has been diabolical it's rained almost non stop for weeks, the bees are collecting nothing, zilch. Today a rare few hours of sunshine I was at a site & saw what I thought was bees working the manuka so took a close look, blowflies! Yes I kid not, it's been so wet those flowers are now dropping their petals and are a soggy mess attracting blowflies, no bees on them at all. :(

 

Anyhow good tips about the swarming mate, 5 day checks, yikes I was hoping to get away with 10 day checks but this is when the money is made or not made so think I'll just go dawn to dusk next couple months try to keep right on top of things best I can. One thing about single brood boxes it doesn't take long to work them.

 

Went to the next site ground like porridge couldn't even get the truck in, the other sites I was planning likely worse, radio says rain and HAIL expected thisarvo, gave up and came home.

 

Please sunshine please!

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