Hello, I have a question in regards to single vs double brood boxes and honey production. We got our bees in mid- summer 2017 so last year was our first real full season with the bees. We had one hive from 2017 and a second was being run for us from 2017 which we brought home in June 2017. We were unsure about single vs. double and knew that they would swarm if we didn’t provide enough space so we gave them a second brood box. Well, perhaps we did something wrong, but they swarmed anyway. We caught the swarm and suddenly we had three hives from two, albeit both were on the smallish side. We put the flow super on one, with one brood box, and the others were so small they were still only one brood box. We ended up putting supers on both, so each had one brood box and one super, but by August or so, we really didn’t have all that much honey to show for it. I don’t remember the numbers but perhaps around 23kg total from the three. I assumed this was because of our hive splitting and the swarm caught being particularly small.
Come this year, we thought we were prepared (haha). We did tighter inspections in May and put a second brood box on each of our two hives (the swarm never thrived and didn’t survive the winter). We noticed how annoying inspections became, trying to find the queen and searching all the frames took much longer than an inspection should take. During the inspections, we kept saying how much we disliked having two brood boxes and wished we could take it back down to one. We ended up seeing two queen cells as if they were preparing to swarm so we did an artificial swarm split and took the old queen and lots of bees to a new hive, leaving the old hive with its queen cells.
Well, the next week, that same hive (with the queen cells) swarmed. So we caught the swarm, and split the other hive, now we are up to four hives. After inspecting, in three of the hives (all but the new hive one with the old queen), we found nearly 50 queen cells combined!! So we ended up having to split again and removed all other queen cells (which felt like mass regicide). In a matter of three weeks, we went from two hives to six. So my question after all of this blather is this:
How in the world do you stop increasing hives? We have neither the time nor the space or resources for more hives. I had previously said four was my limit and now here we are with six. So how do we politely tell our bees to stop haha. Ideally, I would like three or four hives, one brood box plus supers each. I feel like I should know this by now but how do you keep the bees from outgrowing the box so that you are either forced to add a brood box, split the hive, or they swarm? Every time we do a split or they swarm, they seem to be reduced in vigor, and I can only assume our honey harvest this year will also be quite small. I am just having a hard time, after hours upon hours of googling and reading, figuring out how to manage and maintain hives without ending up with a beekeeping industry in our backyard . I have tons more questions after having experimented these past couple years but this is the one that feels like the basis to all else. For us, it isn’t all about the honey, it is just one of the “measurements” I have to sort of tell how we are getting on. And we want our bees to thrive, we are fantastically lucky that they seem to be doing so well (or perhaps I am wrong and they hate it here? haha). I just need to figure out how to keep it under control.
I thank you for any and all advice in advance!