I don't know how it would work in different areas, but I tried something for the first time this season that has greatly boosted the production from those hives I manage for honey production. In our area, Picture Rocks, Tucson, Arizona, we seem to always have a Mesquite honeyflow, and it is a very strong flow. It arrives in early April and leaves in late June or early July. It seems like a "flood" of nectar, and so far, has ignored whatever our weather is doing. All other flows seem to be very weather dependent, but not the Mesquite. Prior to this season, I would use excluders for many different purposes, but I did not always use them on hives that I was managing for honey production. Most of my hives were configured using either standard bottom boards, or SBB's all with the usual bottom entrance slot. This season, mostly due to the heavy depopulation I experienced from predation by toads eating bees from those bottom entrances, I switched all my colonies to top or upper entrances. I also determined to do what I could to maximize honey production in those colonies which I could inspire to build up, so they would be ready when the Mesquite flow began. For various reasons, this season, that amounted to ten colonies. Several others did not build up in time, so were not configured as in this diagram, and were not used for honey production.
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I wish to make sure not to take credit for this idea - I simply read about it on BeeSource: [http://www.beesource.com/pov/hayes/abjaug85.htm]. Apparently it was an article in the "American Bee Journal" in August 1985, reporting on a queen excluder experiment. I only tweaked the idea a little bit to fit some of my own ideas. Where they use a closed bottom, mine is closed to bee traffic, but screened to allow for ventilation and includes a slatted rack so the bees can cluster and control the air movement to suit themselves. Instead of deep supers for brood chambers I use mediums, and all my equipment is 8-frame width, instead of 10-frame. And, of course, I stagger the honey supers and the covers for even more entrance and ventilation area.
I would like to be able to take credit for this idea. For me it is an excellent marriage of the ideas of upper entrances, slatted racks, SBB's, and queen excluders. One of the most common complaints of queen excluders is connected with the idea that they are, "honey excluders". Since this configuration reverses the traditional situation where foragers enter the brood nest first (Why didn't I think of this before?) and either carry the nectar themselves or pass their nectar load to house bees who then must move up through the brood nest, then through the queen excluder, before reaching the honey supers to deposit it, or deposit it in the first available cell, still inside the brood nest area. In this novel configuration the foragers access is through the honey supers and house bees occupy the brood and honey supers, where they can accept nectar loads from foragers or foragers can unload directly into the honey supers, house bees or foragers can move stores down into the brood supers as it is needed there, but they must move it down through the excluder. No bee "need" traverse the queen excluder just to access the honey supers, but instead easily enters the honey supers through many entrances, but then must pass down through the queen excluder if they wish to access the brood nest.
I provided a small, 7/16" opening below the queen excluder, in order for drones or queens to exit (or enter), for instance, in case a virgin queen might wish to mate, or drones to fly.
Despite having only ten out of fifteen colonies ready when the flow began, of those ten hives, each has produced a minimum of twice the Mesquite honey that I ever harvested from a single hive before, and four of them have brought in much more than twice the usual amount. They may have done even better, but though I thought I had prepared enough supers for fifteen productive colonies - I ran out of empty supers while the Mesquite flow was still going strong, and didn't have a chance to remedy that situation due to other commitments.