double deep brood frame pattern

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by Tyro, Dec 9, 2011.

  1. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    I have been keeping bees now for several years. I have a habit of keeping pretty good records over the course of the season (it is the scientific training - I am a data slave). I have noticed a trend in the number of brood frames in my best hives.

    My best hives (over the past several years) rarely have more than 4 frames of brood, even at their peak. They also never have less than 4 frames of brood. These will be booming double deep hives packed with bees covering every frame. I have recorded hives like this with having up to 6 brood frames (usually 4 in one box and 2 in another) - but that is the max.

    Is this typical or normal? Should they be producing more brood? There isn't a queen pattern - it is the same whether the queens are Russian, Carniolan, MN Hyg or mutts from my own stock.

    If it isn't normal - what could be holding them back?

    Thanks in advance for replies.

    Mike
     
  2. Steve10

    Steve10 New Member

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    Mike, How do you defining a brood frame? In other words are you talking frames with only capped brood or all stages, eggs to emerging adults? If there's one egg, it's a brood frame albeit hardly one to help make a nuc with.

    During the spring and summer, my "all stage of brood frames" range from 3-4 frames in nucs to 6-8 in a 10-frame deep. Occasionally, I've had 10 in a double deep.
     

  3. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    Steve, I am calling a brood frame as any frame that is predominantly covered by brood (of any stage) on both sides. My 10 frame double deeps rarely if ever have more brood frames than your nucs. Now the frames I get from my best hives look really good (solid brood over 70-90% of the frame), but I only ever get 4 of them.

    So it seems that, on average, even my best hives are 2-4 brood frames less than typical?
     
  4. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    I'm thinking, and that may be a danger sign.

    A brood nest is round. That means if there were 4 "predominantly" covered frames, there should be 2 or 3 frames on each side of them with a tapering degree of brood. Thus making 8 to 10 frames containing brood. That is about normal in my hives.
     
  5. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    Iddee

    I never get that. My brood nests taper appropriately, but the core is never more than a couple of frames (maybe 80-90% covered), then two outside frames (maybe 50-70% covered), then, at most two more outside frames (maybe 10-30% covered).

    It happens in all of my hives, regardless of the queen. Those are my best hives. It happens regardless of the frame/foundation combination - wood/wax, wood/plastic, all plastic or wood/no foundation.

    Regardless of whether we talk in terms of the 'core' brood nest (only frames dominated by brood) or the entire broodnest (all frames with brood on them) - my hives all seem to be 2-4 frames short of brood throughout the season.

    And I would really like to know why!

    They perform in all other ways like normal, healthy hives. It is frustrating though, because it seems like they never really build up the numbers to make a really good honey crop.

    Our season here is really short - dandelions don't bloom until the first week of May. Mid-June through mid-August is when bees make honey (mostly on Ag crops). It seems like each year, through late July, my bees are still trying to build their numbers and recover from the winter. By the time there are any numbers in the hive, I am lucky to get a full deep and medium of honey off of the hive.

    That minimally prepares them for winter - so I never get much honey.

    Any insights are appreciated.

    Mike
     
  6. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    Mike, you describe 8 frames with brood, then the insulating frame on each side makes 10. That is what I was trying to say. Mine are the same.

    As for honey, if I could get a medium from all hives and 2 mediums from a few, I would be in honey heaven. What do you consider a good harvest?
     
  7. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    Iddee,

    I think that we are misunderstanding our definitions of 'brood frame'. By your description, generally, I get 6 frames of brood with 2 'insulating frames on either side.

    Well - I suppose you are correct about a harvest, trouble is - none of it gets harvested! They need that much to get through the ND winter! In that light, I would consider a good harvest to be 2 mediums of honey (of which I would harvest one and leave one).

    But that is my frustration. It seems like my bees never build up in time to take advantage of the main flow here (the peak of which is late June/early July) and fill those surplus supers.

    I have tried starting them early (pollen patties in mid-March). I have even tried feeding as early as mid/late March - but that was a disaster as it is never warm enough to feed at that time. I never seem to be able to get them going in time and they never seem to really 'explode' in terms of population.

    I can get them to where they have enough population and enough honey for winter, but that is about it.

    By contrast, the commercial guys who bring in their hives with strong populations already established (from pollination in CA and WA) generally harvest 2-4 supers of honey from their hives AND they harvest that much twice (once in July and again in late August/September).

    So I know that the nectar is out there and I can see what a strong population can do. It just takes my bees too long to get there. When I started counting my brood frames and comparing my data to what I read on the forums - it occurred to me that reproduction in my hives is generally lower than in others. I just don't know if it is something I can address through management, if it is the bees themselves, or if it is just a feature of North Dakota beekeeping (as a result of the seasons and weather).

    Mike
     
  8. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    There, I can't help you. We start pollen sub in Jan. and feed in Feb. or early Mar. Our flow is over by the end of June. July and August is a dearth.
     
  9. Steve10

    Steve10 New Member

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    Mike, Forgive me, but I think we need to know some more information to diagnose the problem.
    >I have been keeping bees now for several years.
    Are you talking 2 years or 20 years? How many hives do you have? Helps with answering the management questions.
    >These will be booming double deep hives packed with bees covering every frame.
    When are these hives booming? Which month? Helps answer possible parasite/disease questions.
    >There isn't a queen pattern - it is the same whether the queens are Russian, Carniolan, MN Hyg or mutts from my own stock.
    Do you re-queen regularly? How old are your queens? How do you determine when to re-queen?
    >I am calling a brood frame as any frame that is predominantly covered by brood (of any stage) on both sides.
    Is the brood pattern solid or spotty? Spotty could be the sign of disease/parasites or a queen fizzling out.
    >It seems like my bees never build up in time to take advantage of the main flow here (the peak of which is late June/early July) and fill those surplus supers.
    What's your usual spring routine and when? Again, may answer some management issues.
    >I have even tried feeding as early as mid/late March - but that was a disaster as it is never warm enough to feed at that time.
    What are you feeding? Do you use candy boards over the winter? Sugar? Syrup? What kind of feeders do you use?
    >So I know that the nectar is out there and I can see what a strong population can do. It just takes my bees too long to get there.
    Yeah, but when are the dearths? Any trees or wild flowers, or just ag? If only ag, what crop(s)?
    >it occurred to me that reproduction in my hives is generally lower than in others. I just don't know if it is something I can address through management, if it is the bees themselves, or if it is just a feature of North Dakota beekeeping (as a result of the seasons and weather).
    We all can do a better job, but you have to know what it is you can improve on to make it work. I know I don't have all the answers, but with a little more info maybe a bunch of us can make some worthwhile suggestions.
     
  10. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    Steve,

    No problem -

    Are you talking 2 years or 20 years? How many hives do you have? Helps with answering the management questions.

    5 years now (next summer will be #6). I keep anywhere from 10 to 20 hives depending on how many overwinter and how much I can spend on spring nucs/packages.

    When are these hives booming? Which month? Helps answer possible parasite/disease questions.

    By mid August/early September, the hives are finally at their peak populations. I never have any trouble with varroa (I do alcohol washes to check), mostly because I think that the populations are so low for most of the summer.

    There also aren't any hive beetles (I have never seen more than 5 total in any year, they come in with the commercial guys).

    Diseases that I have had in hives: Nosema (usually in the late winter/early spring is when I see it), Chalkbrood and one case of sacbrood. But again, I don't see this in the best hives that are my issue.

    Do you re-queen regularly? How old are your queens? How do you determine when to re-queen?

    I end up requeening most of my hives just about every year. Generally, they either decide to supercede (in which case I requeen them) or the queen has two summers behind her, in which case, I requeen in the fall so that I have a young queen going through the winter.

    Is the brood pattern solid or spotty? Spotty could be the sign of disease/parasites or a queen fizzling out.

    In the hives that I am referencing, the brood pattern is always solid - they are my best hives. BUT - they aren't necessarily the same hives each year.

    What's your usual spring routine and when? Again, may answer some management issues.

    First dandelions bloom the first week of May. I have never seen it any earlier. Generally, I start giving them pollen patties in mid-March. Feeding 1:1 though generally can't happen until early/mid April (temperatures here are just too cold until then).

    We have essentially a continuous flow here from as soon as the farmers can till the fields (maybe early or mid-June) through mid-September (when the last of the sunflowers blooms). There are 3 or 4 crops around all of my hives. First is canola, then alfalfa, then either safflower or sunflower. There is also a ton of yellow clover and wild alfalfa. The alfalfa gets at least two cuttings, and sometimes a third. I also have one yard (4 hives) on a buckwheat field.


    What are you feeding? Do you use candy boards over the winter? Sugar? Syrup? What kind of feeders do you use?

    Global patties and 1:1 syrup in the spring. Nothing else. The weak hives going into winter get candy boards - but the good ones (with the current issue) do not - they have generally made a deep and a super of honey, so they don't need it.

    Feed with inverted pails/buckets and occasionally hive top feeders.

    Yeah, but when are the dearths? Any trees or wild flowers, or just ag? If only ag, what crop(s)?

    Unless there is a pretty severe drought, there are no dearths. There is a fairly constant flow from the minute the sun comes back through September. The longest period in the summer without something blooming has been just under two weeks - and that was only at one yard.

    In the spring, some of my hives are also on honey locust. Siberian pea bush is also an early source of wild nectar and pollen. There is also plenty of wild alfalfa that blooms as long as there is sufficient water and heat (usually around mid-June). Sweet clover comes on around then too, but finishes up earlier - usually by the first week of August.

    There are also any number of other wildflowers that bloom throughout the season. The year finishes up with goldenrod in the low areas that stay wet and a small yellow flower called curly cup gumweed. I think that the bees mostly get material for propolis off of that one though.

    Ironically - I suppose you could say that we have one MASSIVE dearth, from October to May!

    We all can do a better job, but you have to know what it is you can improve on to make it work. I know I don't have all the answers, but with a little more info maybe a bunch of us can make some worthwhile suggestions.[/quote]

    Well, that is what I am looking for. I would like to figure out if there is something I can do or change to make them stronger earlier - or if this is just the way it is when you overwinter in a place with such a late spring.

    Thanks for the help

    Mike
     
  11. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    tyro writes:
    Now the frames I get from my best hives look really good (solid brood over 70-90% of the frame), but I only ever get 4 of them.

    tecumseh:
    first quess while still on the horse.... it sounds to me like you may be seeing the consequence of an improper set up in the brood chamber in the early spring. i am not certain I captured the entire picture of your problem by your prior post but a brood chamber set up with restriction on either side of the primary brood area of either solid (and I do mean solid here) pollen or 'capped' honey may be highly confining the queens ability to lay.

    I guess my question (perhaps should have been asked before the prior paragraph???) is do you use queen excluder?
     
  12. Tyro

    Tyro Member

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    tec -

    I do not use a queen excluder. But - you may be on to something. My bees do bring in a lot of pollen and I often end up with frames solid with pollen. When I inspect, I notice frames like that, but don't make note of where they are in the brood nest.

    Where should they be - or better yet, with multiple frames of solid pollen in the spring, what is the best frame arrangement in a deep box?

    Mike
     
  13. Steve10

    Steve10 New Member

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    Mike,

    Great info. It really helps narrow this down a little. So bear with me as I think out loud (it's a long one so take a potty break before you start reading :mrgreen: ), so to speak. I'm in a similar weather pattern so I can relate to your situation.

    Since you've been at it a while and have enough hives, we can eliminate many of the newbee issues. It also sounds like your proximity to forage shouldn't be a limiting factor. You aren't having massive die off so it shouldn't be a herbicide/pesticide issue (can't always rule out sub-lethal chronic exposure though.) It sounds like you've got the parasite/disease issues under control.

    Looks like most of the external factors are normal. I think we can narrow it down on internal issues.

    It looks like if we can all figure out a way to get your girls to come out of winter stronger and manage the hives to encourage and not limit reproduction, they'd be more productive in terms of honey.

    I also apologize if some of this seems elementary, but I'd rather make sure we don't leave any stones unturned and it may make light bulbs of other ideas go on in other readers heads or help others with similar issues.

    Let's start with how you overwinter. As you know, especially in our cold climates, we start preparing our colonies for winter in August. Combine weak hives, re-queen with laying queens if possible, make sure we have plenty of honey and pollen stored. Although the re-queening can help, we can lose some ground if not done properly. It's best if we re-queen with ladies who've proven they can lay a good pattern. This is where developing your own system of having at least half as many nucs as you have production colonies. These nucs are the proving grounds for queens and are a great source of extra frames of brood for strengthening production hives or making more nucs. That's a topic in itself, well worth investigating if you haven't used them to leverage your operation. Sorry, I'm wandering!

    It goes without saying your bees should be healthy going into winter. Sounds like you've got that under control.

    So if we've got our colony strong in August, we've pulled off any excess honey, and left them with plenty of stores for winter. Depending on how much honey you've found in your strong colonies at your spring inspection, you can get a good idea of how much you should be leaving them in the fall. I feel most comfortable when I leave the equivalent of 1 10-frame deep of honey on my hives. Of course everyone's area is a little different, but you can add a medium as well if you have the honey. I feed 2:1 syrup if they need a boost.

    *Note - When I feed in the fall, I make certain I put an empty drawn comb in the middle of the brood nest every week to 10 days. I don't want the girls back filling the brood nest with my feed and limiting the queen's laying. She should be busy producing winter bees at this point, if not that's when I install one of those laying queens from the nuc boxes.

    Often not highlighted, but it's critically important the colonies have plenty of pollen stored going into fall too. They'll need it to start producing new bees in the spring before it's available to forage. If not, incorporate that into your candy boards or other emergency winter system. In my opinion, this the most overlooked aspect of overwintering bees. Without pollen, there will be no brood production in the spring (actually any time after the winter solstice.) Since you use pollen patties early on, that shouldn't be an issue, just make sure they are on early enough.

    Now let's tuck the girls in for winter. For me, it's mid to late October, so that would probably fit you too. Now, I don't want to get into all the arguments as to whether to wrap or not, insulate or not, open or closed screen bottom boards, bottom or top entrances. Suffice it to say, let's play Goldie Locks here. Not too hot - not too cold, not too moist - not too dry, ....just right! I have yet to find the right combination for our cold, long winters, but I have found a system that seems to be working.....but it always has room for improvement. I winter double and triple deeps. They have candy boards with pollen patties on top of them. I have a quilt box above that with wood shavings. I wrap with black felt paper, the bottom entrance is reduced to 4" with 1/4" hardware cloth as a mouse guard, they sit up 16" off the ground, have open SBB's, and a single 1/2" hole in the front of the bottom box.

    Now let's say we got them through to spring. You've seen how the bees from almonds are all set to go. They've had the advantage of warmth and forage on their side. We can simulate the forage by feeding and we can simulate the heat. This is an advantage of the black felt paper that often is missed. You hear a lot about putting it on, but no one says when to take it off! My opinion, leave it on as long as possible. Minimum for me is May 1st. Often until May 15th. I look for night time temps to be consistently above 40F. The advantages of the solar gain are unquestionable.

    Clean up the dead outs. Install your own nucs if needed. And feed 1:1 syrup until you see the girls bringing in pollen.

    Queen excluders, if used properly, are great, but I wouldn't recommend using them until you get the rest of this figured out.

    Sorry if I got long winded. Never been accused of being at a loss for words.

    Hope there's something that pops up with all this that helps. What are others thinking?

    Steve
     
  14. Steve10

    Steve10 New Member

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    Missed the pollen frames as I was writing my last post. Great catch Tec. :clapping: Wow, if you've got that much pollen, it's just begging you to pull them and put them in a starter box for queen rearing. Again points to managing the frames to keep laying space open for the queen. I don't get as much pollen as I'd like to see in my yards. it's a problem I wish I had to deal with.

    Steve
     
  15. barry42001

    barry42001 New Member

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    I was keeping bees in upstate NY, with winters almost as harsh as what you experience. Typically, I started feeding syrup and pollen substitute around mid March, and strarted rotating the brood chambers in April to encourage brood in both chambers, by May ( Mid dandelion bloom ) the other nectar flows were starting, and I had booming colonies, filling 2 deeps with solid patterns of brood in 7 - 8 frames in both chambers, and a deep honey super on it I use queen excluders at that point. typically I was puling 2 deep honey supers per hive per season with the fall flow belonging to the bees--which typically was one deep full of aster and golden rod honey, and that which was being stored in the brood chambers. That was usually enough to get them through the long winters.
     
  16. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    I'll re-enforce Tec's post with a true happening.

    A local newbee called me 2 years ago and said both his hives had only 2 frames of brood, when the other hives in this area had 6 or 8, or more. I went and checked them. Both hives had a full frame of pollen next to the frames of brood. I moved the pollen out against the outer walls and in one week he had 8 frames of brood.

    I think Tec may have zeroed in on one of your main problems.
     
  17. Sundance

    Sundance New Member

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    I agree with Tec as well. Give her room to lay. Even
    in the tundra the trees kick out a lot of pollen in early
    spring (early here guys). Boxelder (Manitoba maple)
    is a good source and early.

    If I missed it, I apologize. But you say you start Nucs
    in the spring. What percent of your over wintered
    colonies make it??

    Up here you have to have a good colony to reap those
    150# crops. IMO Nucs won't get you there the first
    season.
     
  18. Steve10

    Steve10 New Member

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    Hello Sundance. I assume this question is for me.
    >If I missed it, I apologize. But you say you start Nucs in the spring. What percent of your over wintered colonies make it??

    Actually, this year I had to go crazy starting nucs from mid-May through mid-August. I usually run between 20-50 hives and just as many nucs, and usually lose 15-25% depending on the year.

    I agree, expecting too much out of spring nuc. I do much better overwintering them and they start out strong in the spring. I use a number of my early spring nucs to make brood frames, which I then use to strengthen my nucs I expand to 10-frame equipment.
     
  19. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    I do not know if we are there yet but here goes anyway...

    all the frames inside a hive are not equal and where they are located (optimally for the beekeeper perhaps more than the bees) will change by the season.

    example: in the early spring or early summer backfilling of the broodnest** is to be avoided but in the fall quite natural and desirable. or in the fall you may desire solid frame of capped honey up next to the primary brood nest but this should be absolutely avoided in the spring time.

    frames with new foundation* frames of solid pollen and frames with capped honey should either be removed from the primary brood nest or manipulated to remove these road block. if any of these 'roadblock frames' are in small number (1 or 2) typically I just shove them to the outside wall. given a bit of time bees will pull foundation and once uncapped (or scraped with a fork and place in a location near the front entrance) the bees will both use and move honey... yet it takes a great deal of time for bees to use pollen and I suspect they don't move it around like honey so a solid frame of pollen is quite typically the biggest and more importantly longest road block to brood expansion come early spring. since I rear a few queens I do have some use for these in queen starting and I think someone above pointed out these are great for using in new nucs you start up. another option and most especially if you can identify a prime pollen capturing season then cheap pollen traps will reduce the pollen coming in the front door. i like to bag and freeze this and use it later in the same format of queen rearing or often time in hives that are being used for queen rearing. <this past season was so bad here that this pollen in the freezer was really what allowed me to keep rearing queens late into the summer. so in the context of this past year the ability to feed a bit of pollen was the primary reason I could raise some queens in a really bad year.

    note: it should also be pointed out here that not all bee collect and horde pollen at the same rate.

    the manipulation that is essential here is sometime called 'opening up the brood nest'. to some degree the bee keeper can have some major input early on as to whether the early season expansion of the brood nest is horizontal or vertical base on how or if they perform this early season manipulation. the primary idea is simple... keeping placing unused frame of drawn comb up next to the primary brood nest. if you are way past any cold days and night this opening up the brood nest can be done in a quite radical fashion but if you still have some risk of freezing or significant cold weather then doing this opening up in small step is certainly more advisable.

    note: you do want to consider having some feed in approximate distance to the brood nest and you don't want to get so radical in this manipulation that you risk chilling the brood.

    *for myself in the spring time ideally I want any frames with new foundation to be one frame in from the outside wall. for myself running 9 frames to the box that would be positions 2 or 8.

    **for all practical purpose an almost certain means to encouraging a hive to swarm.
     
  20. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    sundance writes:
    Up here you have to have a good colony to reap those
    150# crops. IMO Nucs won't get you there the first
    season.

    tecumseh:
    my experience in the dakotas (very sw corner of north dakota) tells me the same thing. the dakotas in the proper season is really a beekeeper's heaven (in the wrong year beekeeper's hell) but it is rarely long enough to grow a box of bees and collect a large honey crop. if you desire to capture a honey crop in the dakotas then you need a box of bees and not a half box of bees to get the job done.