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 is enough. A couple of brood cycles might define it. But without that boundary, the bees are headed upwards, fast!