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Donating Super to a Nuc

Donating brood frames is very common to help boost colony strength… but can you donate super to a established/strong nuc? Will that 'super’charge the colony?

Do I donate frames absent of worker bees? Or just swap the super over? Will that cause fighting? Newspaper?

Here’s my background story:

My parent hive is going ballistic refilling the super, drawing new frames. They need to be set back a bit and kept busy (last swarm prevention before the nectar flow slows down). So I might give them a brand new super to start from scratch and donate the existing super to my new colony - pending an inspection and confirmation, but I have a feeling they are close to being ready for a super… or does this breed complacency in the new colony…

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Hi Fred, I think what you’re suggesting, if I understand it correctly could be too much in one go.

I find the best way to weaken a colony in order to prevent swarming is to remove the brood frames that contain the most sealed brood. As it turns out, those frames are the best frames to use when wanting to give a weaker colony a good boost. Especially if bees are emerging out of those frames at the same time.


Can I meet you half way and checkerboard some super frames into the new colony?

Yes for sure Fred, that’s what I do myself. The other day I removed 4 brood frames that were mainly sealed brood. I replaced them with 4 fully drawn worker comb stickies in a checkerboard fashion.

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@JeffH has given you his normal sound advice. If a hive is really becoming too strong then the quickest and best way to weaken it out is to remove brood and preferably donate that to a weaker colony. I also checkerboard frames I am donating into a hive, It might cause less disruption to the brood than just putting, say 3 frames, into the brood side by side.
I have always done it that way so I guess it was advice from a better bee keeper back in time.
Cheers Fred

Can I please ask what checkerboard frames mean?

It is when you are adding more than a single new frame to a hive, you You fit one new frame, then one of the existing frames then another new frame. Checker boarding can be done when returning stickies or swapping out old comb for new or in this case adding donated brood. It makes the changes a bit easier on the bees. Got the idea.

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Aha… Thanks a lot Peter. That makes sense now!!

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My strategy is a bit different to Peter’s. I checherboard the new frames into the donor hive once the nights are not so cold. However I’ll keep the donated frames together in the receiving hive because the brood needs to be kept warm. Keeping the frames together in a weak colony will aid the bees in doing so.

It’s important to only donate sufficient brood to a weak colony that the bees are capable of caring for. For example: The other day I removed 4 frames of brood from a strong colony with the view of giving only one frame each to 4 weak colonies. Any more than one frame to any of the 4 weak colonies could have led to beetle problems as well as chilled brood.


A question for you Jeff. If you checker board into the donor hive with new frames then why is there a need to ‘cluster’ brood frames to a receiving hive. My thinking is that the checker boarded new frames into a donor hive would lower the cluster temperature more than the temperature of the cluster in the receiving hive. Or have I missed something.
Off thread - I have taken the ‘mountain goat’ hive to my apiary to take a couple of splits off to weaken it out, it was really busting at the seams and to also relocate it up closer to the house, it was knocking me about too much carrying everything back up to the street level, the less number of steps the better. I really want to keep it to a single brood box and single super.

I’m probably confusing the issue. The donor hive is the hive that needs weakening out to prevent swarming. The receiving hive is the hive that needs strengthening, just to be clear.

The donor hive is the hive you want to prevent from swarming, therefore it is loaded with bees that need work to do. You can checkerboard new frames between existing brood frames in that hive because there is sufficient bees to keep the existing brood warm, while at the same time build new comb between them.

While the nights are cold & longer, as in late winter/early spring, I keep the brood together in the middle of the donor hive, while placing the new frames on either side.

With the receiving hive, the weak hive, I think it’s important to keep whatever frames of brood we donate together, so that the weak colony can find it easier to maintain the optimum brood temp. Also by keeping the brood together & not segregated, the bees will find it easier to defend against beetles.

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Thanks for explaining Jeff. It makes sense in a cooler climate than we have here.
I’m experimenting with a thermometer in a single box with frames, base board and roof, taking temps both inside and outside for minimum and maximum temps, Amazing how the inside temp is so warm at the apiary even with no bees in it. The coolest night this past 2 weeks has been 24C, I was worried about SHB or wax moth taking up residency in the unprotected hive but so far none have been seen. But then there is no bees either.

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Thank you Jeff for that I’m glad you explained it. I didn’t checkerboard right then, I should have left the brood frames together on my weak hive.

I learn something every day!

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Apologies, but I may have confused the topic by using the word checkerboard.

My question has always been about manipulation of honey supers (ie above the QE) for ‘weakening’ a hive.

Brood frame manipulation is well documented already on the forums.

Hi Fred, I think I know what you’re asking. I have moved bees out of the honey super of a strong colony to boost a weaker colony, however in doing so, I put the frames with bees into an empty super that had newspaper attached to the bottom. In that case, I used a vented roof, then brought the donor bees home to a weaker colony.

The reason for not doing it with another nearby hive is because I didn’t want those bees to return to the donor hive. In that case, I did it as a quick measure to weaken the colony so as to prevent swarming. I removed all of the bees that built up in the roof.

I don’t see any reason to checkerboard the frames in that instance. The colony was a bit angry, that was another reason why I didn’t want to disturb the brood.

In summary: you can unite a whole super of bees with a weaker colony by using the newspaper method. However be aware that a lot of, or most to all of the bees could return to the donor hive because all of the bees in the honey super will have done their orientation flight.

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one new frame one developed frame one new frame one developed frame etc etc. Every other frame is either new or developed.