Too Early to Checker Board?

My Langstroth hives consist of three deep hive bodies. The top deep is sealed honey. The bees consistently overwinter in the middle deep. The bottom deep consists of partially empty frames with some pollen and honey.

To checker board them, I take the middle deep, with bees and brood and place it on the bottom board. The bottom deep provides the empty frames which are alternated with the feed frames from the top deep resulting in two checkerboarded deep boxes which are set on top of the bottom box with bees and brood. You can read more about my checkerboarding here.

Can a beekeeper checkboard a hive too early? I normally checkboard them after a couple of brood cycles. This year I checkerboarded my hives just as the bees were starting their first brood cycle.

The results: All the hives chimney-ed their brood through the center of the three deeps with the queen residing in the top box. Smaller hives had a broodnest two frames wide by three boxes high. The larger hives had a broodnest three to four frames wide by three boxes high.

All additional broodnest expansion was occurring in the top box. I suspect because the top box is warmer.

How does this impact colony development? I’m not sure. Maybe not much in the long run. But it’s obvious the broodnest will end up in the top box with  honey reserves below it.

That’s a situation I would rather avoid. It might not matter in a warmer climate than mine. But I much prefer honey above the bees where cluster warmth can help them feed with the weather gets cold. Spring weather is unsettled here. With one exception, I’ve always cut lilac blossoms during a heavy wet, cold snow storm.

How early is too early. I suspect that any checkerboarding done before the bees clearly establish a broodnest boundary is too early. That boundary could be defined by a thin rim of sealed honey on each frame above the broodnest.  Maybe even a rim of new nectar would be enough. A couple of brood cycles might define it. But without that boundary, the bees are headed upwards, fast!


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7 Responses

  1. K2 says:

    I checkerboarded some hives yesterday. Is this much to late in southern Sweden? Can it work anyway or was it just a waste of time do you think?

    • -bW says:

      Hi Alternativportalen,

      It should work. I’m not familiar with Sweden’s bee season. Five frames of feed may not be enough for a large colony if the weather turns bad early in the season.


    • -bW says:

      I just don’t know enough about the climate in Sweden. Watch them and let me know what you see.


  2. April Danann says:

    Dear Dennis,

    I have a totally unrelated question to ask. It is about bees though.

    I am a BSc student and a TBH beekeeper myself, working away on my final year project which is of course on TBH beekeeping.

    I am looking for 5 people to survey by email with only 5 questions on bee keeping and honey. They are fairly general questions that can be answered briefly.

    Would you be willing to help out with this project?

    Project (short) title is Natural Beekeeping: producing pure honey without chemicals

    Also, I live in Ireland (Co Galway) and we are only one of 2 beekeepers with TBH.

    Thank you kindly,

    April Danann

    • -bW says:

      Hi April,

      Sure, I’ll help. I’ll send you a private email.

      Anyone else with a top bar hive want to answer a few questions?


  3. Jonas Lagander says:

    Thx… my checkerboarded colonies worked out fine. But I can´t say if I gained any honey by the procedure. They did´nt swarm but my hives rarley do so.

    I´ve saved some honey frames to use next spring when I give it another try.

    Keep up the good writing. =)

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