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  • Why UnLimited BroodNest?

    Let me get this topic started.

    Unlimited broodnest (ULBN) is a practice where the beekeeper does not limit the broodnest (or indeed the hive) size by the usage of queen excluders, and by extension, the reduction of the hive size by removal of supers.

    This generally results in a hive that has a minimum of three deeps (or equivalent) and then honey supers on top of that.

    Generally no honey is harvested from those three deeps (or five mediums or whatever). No limit is put on the broodnest through the use of queen excluders.

    Why do this?

    Firstly, it's more natural. In a wild colony, no artificial limit is put on the size of the colony or the space in which the queen can lay brood. The only limit is the size of the cavity, and even then, sometimes colonies will build comb out the entrance. Some very large colonies have been found inhabiting very large cavities and storing very large amounts of honey.

    The practice of removing honey and managing colony size is counter to the natural flow of hive operations. We seem to have missed the fact that honey may be stored for years. We sort of basically assume that all honey (or near to it) is consumed over winter and the whole process starts anew every year. That's not how it works in the wild.

    Reduced swarming. One of my theories is that unlimited broodnest results in much reduced swarming and persuant to the previous point, here is my theory as to why: Late in winter, the colony takes stock of its space and stores, and a communal understanding is made (in whatever consciousness this happens) that swarming will happen this year, or it won't. If yes, then preparations are begun. If not, then the space is filled with honey and swarming is put off until the next year, large colonies can produce very large swarms which have a greater chance of survival. The standard practice of removing supers over winter leaves the colony unnecessarily small and the bees, seeing the space that needs to be filled can be filled, begins the swarming process. Now, I'm not saying this is how it happens and that all this information is correct. This is a hypothesis, a try at describing emergent phenomenon. The point is, by the time most people think it is time to super colonies, it's already too late.

    With no limits on brood laying, the hive can become quite large, making lots of honey, and being enjoyable to work (aside from the fact that large colonies can be more angry than smaller ones).

    The effect of the queen excluder as a "honey excluder" are eliminated.

    What is the purpose of a queen excluder anyway? The queen excluder is there to keep the queen out of the honey supers so the supers can be harvested without inspection by using a leaf blower or be repellent and loaded on a truck as a unit without needing to check frames. Is this how your harvest process works? If not, you probably don't need a queen excluder. Most of us small beekeepers harvest one frame at a time, or with supers on the top which are obviously full. Plus, it is really easy to extract frames that may contain a little brood, especially drone brood, which is occasionally left behind when other brood hatches, and then cells are filled with honey. Just uncap around it and proceed normally. No biggie. But not something a commercial honey producer has time for. Are you a commercial honey producer? No? Then you don't need a queen excluder, except for special things like queen breeding sometimes.



    100% Treatment-Free, 16 years.
    Medford, Oregon, USA

  • #2
    Thanks Solomon,
    That was very informative and logical. I haven't used excluders, though I can see I would in a starter/finisher queenrearing operation. I don't have a lot of experience but in general the broodnest seems to spread outward and not much upward. The queen seems to avoid crossing the honey barrier at the top of the brood comb. And I agree, It's not a lot of trouble to select the frames I want to extract in the field. I'd love to hear from other folks on this subject.
    Last edited by Neill Sayers; 01-06-2019, 05:32 AM.
    Neill Sayers
    Herbhome Farm
    Arkansas Ozarks, USA
    Zone 7a

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Solomon View Post
      The standard practice of removing supers over winter leaves the colony unnecessarily small and the bees, seeing the space that needs to be filled can be filled, begins the swarming process.
      1. When you write "leaves the colony unnecessarily small", do you mean "leaves the cavity unnecessarily small"?

      2. I am reminded of Dr. Leo's practice, which is two hive visits per year: once in the Spring (when he adds all of the frames), and once in the Autumn (to harvest honey and remove the frames -- which is effectively the same thing as "removing empty supers"). Dr Leo talked about a French beekeeper who doesn't remove any frames from his (Layens) hives, and thus reduces his hive visit to one per year. I wonder if this beekeeper is effectively NOT unnecessarily shrinking the size of the cavity.

      3. If the cavity is too large for the colony to defend, does that give hive beetles the upper hand?

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by PropolisTarp View Post
        1. When you write "leaves the colony unnecessarily small", do you mean "leaves the cavity unnecessarily small"?
        Yes.

        Originally posted by PropolisTarp View Post
        2. I am reminded of Dr. Leo's practice, which is two hive visits per year: once in the Spring (when he adds all of the frames), and once in the Autumn (to harvest honey and remove the frames -- which is effectively the same thing as "removing empty supers"). Dr Leo talked about a French beekeeper who doesn't remove any frames from his (Layens) hives, and thus reduces his hive visit to one per year. I wonder if this beekeeper is effectively NOT unnecessarily shrinking the size of the cavity.
        He just removes the frames though, correct? The volume of the cavity does not change as far as I'm aware. I believe the cavity volume is the important measure, and how full of honey it is.

        Originally posted by PropolisTarp View Post
        3. If the cavity is too large for the colony to defend, does that give hive beetles the upper hand?
        I don't think so. Beetles are going to do virtually nothing to empty comb, which is what the empty portions of my hives are. Just need a colony of sufficient strength and mobility to handle wax moths, which is only a problem I'm concerned about. The bees don't care if moths eat distant combs. They'll just rebuild when needed.

        100% Treatment-Free, 16 years.
        Medford, Oregon, USA

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Solomon View Post

          He just removes the frames though, correct? The volume of the cavity does not change as far as I'm aware. I believe the cavity volume is the important measure, and how full of honey it is.
          It's my understanding that he would remove the frames and then put the follower board in. There would be empty space on the other side of the follower board that the bees would investigate, but ignore. But his discussions of "one hive visit per year" made me think he was considering eliminating this step, which implies that he would replace the frames that he had extracted / crushed-n-strained.

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          • #6
            Yes I see. Swarming is also more or less encouraged.

            Personally, I don't encourage it but I don't try to stop it. If I come across a hive, I will try to split it or something. But if it does swarm, I don't lose any sleep.
            100% Treatment-Free, 16 years.
            Medford, Oregon, USA

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            • #7
              My local mentor and our club leader is also TF and uses this method. He calls it the "Mega Hive". I've linked his presentation at an event at our community college if anyone is interested in the exact process of how he achieves this using Langstroth. He does reduce to 2 deeps in the winter.

              I like exploring my options, so I will continue to have 2 mega hives but I'm also building a Layen's hive to see which the bees prefer next year.



              Angela
              Kalispell, Montana Zone 4a
              Third Year Journeyman Beekeeper

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              • #8
                The way Dee Lusby taught it, and the way that I find it works quite well, is when you are starting with a single or double hive, that is either full (in the case of a ten frame deep) or has 10 full frames, in the case of anything larger, You take those frames and place them in the center of three boxes, four frames on the bottom, four frames in the middle, and two frames at the top. The idea is that bees have it easier to build horizontally while maintaining the climate in the brood nest if the broodnest is stacked like that. Once you have a thriving broodnest, then you can do things like insert an empty frame in the middle of it and have it drawn quickly with mostly neat worker comb, whether you're using foundation or not.

                Trying to overstuff the broodnest with empty frames or spread the broodnest out too thinly will yield very poor results.
                100% Treatment-Free, 16 years.
                Medford, Oregon, USA

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                • #9
                  I do think that managing space is one of the beekeeper's primary concerns. Especially now that I have had problems with SHB but even just from the point of view of bees thriving, they tend to thrive with a certain density of bees and if they fall below that they struggle. So I think managing the space you give them is important. But also letting them have free run of the hive to lay in is also. Here's a quote from Isaac Hopkins:
                  "Queen Excluders... are very useful in queen rearing, and in uniting colonies; but for the purpose they are generally used, viz., for confining the queen to the lower hive through the honey season, I have no hesitation in condemning them. As I have gone into this question fully on a previous occasion, I will quote my remarks:--
                  "The most important point to observe during the honey season in working to secure a maximum crop of honey is to keep down swarming, and the main factors to this end, as I have previously stated, are ample ventilation of the hives, and adequate working-room for the bees. When either or both these conditions are absent, swarming is bound to take place. The free ventilation of a hive containing a strong colony is not so easily secured in the height of the honey season, even under the best conditions, that we can afford to take liberties with it; and when the ventilating--space between the lower and upper boxes is more than half cut off by a queen-excluder, the interior becomes almost unbearable on hot days. The results under such circumstances are that a very large force of bees that should be out working are employed fanning-, both inside and out, and often a considerable part of the colony will be hanging outside the hive in enforced idleness until it is ready to swarm.
                  "Another evil caused by queen-excluders, and tending to the same end--swarming--is that during a brisk honey-flow the bees will not readily travel through them to deposit their loads of surplus honey in the supers, but do store large quantities in the breeding-combs, and thus block the breeding-space. This is bad enough at any time, but the evil is accentuated when it occurs in the latter part of the season. A good queen gets the credit of laying from two to three thousand eggs per day: supposing she is blocked for a few days, and loses the opportunity of laying, say, from fifteen hundred to two thousand eggs each day, the colony would quickly dwindle down, especially as the average life of the bee in the honey season is only about six weeks.
                  "For my part I care not where the queen lays--the more bees the more honey. If she lays in some of the super combs it can be readily rectified now and again by putting the brood below, and side combs of honey from the lower box above; some of the emerging brood also may be placed at the side of the upper box to give plenty of room below. I have seen excluders on in the latter part of the season, the queens idle for want of room, and very little brood in the hives, just at a time when it is of very great importance that there should be plenty of young bees emerging."--Isaac Hopkins, The Australasian Bee Manual
                  I run all eight frame mediums. When someone asks me what I do when the queen lays in the supers, I say it's impossible. If the queen lays in that box, it's a brood box.

                  http://www.bushfarms.com/beesulbn.htm
                  Nehawka, Nebraska. My website: bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm em portugues: bushfarms.com/pt_bees.htm My book: ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
                  -----"Everything works if you let it."--James "Big Boy" Medlin-----

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                  • #10
                    Regarding this---"as I have previously stated, are ample ventilation of the hives, and adequate working-room for the bees." A couple years ago I added full screened inner covers to all my ULBN hives---most are 3 or more deeps. This has helped significantly in mitigating heat buildup in the summer and honey which had sometimes dropped out of deep frames (I am all foundationless) In Southern CA the harvest of honey can often be at the end of Winter---February. We have already seen swarming in January. I was called to take one on a fence.

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                    • #11
                      Reading up on this I see a lot of similarities with what I read in Abbé Emile Warré's book 'Beekeeping for All' Link below for a pdf version in different languages from biobees.com

                      Warré talks about both methods of keeping bees, be it one or two visit's a year. I'm not sure if I will follow this 'hands off' approach, still I'll try and summarize what his methods are.
                      In both methods he's overwintering on two boxes. (note that Warré boxes are smaller)

                      1-> two visits a year:
                      in spring you visit your apiary, take both boxes away at the same time, clean up the bottom board and add about 3 empty boxes (or with drawn comb if you have them) on that bottom board. After that you put both boxes (with the colony in it) back.
                      In August/September, you come back to harverst. You take of box by box starting at the top. The first box with brood in it you don't harvest from, shrink the set-up back to 2 boxes for overwintering.

                      2-> one visit a year:
                      Go in August/September, do the harvest, put a stack empty boxes underneath for next year.

                      This is oversimplified of course, and the time stamp august/september is ok for his local area (France) but could be off elsewhere.
                      Beekeeping For All, Abbé Émile Warré, Émile Warré, Northern Bee Books, L'Apiculture Pour Tous, 978-1-904846-52-9, Patricia Heaf, David Heaf
                      Waregem - West-Vlaanderen - België (Flemish/Dutch)
                      Waregem - West-Flanders - Belgium (English)
                      -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                      My Blog
                      https://beekeepingwithbob.blogspot.com/

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                      • #12
                        Warre’s method sounds ideal, but I have to question whether his area of the world was having to worry about defending against SHB and yellow jackets. I personally feel I hurt my new hives last year when I got impatient and added a super when they hadn’t drawn out the brood boxes 80% like I should have. Not just invaders, but in their ability to moderate temps too. Does unlimited broodnest actually mean from day one?
                        Angela
                        Kalispell, Montana Zone 4a
                        Third Year Journeyman Beekeeper

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by atollerson View Post
                          Does unlimited broodnest actually mean from day one?
                          I would say the method is valid from day one, but you're not going to pile boxes on a hive that cannot occupy them initially. Let a deep (or equivalent) fill up and then Pyramid up. That's the name of the method I described above in Post #8.

                          100% Treatment-Free, 16 years.
                          Medford, Oregon, USA

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                          • #14
                            The method is valid from day one, but if you read Warré his book he does advise to go in two times a year, rather than one time.

                            The first time you visit the apiary in spring (meaning good weather expecting a nectarflow) you only expand the hives that are showing good activity.
                            The others are left alone but noted down with a remark 'poor' or 'to keep an eye on'. After a week he comes back to check up on the hives that are marked as being 'poor'. If they show good activity they get undersupered. If not another week goes by and all that are not doing well are destroyed since he thinks you're better off not dealing with weak hives that might spread disease.

                            The second time he visits he harvests honey, and shrinks the boxes down to two full drawn out bodies packed with bees. (he uses a queen excluder on top of two bodies and smokes the excess of bees into the 2 body configuration if there are more bees in one hive or to few bees to combine hives. At this point the queen excluder ensures him he can take out the queen of the colony he doesn't want to keep)

                            EDIT: To elaborate even more: if you can spare the time you could add boxes as the bees needed, that would be best, according to Warré, but he himself had apiaries he didn't go into all the time as they were too far off.
                            Last edited by BobTheBuilder; 01-27-2019, 06:57 PM.
                            Waregem - West-Vlaanderen - België (Flemish/Dutch)
                            Waregem - West-Flanders - Belgium (English)
                            -------------------------------------------------------------------------
                            My Blog
                            https://beekeepingwithbob.blogspot.com/

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Just to clarify, the Warre method is pretty much entirely separate from ULBN. It's a totally different method using the same concept of letting the bees build into the space they want rather than using a queen excluder to confine the broodnest.

                              I can't speak to how well the undersupering method of Warre will work with Langstroth hives with ULBN as I have not tried it. But I can confirm that "Pyramiding Up" has worked for me and I got it from Dee Lusby.
                              100% Treatment-Free, 16 years.
                              Medford, Oregon, USA

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