How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Basic beekeeping, this is beekeeping after the first winter until about the third or fourth year. You are a beekeeper, but you still have a lot to learn. Talk about normal everyday beekeeping here.
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Rurification
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How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby Rurification » Thu Apr 06, 2017 12:53 pm

This is a topic started in Intros here: viewtopic.php?f=31&t=839
Posters suggested that I ask it here for wider discussion.

I've been keeping bees since 2012 and finally figured out how to get them through our weird winters. I know that 2nd year colonies are more likely to have mite issues. I've successfully overwintered my four colonies and my task for this year is how to give a brood break to control the mites and still get some honey - I've never gotten much of a honey harvest.

I got some great ideas in the other thread and Michael gave me a great link to his ideas on his site: http://www.bushfarms.com/beessplits.htm#cutdown

I know how to cutouts and catch swarms. How to do a walkaway. How to let them raise their own queen. How to overwinter. Now that I'm on this side of winter and having found this forum, I find I'm having to re-think my colony management. I'm trying to wrap my head around these new ideas:

1. More colonies, smaller.
2. Division of purpose: bee/queen producers v. honey producers
3. Cut -down splits: manipulate where the queen goes, how much brood she takes with her.
4. Confining the queen for a brood break - I have questions about this so will start a new topic.

So my question to you is how would you go about managing for honey, but still give a brood break?
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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby Michael Bush » Thu Apr 06, 2017 1:21 pm

>I got some great ideas in the other thread and Michael gave me a great link to his ideas on his site

The ideas predate me by a century at least... I certainly am not claiming credit for them.
"Everything works if you let it"--James "Big Boy" Medlin
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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby GregV » Thu Apr 06, 2017 2:28 pm

Kinda of repeating myself.
This is the model I see for myself going forward after reading, listening, viewing truck-loads of info this winter.
All TF, obviously.
Some feeding is OK to sustain valuable small nucs/late swarms.

0)Chase/trap the feral swarms - goes without saying and is given.

1)Split most all hives that you have as soon as feasible in the new season (at least double the number of the hives).
This is the expansion model SP is teaching. This also creates brood breaks in at least few of the hives.

2)Combine *some* (50%?) of the splits back just prior to the main flow and create mega-hives (some call these honey-hives).
This means that at least *two* (could be more) queens were working in parallel to produce the honey-hive bee population.
By combining, you allow the bees to select the best possible queen out of the combine (or choose yourself if prefer).
Of course, if you create a honey-hive, you must make it as big as possible in space.
The mega-hive may or may not collapse at the end of the season.
If the mega-hive stays afloat - good.
If it collapses - still good (you get more honey then for your needs).
It is almost better if the mega-hive collapses sooner - less honey is wasted then.

3)The remaining split hives keep as-is OR even split more if conditions allow.
This is the "spare-part stock" one must keep on hand at all times.
Prepare these for the winter as best as possible.

4)So, I got this idea of calling this "lego-beekeeping" another day.
You create all bunch of small basic building blocks early each season from your stock (read - nucs).
The size of the "lego-blocks" should really match the natural sizing (40 liters/10 gallons is a good sizing and what I target when I build my nuc hives).
You put some of these blocks back together to create big hives for honey production (timing your local season properly).
You know - snap together 2-3-4 lego blocks and make some bigger figures of them.
The brood breaks just come along as a side-affect of the "lego-making".
I would not think of brood breaks too much on purpose - they are a side-affect.

So, for my homesteading needs, I target for myself coming out of each winter with 5-6 hives.
For this, I need to go into the winter with 10-12 hives of various sizes (assuming 50% attrition).
The more the merrier, of course.

PS: I now think this idea of keeping large and strong colonies is really not natural and not healthy (true - they are productive and that plays into beekeeping as an industry and that is what we are taught); I think keeping a fleet of more naturally sized colonies is a better way and works better to be TF; once you have a sustainable fleet, you can do anything you want with them; combining for high production is pretty trivial.
Last edited by GregV on Thu Apr 06, 2017 2:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby moebees » Thu Apr 06, 2017 2:48 pm

Hi Robin
I kind of answered in the other thread but before I say anymore let me ask you this. When you say manage for honey do you mean you are wanting honey for you and your friends or are you talking about having enough to sell? I think that might change my answer.
Sam Droege, a biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey—“bees are not optional."

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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby lharder » Thu Apr 06, 2017 2:58 pm

I wonder if use of a snelgrove board (or double screen board) acts as a bit of a brood break?

I have to say that having colonies are honey producers, don't have a brood break and still come out of their second winter strong are the ones I am targeting. I have a colony that has come out of her 3rd winter strong and another coming out of her 2nd winter very strong at a harsh site.

So I know genetics is out there. I just have to find it, create conditions to concentrate it my apiary. Now if all of my 2nd winter colonies were weak or failing, then I would probably start implementing brood breaks. I consider it a fastest road to TF, if it is open to you. For some it seems not.

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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby Nordak » Thu Apr 06, 2017 3:52 pm

Good ideas here. One thing I haven't seen mentioned that relates to where I live, not sure if it's applicable to your situation, is having good bees that implement their own brood breaks. When dearth times hit here, queens can shut down laying for a long while. Having bees that constantly brood up whatever the conditions might work well for standard commercial practice, but not so much for someone trying to sort out how to make TF sustainable. The first bees I hived were very much of the "more is better" mindset in all aspects, from population to honey production. Basically they had a huge population hit summer with a good honey supply. They kept brooding up through summer and consumed all of their honey. They were also on the verge of crashing hard come October from varroa related issues, where my more frugal and seemingly resistant/tolerant bees were fine. I guess my point behind this is what you need to think about in terms of honey production is how your bees react to environmental changes such as their brooding behavior in relationship to your seasonal flows. I typically harvest honey, when available, in fall so I can gauge their needs going into winter and not leave them short when summer dearth hits. I don't make special brood breaks unless I need to split where something like imminent swarming is at hand. My seasonal breaks in flows and regionally adapted bees allow me to keep some pretty large hives. A large hive is not necessarily detrimental to a TF outcome from my experience.

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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby GregV » Thu Apr 06, 2017 6:04 pm

Rufi, I think you need to study work done by Mel Disselkoen.
You can google but here is a great PDF I got from his site.
It describes the process that should get you what you want.
Attached.
Attachments
OTS_NucManagement.pdf
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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby moebees » Thu Apr 06, 2017 9:41 pm

I was going to mention Mel too. There are some fairly good youtube videos of Mel presentations. Everything he says is geared to michigan so you would need to adjust accordingly. I think his ideas on brood breaks and timing are interesting. The actual notching of brood comb I am less enthusiastic about. I think the Michael bush suggestion to put empty frames in 4 to 6 days before the split is probably a better idea.
Sam Droege, a biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey—“bees are not optional."

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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby Rurification » Fri Apr 07, 2017 12:24 pm

moebees wrote:Hi Robin
I kind of answered in the other thread but before I say anymore let me ask you this. When you say manage for honey do you mean you are wanting honey for you and your friends or are you talking about having enough to sell? I think that might change my answer.


Good question - and not obvious, either. I want honey for me and friends. Last year I got just over a gallon. I gave some away and we ran out already. So I'm thinking a goal of 3-4 gallons per year total from the apiary would meet my needs. I don't object to doing it piecemeal either. Crush and strain is fine with a bit of comb honey.

Up to now I've saved every bit of honey I could and kept it in the hives. Only took what was clearly extra.
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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby Rurification » Fri Apr 07, 2017 12:26 pm

Nordak wrote:Good ideas here. One thing I haven't seen mentioned that relates to where I live, not sure if it's applicable to your situation, is having good bees that implement their own brood breaks. When dearth times hit here, queens can shut down laying for a long while. ....


OMG - I've seen this! It always worried me, but now I have a whole new view. Must think more....
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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby Rurification » Fri Apr 07, 2017 12:37 pm

GregV wrote:Kinda of repeating myself...
.


And I'm so glad you are, because this is all making me rethink so many things.

I totally get the Lego thing. Makes a ton of sense. My observations from this past winter: I over wintered 4 colonies. 3 of them in 2-medium setups, 1 in a single deep.

These colonies were 'too small' according to conventional thinking, but they did fine. It was a milder winter, but I think damp is the issue and using quilt boxes is the key, not the slightly warmer temps.

I have more questions about this.... I'll be back later in the day.
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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby moebees » Fri Apr 07, 2017 1:55 pm

Good question - and not obvious, either. I want honey for me and friends. Last year I got just over a gallon. I gave some away and we ran out already. So I'm thinking a goal of 3-4 gallons per year total from the apiary would meet my needs. I don't object to doing it piecemeal either. Crush and strain is fine with a bit of comb honey.


Then to me the simplest thing would be to designate two hives as production hives and two hives for increase. No need to complicate any further. If you have a good flow in your area two strong hives should give you plenty of honey. And two others can give you nucs for increase or replacement of losses. And just because you designate them production hives doesn't necessarily mean you will lose them but now you will have insurance. Hope this makes sense.
Sam Droege, a biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey—“bees are not optional."

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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby GregV » Fri Apr 07, 2017 2:23 pm

moebees wrote:.Then to me the simplest thing would be to designate two hives as production hives and two hives for increase.

Good example.

Out of what I observe around here, most all small-scale keepers do not understand this simple idea.
They stuck on this mindset "I keep 3 hives and this is all I need".
This is a failure-prone, static thinking regardless of mites, bad winters, bad summers, whatever are the issues.

You have to have "prod hives" and then you have to have "expansion hives".
Have to run both programs at once to both stay afloat AND generate some product.

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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby Rurification » Fri Apr 07, 2017 4:21 pm

moebees wrote:Then to me the simplest thing would be to designate two hives as production hives and two hives for increase. No need to complicate any further. If you have a good flow in your area two strong hives should give you plenty of honey. And two others can give you nucs for increase or replacement of losses. And just because you designate them production hives doesn't necessarily mean you will lose them but now you will have insurance. Hope this makes sense.


Just making sure I understand -

Production hives are honey hives.
Expansion hives are bee/queen producers and can be kept small. These are my 'back up' nucs or single medium hives.

Question -

If I let 2 make honey [fingers crossed], and I split the other two, I'll have 6 at the end of the year [hopefully]. Is that enough? [I don't want to count on swarms.]

Bigger question: To meet my goal of 3-4 gallons of honey every year, how many colonies total should I shoot for to go into the winter with? ... assuming that most of those will be smaller.
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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby Rurification » Fri Apr 07, 2017 4:23 pm

GregV wrote:Rufi, I think you need to study work done by Mel Disselkoen.
You can google but here is a great PDF I got from his site.
It describes the process that should get you what you want.
Attached.


Thank you! Will study this.
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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby lharder » Fri Apr 07, 2017 4:51 pm

You should be able to get honey and some hives.

What I do is steal a bit of brood on an ongoing basis from production hives to make small nucs. I snelgroved the big hives one by one to produce the queen cells starting with the strongest. A useful form of swarm control at the same time. Once the upper queen gets mated, the snelgrove board can be replaced by a queen excluder and you have a 2 queen system that could produce lots of honey. Meanwhile you have these nucs on the side that have had a genuine brood break.

Last year I did over 40 nucs from 16 hives (some dinks) and had an additional 4 hives in big boxes by the end of the summer once I split up my 2 queen systems in fall. While I had major carnage with the big hives at one site this year, I had decent survival of the nucs in spite of hard winter.

But more importantly, I have some big clusters on some of the 2nd winter survivors. These are the strongest bees and I use them for most of my queen production.

So If you have 3 decent hives this spring, you could aim for 6 nucs to overwinter and exceed your honey goals.

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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby moebees » Fri Apr 07, 2017 8:30 pm

Production hives are honey hives.
Expansion hives are bee/queen producers and can be kept small. These are my 'back up' nucs or single medium hives


Correct.

If I let 2 make honey [fingers crossed], and I split the other two, I'll have 6 at the end of the year [hopefully]. Is that enough? [I don't want to count on swarms.]

Bigger question: To meet my goal of 3-4 gallons of honey every year, how many colonies total should I shoot for to go into the winter with? ... assuming that most of those will be smaller.


I said 2 and 2 based on what you have now (4 over wintered hives) and 2 strong hives should give you the 3-4 gallons and probably more. The rest of it is up to you, the equipment you have, want to purchase, make, and so forth. Two or three strong hives should give you plenty of honey. Like you said, if you split two hives you could theoretically go into winter with 6. Or you could split each of the the 2, three or four ways depending on how strong they are. And if you don't lose any and you think you have too many you could recombine some. So basically shoot for 2 to 3 honey hives every year and maybe 2 over wintered hives that were split plus the nucs off those hives. So say both honey hives succumb to mites over next winter but the 2 split hives and nucs over winter. You are essentially where you are beginning this year even though you lost 2 hives. Make four nucs and you have even more insurance. So stay flexible with the end goal always being 2 or 3 over wintered hives to make honey and
some other hives and nucs to make up losses or turn into honey hives the following year. I hope this makes sense.
Sam Droege, a biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey—“bees are not optional."

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Re: How to give a brood break AND get some honey -

Postby Rurification » Sat Apr 08, 2017 2:40 am

Makes perfect sense. Thank you, everyone!
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