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Spring Brood Management

Hi all,

Coming into winter the size of the “brood ball” shrinks and the bees backfill the space with honey. Coming out of winter into Spring they want to expand the size of the “brood ball”.
My question is do you let the bees move the honey around to achieve the size/space they need or do you give them a hand by cycling frames out of the brood box and giving them stickies or new frames to draw?

That is an interesting and thought out question. Spring time is an ideal time to cycle out older frames from the brood box to use in a super as honey frames and add new frames of foundation to the brood box. Doing that will give the bees work to do and might reduce the swarming urge that is worse in Spring as well as being good hive management. Introduce the new frames in the outside positions in early Spring or stagger them in late Spring is my approach.
But bees will also move honey from the brood cluster area so that there is more potential brood cells available for the queen to lay in.
Cheers, Peter

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Hey Peter,

Thanks for the response. I cycled frames up last year and had fairly good success in stopping swarming (only one got away from me). I guess I was ultimately wondering if I can take a more “let the bees do their thing” approach this year without inducing more swarms. Of course there is more reasons to swarming than this but others things being even, I’m interested in everyone’s approach to hive management at this time of the year.

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I cycle frames when there is a peak nectar flow, say mid to late spring. Don’t do it too early, or the bees will be using food stores for building wax when they could be making babies. :blush:

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Thanks Dawn, so by then have the bees already starting rearranging (expanding) the brood area by moving honey stores? If so sounds like you do a mix of both approaches?

My climate will be very different from yours. If I came to a point where I was considering a split, that would be a prime opportunity for cycling frames and that would be my preference.

However, in California the nectar flow is very fickle, so I only cycle frames when I know it won’t stress the colony. Think like a bee to do the best thing you can for them, @JeffH is good at that concept. :wink:

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I used to do my splits after the week or two of the August Westerlies died out which was the indicator to me that Winter in the Hawkesbury area was over and after another 2 to 3 weeks I would split the hives at Mudgee.
My ideas was to be proactive in my hive management by doing splits to help control the swarming urge and for the same reason I terminated queens more than 2 years old.
When I did splits was when I would introduce new frames of wired foundation. I managed my hives on a semi commercial basis as my mentor then was a 100% honey production bee keeper. So a lot of my practice was based on what he did.
Cheers, Peter

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a commercial beekeeper in South Australia explained at our bee society his spring management. He runs 1000+ hives with single brood boxes. He starts a few weeks before spring inspecting the hive and replacing one frame with fresh foundation- or a drawn comb that he extracted the previous season (he keeps track of all his combs and and only puts them back into the hive that they originall came from- he has a giant cold store room to store all his combs in). He then does that twice more over the next month or so- eventually replacing 3 combs every year. That way after 3 years or so every comb in the box has been cycled out at least once.

This is pretty close to what we also do- if a hive is very strong coming out of winter we remove frames from the sides if they are all honey- or we make splits removing a few brood frames.

Another option might be to put supers on earlier- the name of the game is give the bees work and/or room early in spring to stop them thinking of swarming. It also gives you a chance to look into the hives to see any swarm signs and put a stop to them before they get too serious

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My strategy is similar to Peter, we live only about 25 minutes apart. However our strategies are different to Dawns or Jacks because of our locations. I dare say that yours will differ also in time.

Even while manipulating brood frames, we see evidence of the bees opening up the brood by shifting the honey arc higher. Sometimes you’ll see a beautiful empty crescent with newly laid eggs in every empty cell.

My strategy is with only one brood box. I use a single honey super also with a hive mat & a migratory lid. If I find bees clustered in the lid doing nothing, that’s the time for me to act quickly & do a preemptive swarm control split. A lot of times I’ll act if I see that every honey frame is completely covered with bees because when you see that, bees in the lid doing nothing is only a few days away.