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When to Start Checker boarding in Northern Hemisphere?


OK @Michael_Bush
I’m sort of asking you Michael and hope others may want similar information.

I read that Checker boarding should start about 9 weeks before the Apple Blossom Bloom

Here it seems to be mid April-ish

Can you talk us through the procedure as I’m sure many are interested, especially those that are building up hives to double brood.

Here is your page can you give any comments or help please?


Yes please Michael.
I would be interested too. It’s not so common here in the UK .What I tried once with my supers was to move half the full honey frames up one box, alternating with foundation. i.e. F/H/F/H on top H/F/H/F underneath. It was a good year for honey that year and I don’t know whether it made much difference. I waited till that super was half capped but don’t recall what time of year. Maybe late March/April, as Valli says, when the Sycamore and Dandelion are in bloom


I was thinking for Brood increase @Dee but I believe it can be done for Honey and a type of different Bailey Comb Change - swapping out old frames.


Ah…you mean “opening up the brood nest” not checker boarding
In which case I would be even more interested in Michael’s response.
I never had the courage to try it in the spring in the two years I had double National brood boxes.
It’s not so common here in the UK as most beekeepers use different size boxes for brood and honey and even those that do use Langs tend to use Jumbo for brood and Deeps for honey.
Also unless you are in the Balmy South you can’t rely on good weather
Also what I am trying to say is that double brood with the same size box is not that common either.


Hi Dee, I think checker boarding is a great way to open up the brood nest. I’d be inclined to do it at the start of spring when there’s lots of pollen coming in. If you want to expend the brood into two boxes. You could take say, 4 frames from the brood to put in the second box. Place those in the center flanked be drawn comb or fresh foundation & checker board the bottom box.

Alternatively, if you want to strengthen other weaker colonies, you could use the frames of brood to assist those & leave the mother colony with one brood box

Another alternative would be to take the frames of brood with bees, minus the queen to start a new colony. Again leaving the mother colony with one brood box.


Opening up the brood nest is a method of pre-emptive swarm control but so much of the outcome is determined by the vagaries of our maritime climate. We are never guaranteed predictable and prolonged nectar and pollen flows. 2014 will go down in the annals of beekeeping history and all these lovely fresh-face novices will harken back in their dotage to the record sunny days and supers laden with honey. Last year we had a good start, pollen came in abundance and the stronger colonies made early swarm preps then spring came crashing down with low temperatures wind and rain for most of the year. There were windows of fine weather but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many failures this spring as a result of poor queen mating.
The Sycamore failed and bees were unable to get out for dandelions. There was little Lime (linden) which is so much of a part of suburban forage and Bramble was washed out too.
I feel sorry for people who started their beekeeping journey last year. Their expectations must have taken quite a battering.
In my mind, it’s a manipulation that you could try here as long as you realise that the bees could be set back if the weather is against you.
There is a publication by an Anglesey beekeeper showing pre-emptive swarm control and how to get comb drawn using two boxes. I’ll go look for it and post a link

I must apologise for reading UK as the northern hemisphere…ooooooops.
I’m sure checker boarding is fine in the warmer climes of Spain and the South of France etc etc


Yes, here it is
Swarm Control an Apiary Guide
http://www.wbka.com/library/library-documents/so found this from Murray McGregor who is owner of Denrosa Apiaries
I do not recommend checkerboarding, at least in any of the areas we use. Our climate is too inconsistent in spring for it to be safe.

We have regular problem with new staff here who have learned their practical beekeeping in warmer climes with more stable climates thinking they know better than us and quietly checkerboarding hives against my instructions. They get a sore rump when I see it, and shown the combs of chilled brood they have caused.

Checkerboardig is an extreme form of brood spreading, where between every frame of brood an empty comb is placed to force the pace of broodnest expansion. The version normally practiced is at the point of the bees having almost expanded across the box. A second deep is brought into use, and in the bottom box every second frame is left in place and the alternate frames are replaced by empty combs from the new box. The removed brood is raised up into the second deep and once again interspersed with an empty comb between each bar of brood, and in the opposite pattern to the bottom box…so the brood frames in the top box are actually directly above the empty frames in the bottom box and vica versa.

Do this in Scotland and immediately get a couple of really cold nights, then the brood in the extremities is in trouble and far from boosting the colony it can set it back badly.

Less extreme, and you can get away with it, is brood spreading, where a comb, maybe two, are inserted in the middle of the nest to provide laying space and make it unneccessary for the bees to move the stores and pollen at the fringe of the nest for expansion. We never ever do it unless they are already at five bars of brood as you do not want to overstretch a small colony’s ability to keep the nest warm. Also we never put the two or more new frames together in the middle, always only one and then brood and then another empty if placing more than one.

Bees of an Amm type will frequently sense isolation if two or more bars seperate brood areas and this can sometimes trigger the construction of emergency cells in one part of the hive away from the queen. This can give rise to instability issues as these cells come close to hatching, although they may get torn down by the queen as that part of the nest she has been working in expands to include the isolated part. This very factor is actually used by some queen breeders to get their grafted bars started in queenright colonies (thinking in particular of a system used in black bees territory in France), where a bar of brood and a bar of pollen, plus the frame of grafts, are isolated to one side of the hive behind a barrier made from queen excluder mesh. Apparently works very well, although not all races of bees are receptive to it.

Conclusion is that full scale checkerboarding is NOT ok in our climate, small scale brood spreading is ok. Neither should be practiced until you know what you are doing as any spreading if the colony is still too small is likely to have a negative effect. Brood spreading is also NOT a thing to do in dearths if the colony is not trying to expand laying.


Hi Dee, that’s the reason why I suggested putting the brood frames together in the top box. I certainly wouldn’t suggest a full scale checkerboarding in your climate. I don’t use it in my climate. Also I’m not checkerboarding any of my colonies until the second box is full to overflowing.

In a circumstance where the second box is full to overflowing, it would be safe to checkerboard even if the weather does turn bad for a while. As long as you have plenty of stores in the second box. However, I’d leave full scale checkerboarding alone.

I guess as beekeepers, we’re keeping a weather eye out most of the time. You wouldn’t checkerboard on the eve of a terrible weather forecast. If there’s 3 or 4 good sunny days forecasted, that will give a strong colony enough time to draw the foundation out.

I can see after being on this forum, the merit in keeping the same size frames throughout the hive. It make it so much easier to manipulate the frames.


You wouldn’t and I wouldn’t but some might so it’s good that Valli started this thread.
The other thing to bear in mind is that beekeeping doesn’t go by the calendar :)[quote=“JeffH, post:8, topic:5071”]
I can see after being on this forum, the merit in keeping the same size frames throughout the hive. It make it so much easier to manipulate the frames.


Too true.
I’m a bit of a lazy beekeeper. I hate double brood boxes whatever size and in the UK a Jumbo Lang or a 14x12 is big enough for most bees without adding extra brood boxes.
Having to look through 22 frames of bees is not my idea of fun…especially if you have 5 or 6 boxes to do.


Hi & me too Dee, I agree it’s a good thing this thread got started. I’m a big fan of a single brood box for lots of reasons I’ve stated on other threads. A deep Lang is good enough for me. People say that a deep Lang box full of honey is too heavy. I only lift them with 6 frames which = a full box of ideals. I’ve got 14 boxes of honey to extract today, so I better get started. cheers


Hi Dee, I haven’t finished extracting yet, I found a bit of a snag. Some of my bees filled up on Leptospermum honey. So I decided to isolate it. I extract the regular honey first, then whatever Lepto is left in the frames gets scraped out into a bucket. You can see all the jelly globules coming out with it. I’ve had it before this time of year but nowhere near as much as I have this time. I’d hate to see anyone trying to extract it out of a Flow frame. All I can say is: “good luck”. I’ll get back to it, bye


@JeffH Here we have Oil Seed Rape that might pose a problem. It granulates very quickly. If you are tapping your flow frames every other day, you might just about get away with it. Beekeepers whose main crop is OSR report that sometimes the honey is OK and sometimes it’s already setting in the frames when they take it off. I’m lucky; no arable in the area.
People keeping their bees on allotments get problems with raspberry nectar too.
Heather honey is thixotropic and needs to be crushed out of frames, just like your Leptospermum. I have a friend who lives near heathland which has suddenly had cattle rather than sheep added to it and the wild heather, no longer being cropped, is finding its way into her supers…much to her annoyance.
I’ll make a separate post of the next point…


I’m sure the need to checkerboard to get bees on two boxes is unlikely to arise if you have them in a Deep Lang box in the UK.
The box is big enough for the most prolific bees and winter stores on its own.
I don’t know anybody who has their bees in two Lang boxes.
I have my bees in
14x12s ; brood cell number is 80000 for 11 frames
Lang Deep is 85000 for 10 frames…obviously 1/5 less for 8
The figures are rounded and from memory. Perhaps somebody can correct me if I’m wrong.
With my boxes, particularly the poly, I occasionally have to remove store frames in the spring, and I have never had to add a shallow on top for extra space for the queen to lay.
Anyway…that’s my tuppence worth. I’ll wait for Michael Bush to add his.

Commercial beeks often work two boxes here (Nationals) as it makes it a doddle to check for swarm cells. Twenty seconds and no lifting frames.


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And at the bottom bars…so just tilt the top box forward and look.
Not invariably but more often than not.


Lang deeps have 3,500 cells per side, so a 10 frame deep would have 70,000


That’s why I asked you on another thread. The “Deeps” I’ve looked at here are called Jumbo
All very confusing.


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I am a hobby beekeeper.
I like to keep things simple.
The one box has room to store enough food in winter and room for the colony to grow.
When space to grow runs out it’s time to artificially swarm, anyway.
I have no need for my bees to produce hundreds of kilograms of honey