double brood, brood & Half, commercial, how much space is best for my bees??

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House Bee
May 31, 2018
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I have a 3 hives in commercial, 3 hives in national and a recently hived swarm in a national brood box. Apart from the swarm and 1 national hive all the rest have 1 super of foundation each, in various states of being drawn, or ignored in the case of the strongest hive which is on a commercial (they have decided to build comb between the frame bottoms and the floor..)

For the hives in Nationals I would like your thoughts on whether to keep in single brood, move to brood and a half, double brood or move to commercial. I have spare commercial brood boxes, spare national supers and can easily get some more national brood boxes.

All the hives on nationals originate from 2 nucs I bought last year.

We have quite a late start to spring here, so only had a few weeks with any sense of a nectar flow, but saw the first flowers on the brambles this week which are a major nectar source here.

This week 1 of the national hives swarmed & were caught. This got me thinking about space requirements for the bees a bit more. Obviously bee keeper error played a role in the swarming but I think its safe to say that 1 national brood box might not be enough for them).

The hive that swarmed (hive 1) has 2 virgins running around and had all (I hope) queen cells destroyed. There are 9 frames with sealed brood. By the time a new queen is mated she should have lots of space to lay.

Another hive (hive 2) that has bees from the same source had a super put on last week and now has 7 frames with sealed brood, no queen cells. it did have 8 frames of sealed brood but I took one away and made up a 2 frame nuc with a virgin from the colony that sent out a swarm. I did this to buy a bit of time in case they decide to prepare to swarm.

Another hive (hive 3) was transferred from a nuc just over a week ago and had 6 frames Brood/eggs etc. It doesnt have a super yet.

I think in the long run I will end up using all commercial brood boxes but still open on that.. Some beeks I speak to here run brood and a half (but to me that seems potentially a messy way to get the same size as 1 commercial brood), 1 uses double but partly as he has been using that as a way of making increase.

So thoughts & discussion please on what I should do with the three hives on national brood this year.

1. If I go to double brood or commercial will i potentially just end up with the bees spending their time drawing out and filling the 2nd brood box and not making honey in supers this season?

2. Should I go brood and a half for the year and move to commercial next year?

3.Should I just get them in to commercial this year?

4.What are your thoughts on how to tell if your bees need more space, e.g. larger brood box v adding supers? This has been something that I haven't found satisfactorily explained in books, courses etc. some people say just add a super when they need it, but that doesn't seem like a good enough answer to me!

Finally I should say they are Amm, West Kerry mountain variety..
Jenkins may be confirming my suspicions about brood and a half, but its hard to tell, wish he would get of the fence.
Brood and a half is a pain. Whatever you want to do its an obstacle to doing it, that said... move on.

My vote is for double brood. If the colony can't cope with it/ does not use it then cut them back to a single National brood. You have comb compatibility and standardisation for free. KISS

With double brood offering possibly too much space, you can utilise dummy frames to give them the space they need.
I make insulated follower frames using 25mm recticel instead of foundation to fill in behind a dummy board. Lots of possible configurations to offer them a sufficient area for the nest and encouraging honey storage in the supers.
With a couple of exceptions, mine seem happy with 16 - 18 brood frames.