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More swarm control - opening the brood nest


I have been poring over the inspection photos of my recently split hive and now that I can scrutinise them it looks to me like there is very little in the way of open cells. There is a ton of honey, nectar and pollen and any other cells appear to have brood in various stages.
Continuing to learn as much as I can about swarm control, I have been rereading Wally Shaw’s field guide on the subject. He makes a statement that the 8 frame box provides less than the space needed for the laying potential of most queens and that it is critical that every frame in the box ‘pull it’s weight’ in being available for the queen to lay. ‘To achieve this aim the frames should contain a minimum of honey and pollen stores’, he says. If I understand his recommendations correctly, I should be looking to move a couple of the outer frames which are full of honey (after piercing the cappings) and pollen into the middle of the central frames- say either side of the most central frame. He says they will be quickly emptied out by the bees who want to maintain the integrity of the brood nest and will make room for the queen to lay.
Could someone confirm if all that sounds right? After going to the trouble of doing a split I don’t want to neglect something and end up with a swarm anyway.
Just before I posted this question I did a search for ‘open the brood nest’ and in one of the threads Michael Bush suggested using a completely empty frame rather than even drawn comb. If I was to use foundation instead I could move a frame of stores across to the much less populous hive with the old queen (which I was planning to give to a friend getting into beekeeping) as that hive does not have much in the way of stores of pollen at all.
Currently Frames 1 and 8 look very much like this, except 8 is exclusively capped honey with no pollen.

Frames 2 and 7 look much like this.
Which pair of frames should I move into the centre of the brood nest flanking the below frame which is in 4th frame position? Or am I better off just using foundation/empty frames?

If, after reading all this (many thanks if you have!) you think I am overreacting and there is no issue with the laying space, please don’t hesitate to say so. I welcome all advice that can help me make a good decision.


Hi Cathie, I have formed the opinion that the bees will move the honey out of the cells for the queen to lay in, if that is what the “hives mind” wants. Remember that the queen is only a slave to the colony. If the colony wants the queen to lay somewhere, they will certainly move honey around to make room for her to do so, & feed her accordingly. Remember that the bees are still working away inside the hive during the night, they can do a lot between dusk & dawn.

I think the main thing to consider is if the bees have somewhere to move that honey to.

Good luck with that, cheers


One thing to consider/work out is where do you put the frame you have removed? It always needs to go somewhere which can be tricky. If you put it in another hive you will need to put the frame you removed from the other hive somewhere and so on.


Hi Dan, you you mean the frame full of honey? I will usually put it above a QX somewhere until I’m ready to rob again.


Hi Jeff
Might be peculiar to me because of the combination I have here with ideal boxes above the brood, ( which is deep ), and then sometimes the deep Flow frames above everything. I need to switch everything to ideals really. In parts of suburban Tas with the short, sharp season and often dry conditions (eg this year we have had only 1/3 of the rainfall you guys have had up there…and you are dry), ideals work better because you can’t fill a deep.


this is a bit of a problem with running a single standard flow hive: if you want to cycle out or replace frames: where to put them? My brother plans to get an extra deep box- that he can put on top of the super- to put frames in if he wants to cycle them out of the hive. He says he will make some hollow boxes or something to fill the rest of that space. You can’t go wrong with having an extra deep box on hand- good for storing/moving frames, catching swarms, cycling out frames, etc.


seems like you have a good problem to have! You frames look superb. Very dense brood and lovely pollen, honey, etc. If your friends hive isn’t fully built out yet- and you can remove some of the frames that are empty- replacing them with two frames from you hive- that sounds like a good idea?

you could also harvest that frame #8 which is all honey- if you don’t have a spinner you could crush and strain, sacrifice the comb and get a little wax?


Keeping all of your frames standard is really a good idea. Are you thinking of going double ideal brood boxes. As the name implies, that would be ideal. Sometimes a single deep brood box can be not enough, whereas two deep brood boxes can be too much. Two ideals could be “just right”.

We’re in record breaking Sept. temps at the moment. 35deg. outside. Even hotter inland a bit.


Hi Jeff
Yes, I’ll try all ideals. It will be an effort but will be better long term I think. 3 ideals before the queen excluder and leave over winter with the top one full of honey - all going well. I heard that somewhere in Qld it was a record 41.9 a day or so ago. Not bad for the first month of “spring” . I can only imagine how hot it will be in 2 months time approaching summer!

This is also the issue I was alluding to in my response to @cathiemac - but not knowing the configuration she has exactly. If you take out brood frames and/or honey frames from the bottom box to open the brood nest, where do you then put them in such a set up?


Jack, this is what I have been leaning towards. I inspected my small hive, the core of which I will hand over to my friend soon, and found one frame they have started drawing out but it’s still half raw foundation. My feeling (after I spent the day at work with half a mind on my job and half a mind on my bees!) is to open up the brood box, remove a frame (probably number3), and do that test Michael Bush talks about where you check for bees festooning across the opening. Then if they look like they are filling the space I’ll drop in the frame taken from the small hive. I’ll put the removed frame into the small hive to give them a boost, along with the nurse bees on it (after setting in a spare box for a few minutes so the flying bees go back to the big hive).
Both you and @Dan2 expressed my initial concerns about where to put those frames. I have been trying not to put my older, slightly wavy frames into the box I am giving away as I didn’t want to start my friend off with less than straight comb but I think I have no choice and I will have to make adjustments for her later when it’s time to transfer the bees to her. This will build her colony at least.
What this exercise has really driven home to me is the need for me to have my own second hive so that I can easily do manipulations like this. Just as Dan said, it’s tricky with only one brood box and a flow frame - there’s nowhere to put frames above the excluder unless you have another box. As the season progresses, if my main hive builds a lot more I may try to create another colony. Or maybe I’ll be lucky and get a swarm.
@JeffH I’ll watch carefully to see how much the bees naturally open up the space in those pollen filled frames as well. I don’t know how much I’m going to like getting into that bee suit tomorrow with our current heat wave! Hoping bee keeping doesn’t kill me this summer!


Forgive my attempts to direct my responses to those who are helping me with my questions. I’m new to the technicalities of the forum!


Cedar mentioned in a recent FB live presentation, to cycle out a frame with brood, just lay it on top of the inner cover under the roof, prop it up on one side so the brood can hatch. The bees will also salvage the honey.
It’s a strategy I intend to employ soon to cycle out some old frames that came with my nucs.
You would want to have the inner cover hole open.
In case you have drone brood in that frame, you would need an escape for them, as they don’t fit through the QX.


Very interesting! I would not have thought there was enough room to do that. Hmmmm… I’ll have a closer look at the space tomorrow. I guess I could try to knock up something the same size as the boxes to elevate the roof about 5cm and carve out a teeny opening for drones to escape, not that I have any wood working skills to speak of!!


I think putting your wonky combs in your friends Nuc will be ok. They can then cycle them out later. If they are using a flow hive they could put the wonky frames in the flow super when it’s first added- and remove them when the brood has all hatched. This would help encourage the bees up into the flow super…


Plenty of space under the roof for a frame lying flat on one surface. Just need to prop up one side of the frame a bit so the bees can get to their stores and the new bees have room to emerge.


Brilliant, thanks for sharing this tip!


I like the idea of a frame in the roof space, but here at the moment it is too cold for me to have the hole open in the inner cover and I reckon the frame of brood would die of cold quickly anyhow. The attached photo shows light frost on Wednesday morning and there has been a good dump of snow I can see on the mountains in the last few hours. It is a big country of weather extremes! The newish Flow hybrid super I thought was a good idea because it allows frames to be swapped within the hive and for the bees to be able to keep the brood frame warm.


Wow Dan, what a stark contrast with our weather! Your experience with bees is so different to ours in sub-tropical Queensland.


It’s a novel idea, but only one frame at a time. I like the idea of the traditional method where the bees fill the frame with honey after the bees emerge.


Hi Cathie, I have some work to do on mine today, I’ll wait till it cools down late in the afternoon. Plus the bees will be in the shade at that time.

Can you wait until tomorrow? I just heard that our max temp will be 25. That sounds more like what we should be getting.