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Newbee Needing Help

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 :slight_smile:. 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!

I’m new to all of this, but just chiming in to say I’m liking the idea of a single brood box myself.

And I’m jealous of you having that many boxes and frames on hand. I must be doing it wrong, I can’t seem to amass equipment that fast.

I really don’t want my bees to swarm, as I live in a neighborhood. I remove everything that even slightly looks like a queen cell. And feel like a murderer. And try to make sure the girls have space. Beyond that, I’m interested in what others have to say.

(And impressed by your hive producing talents!)

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Denise,

Not sure :thinking: your exact climate n weather in Sweden :sweden:… but it’s rather Northern Hemisphere… Up here we need double boxes/super to give a colony adequate honey storage …

Now to why the swarming … I don’t have a clue. How often do you deep inspect your hives ?! Do you try any swarm control ? (Splits/Checker-boarding/ adding additional super-including flow-super).

Autumn :fallen_leaf: recombining colonies could help reducing number of colonies. You’d have to kill off one of the queen in each combining (usually the weakest or oldest one)…

I’m guessing you might not be adding supers or checker boarding soon enough… Hmm :thinking: are any of your colonies really weaker ?? Steal a frame of brood n add to the weaker hive. That should slow down the swarm pressure normal if done soon enough.

Not sure :thinking: if my ideas are helpful but I’ve not had a hive swarm SWARM in last four years.

Good luck,

Gerald

P.S. how about a couple pix’s of your Apiary n situation.

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J.C.

As for double boxes :package: I’d check with other local club n individual beekeeper in the Houston area. I’m not sure one way or another whether single are a great idea there. Houston might be tropical enough for single but not sure :thinking: as I leave much further north in the Seattle/Puget Sound foothill Area. We diffinately need n use doubles here.

Get some local Beekeeping info n do according not what you’d like.

Good luck,
Gerald

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Thank you for your replies! JcBeez, we barely had enough equipment, well, actually we didn’t have enough. We used it all and then some, so my husband and I have been scrambling to build. Darn those finger joints on the boxes and us with zero woodworking skills! Oddly enough the roofs and screened bottom boards have proven MUCH easier for us to build than the simple boxes. Go figure!

Here are a few photos of the yard. It looks a mess right now but with the chickens and the bees and four kids and a load of other stuff going on… who am I kidding, this is about as good as it gets for us. :rofl: We had to chop down a huge red currant bush near the cherry tree last night so that we could move the fence about 1.5m wider to fit more hives. The stand to the left is temporary, as we will have to build this weekend to accommodate the new hives.

It gets cold and snowy in the winters, but actually our winters are relatively mild, hovering around -5 to +5 C, with sporadic snow that usually doesnt sit on the ground overly long (ie weeks at a time, not months). My parents used to live near Dayton, Ohio and our weather was usually quite similar when we compared, if that helps.

Our bees have overwintered now in a single brood box with just a bit of insulation/condensation absorbant at the top in the form of a super filled with wood shavings and a bit of styrofoam. Except for the tiny swarm hive which we pretty much knew would be a miracle if it survived, all of our hives have overwintered well with no freezing or other problems.

So is there just no way to sort of control the population so that you don’t end up with a hundred hives within a few years? It feels exponential. And is there a trick to inspections of a hive that has two brood boxes plus the supers? A certain order to it? How long should an inspection take, anyway - I assume taking overly long is disturbing to the bees. It felt like it took ages the other day and I started to worry. Thanks again for your help!

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Thanks for your input and excellent pics to the thread. It looks like a great habitat where they should do very well.
As you ‘accumulate’ more hive remember they are a very saleable item so that you can control the number of hives you have in your own apiary.
From what you are saying about your local climate it might be that double brood boxes are a good move, or to run single brood hives with some insulation. You will find out about ways to insulate a hive elsewhere in the forum by clicking on the magnifying glass up on the top right.
With a double brood box inspection it takes at least twice the time as a single box even without looking for the the queen so you need a warm day and time to do it properly. Even a bathroom towel or two to put over open boxes to retain heat and help to calm down the bees in the boxes.
Cheers, Peter

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