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Colony Increase (Method 5)

A simple method with a double brood box colony

This is a very simple method that will suit all beekeepers. It is simply the splitting of a double brood box colony.

All you need to prepare is a floor, crown board, roof and stand. You may also need a queen or queen cell, but see the button on the top left for guidance on that. Anything else needed can be found later.

As with many manipulations there are likely to be variations and I make some notes below.

  1. Build a colony up onto double brood. This could be with or without supers, but to work well it needs to be strong and prosperous.
  2. Inspect the colony and remove any supers.
  3. Take the top brood box and place on a floor on a new stand in the same apiary. This is the "new" colony.
  4. Leave the queen in the bottom brood box on the old stand. This is the "old" colony.
  5. Replace the queen excluder, supers and crown board on the bottom box on the "old" colony.
  6. Place crown board on the brood box on the "new" colony.
  7. Give queen or queen cell to the now queenless "new" colony when appropriate.
  8. Close up both colonies.

That is the basic method, but as beekeepers we often find ourselves in different situations and there are often opportunities we can take advantage of. Depending on your locality, some beekeepers may choose to use this method early in the season, others later. This is why I encourage beekeepers to think about what they are doing, not simply to follow instructions in a "beekeeping by numbers" manner.

Let's see what we have done. A colony has been built into a strong double brood box colony, which will vary depending on several things, but more about that later. If you are in an OSR area and it is early in the season there may be supers on. We have removed one brood box to a new stand, but left the queen behind in the box on the old stand, together with the supers. This will also collect the flying bees when they return from foraging after leaving the "new" colony.

In many double brood box colonies there is usually a reasonable amount of food in the outside frames of the top brood box. This should ensure the "new" colony will have enough food for some time, but if not, then give it a super with food in or combs of food from another colony.

A colony that is headed by a prolific queen will use a double brood box in a different way than a colony headed by a non - prolific queen. The former will probably fill both boxes with brood, with little food, the latter will probably do what is called "chimneying", where they tend to do what they do naturally, i.e. have a taller brood area than we tend to give them in a standard hive. There will probably be brood in the centre of both boxes, but perhaps on 6-8 frames in each box, with food at the top and/or outside the brood.

This method will suit a beekeeper who normally works on a double brood box system. They can then add another box to each colony when they see fit. I normally work on single brood boxes, but I still use this method quite a bit. Towards the end of a season, I find myself uniting colonies far more than I used to, for two reasons mainly. With the queen problems many beekeepers are experiencing, there are often queenless colonies or those with failing queens towards the end of the season. I operate a number of queen mating nucs I need to deal with after the last queen has started laying, some of which are strong enough to put into winter on their own, others aren't, which I unite. This can be any number of nucs together, sometimes four or five.

In the following spring I have colonies on double brood that I need to reduce to single brood box, so I use this method, or if I want a number of queen mating nucs, the colony can be split into several, or continually have nucs "milked" off it.

A variation to the main method is to put a queen excluder between the brood boxes, with the queen in the bottom box, 7-8 days before stage 2. if you need a colony that has no young brood for any reason.

If the queen in the colony is a good one and it is building queen cells these can be used.

Once the "new" colony has recovered and has a reasonable number of flying bees there are a couple of thing you could do. The obvious one it to super it and bring it into honey production. Another is to split it into two nuc boxes and divide the flying bees as in the Roger Patterson method. If things are favourable you end up with a honey producing colony and two colonies that will build up well.

If the queen is put in the "new" colony the "old" colony can be used to raise a batch of queen cells.

As you can probably see this is a very useful method, with many variations.

Roger Patterson.