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Author Topic: Checkerboarding- How it's done  (Read 1367 times)
sc-bee
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« on: March 05, 2014, 09:26:35 PM »

The oher thread was getting kinda long with no real information so I opened this one. This post is long but indulge and forgive me  grin

Checkerboarding ….. CBing…….. Nectar Management

The checkerboarding system in this post was documented and observed by Walt Wright. As we all know animals that are in the wild have an instinct to reproduce. This includes the honey bee and of course that method is swarming. Walt Wright set out on a journey to observe swarming instincts and come up with a better method to control swarming instincts that the ones that exist. From that journey the manuscript “ Nectar Management Principles and Practices” was authored. Later the system was coined Checkerboarding or CBing.

Honey bees basically have an instinct to reproduce. At a certain time the instinct for the colony to reproduce switches to a survival instinct.  When the colony meets certain criteria we begin to see signs that the colony is going to throw a reproduction swarm. One sign is the backfilling of the brood chamber during an early nectar flow season. This is often accompanied by an overhead band of solid chamber that honey bounds the queen and restricts her from laying and therefore restricts the colony from expanding. The bees begin to backfill the brood chamber to stop the queen from laying. Her body size shrinks, she gets her flight figure back and she goes airborne with half your honey gathers. The trick is to employ a method to keep from losing half you colony to the trees and keep your foraging force. The idea is to break that overhead band of honey and fool the bees into thinking there is no ceiling on the honey cavity.  Beekeepers employ numerous principles/systems to try and achieve this goal.

 CBing How it's Done
Walts explanation of the how’s and whys of the colony can sometimes get a little much for this peas size brain. The how’s and why’s are good to know and understand as we strive to understand bees and our relationship to them and nature, but this understanding is not needed to place the CB system in motion.
 
Some facts on CBing:

It is very time dependent. You need to know when white was appears in your area. Most say this is the signal of the main flow. Walt has other perceptions of white wax but says is it a good marker on when to time your CB manipulation. Count back 8wks from white wax. This will be when you manipulate (CB) your colony. You may manipulate earlier and it does not matter but it is crucial not to be late. White wax for my area is the first to second week of April time frame. So I am Cbing in the first too second week of February or earlier.

You have to have a super of Brood depth drawn comb. It has to be drawn comb and not foundation as the bees will see the foundation as a wall or honey block. After white wax the bees will have the ability to draw comb and you can super with foundation. Until you see white wax all supering must be done with drawn comb.

You do not CB brood frames. In no way does CBing involve the manipulations of  brood nest. I REPEAT CBing HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MANIPULATION OF THE BROOD NEST!!! That is what makes the swarm control method so sweet. No moving all those supers to check for queen cells and open the brood nest. This is where a lot of beeks err with the system. They create their own system and then blame the system when they have swarms.

You start with a deep of brood and at least one shallow of  honey and a shallow of  drawn comb. You checkerboard the honey and drawn comb and place a shallow of drawn comb on top of that and you are done.  Of course this is on top of the brood chamber. How much simpler can you get? You then stay two supers ahead to coax the bees into thinking there is no overhead ceiling. What I mean by two supers. When you see nectar in the super below the top one add another super. Remember drawn comb until white wax then foundation is OK.

It will then look like this:
  EEEEEEEEE
 HEHEHEHEH
 EHEHEHEHE
BBBBBBBBBB

When you see nectar in the third row from the bottom in an empty frame add another super of most likely drawn comb.

Hope this helps. If there are questions we will continue the thread. If more questions we will talk about the pollen box maneuver which Walt added later. Also Pros and Cons of the system etc. This should be enough to get you started and for many the timing is now. If no interest we will let the thread die in cyber never- never land

Happy Beekeeping
Steve


« Last Edit: March 06, 2014, 08:12:07 AM by sc-bee » Logged

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sc-bee
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« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2014, 09:59:22 PM »

Walts 1998 Hives:

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« Reply #2 on: March 06, 2014, 05:56:19 AM »

Let it die.  :goodpost:this is a great post. I would not want to try messing with Walt. He is lofting supers 15 high.
Must be doing something right.
Jim
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« Reply #3 on: March 06, 2014, 08:27:24 AM »

sc-bee, I really appreciate you introducing me to Walt's method. I followed the link in your other thread and read a few of his articles. I like his methodology. I am very interested in employing this strategy in my apiary. I do have a couple of road-blocks, though. Maybe you folks have some suggestions???

First, I am going into my second year with bees. Coming out of winter, my Langs are one deep brood box, and one medium super. I don't have empty comb to put in supers.

Second, I am using foundationless frames. Walt says that after things get going good you can use foundation instead of drawn out comb. I will be using foundationless frames. This will leave a void until they build. I am wondering how this will affect the system?Huh

 
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sc-bee
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« Reply #4 on: March 06, 2014, 09:28:47 AM »

Unforunately, the way I see it is until you reach white wax you are kind of stuck. By that time the bees will have more than likely started swarm prep so you will have to cut them off utilizing another method of swarm control. The system requires enough drawn comb of some king to get you to white wax. I see no issue with the comb being foundationless as long as you have enough.  I wonder though about adding a whole super later, after white wax, of foundationless. You may be the first to consider doing the system foundationless. No idea if it would be feasible.

Having enough drawn comb has been one issue I have had. I lost alot of wax to field mice because of my dumb luck. Something I had never encountered before or even thought about was the mice because I had been storing my comb elsewhere and had no issue with the mice.

That is a drawback to the system having enough drawn comb to get started.
« Last Edit: March 06, 2014, 09:41:11 AM by sc-bee » Logged

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sc-bee
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« Reply #5 on: March 06, 2014, 09:37:48 AM »

For those that would like to try CBing in the future start keeping a notebook of bloom now if you don't already. This will help you look at indicators and pin point white wax in the later years. Note tree bloom ex: red maple, elm etc and also flower and fruit bloom ex. blackberry etc. Also note insect activity and what kind. Note: green-up and what kind of trees ex oak. Theses indicators may let you know later if your white wax is likely to be early or late. Ex. Once you note the bloom a few years --- White wax may come 4 weeks after oak green-up.

I say this now as many are just beginning to enter their bloom season and it is a good time to start notes. I will admit I have been Lazy at doing this but always write the date of first white wax down.
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« Reply #6 on: March 06, 2014, 12:01:13 PM »

Steve,
Thats one reason I started the follow the bloom thread. If we take notice to it, we can judge progression form southern areas to Northern tier areas with slight variables. Some blooms are daylight dependent and others are temp dependent. Some both. It can give an indicator of when we should start planning the buildup. In all cases you need maximum foragers for maximum honey production.
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sc-bee
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« Reply #7 on: March 06, 2014, 03:52:21 PM »

Second, I am using foundationless frames. Walt says that after things get going good you can use foundation instead of drawn out comb. I will be using foundationless frames. This will leave a void until they build. I am wondering how this will affect the system?Huh

I Pm'ed Walt and asked about the foundationless. He said he has never tried the system with foundationless and based on no reference from him i am assuming he is not aware of anyone that has. Also if you decide to try it ... which based on no drawn comb would have to be next year ... please provide some feedback.
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« Reply #8 on: March 06, 2014, 06:00:30 PM »

What do you do when you don't have a super full of honey to work with? My bees are all up into the top box and into the emergency feed at the end of a brutal winter. There are boxes of empty comb below them. If what you are trying to prevent is the perception of a honey band above the brood nest, no such thing exists at the moment. All I can really do at this point is reverse boxes and feed, right?
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sterling
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« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2014, 06:55:35 PM »

Here is a method you might want to try if you do not have drawn comb to CB with. This page is off the other bee site. I have not tried it because I have drawn comb but I am going to try it with a couple hives this year to see if it works. I think it will work.
The mans name that post about this method is Matt Davey. I hope he doesn't mind me posting it here.

 I would show beginners "Opening the Sides". It's really worth giving it a go.

 It's specifically for beekeepers who don't have spare drawn comb.

 Steps:

1. Several weeks before swarm season, move each outside frame up into a new box and checkerboard them with new frames, directly above the Broodnest.

 2. Insert a new frame on each outside edge of the Broodnest. (Brood only on one side of the frame.)

3. Check them in 2-3 weeks and repeat if frames are drawn.

 (This is assuming all frames are the same size.)

 The new frames have only a strip of foundation as a guide. Bees will often build only drone comb before swarm season if the frame is completely foundationless. But with the foundation strip it ends up being about 2/3 worker to 1/3 drone comb. (The comb needs support, such as wire, fishing line, or in my case bamboo skewers.)

 Its good for beginners because it gets them to identify the outside edge of the Broodnest, looking for eggs and larvae.


 I prefer to Open the OUTSIDE of the Broodnest for the following reasons:

 - Inserting new frames inside the Broodnest forces the bees to have to cover a larger area in order to heat the Broodnest. So if bad weather sets in you can have chilled brood. On the outside doesn't.

 - If there are not enough bees to completely fill the gaps inside the Broodnest, it's possible that a group of nurse bees could become isolated from the queen and experience lower pheromone levels for a time, causing them to start emergency queen cells. (This is very rare, but I believe it happened to me once, may have been a cold night.) On the outside bees don't get isolated

 - The response to fill the HOLE in the Broodnest is the same even if the new frame is on the outside edge of the Broodnest, with brood only on one side


 In my opinion Splitting should only be done if the hive is already in swarm mode, or you want more hives. If you are doing it purely to prevent swarming, it's not ideal.

 Splitting is best done after the main flow before a dearth, so as to reduce population. It's best if the old queen is moved to a Nuc and the main hive is left to produce a new queen as it has all the resources.

 
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sc-bee
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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2014, 07:06:17 PM »

You have to have the honey a super or could get away with a little less to implement the system. Cold weather beeks say the system is not for them because they never have a full super of honey coming out of winter. Well it seems that means you did not leave enough honey stores going into winter. Bees prefer the honey as fed and it is better for then right? But we leave them short and are forced to feed.

The system takes sacrificing some honey the first year and most are not willing to make the sacrifice although the dividends could/should be greater> How much sacrifice, you would have to figure that out as it is of course area dependent. Will the system work in the cold brutal weather areas.... yes. A beek in Wyoming uses it. I think Wyoming qualifies for cold. He used to go by the handle beewrangler, I will locate his blog and post it for reference for the northern/ cold weather folks.

As far as reversing I have rarely used it and what I advised would only be hear say. Good luck.
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« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2014, 07:22:33 PM »

Well it seems that means you did not leave enough honey stores going into winter. Bees prefer the honey as fed and it is better for then right? But we leave them short and are forced to feed.

The hives that are into their emergency feed were started last year and no honey was taken from them. The ones that came through the previous winter still do have plenty of honey and are good candidates for Checkerboarding. I look forward to giving it a try. For the other ones, the alternate method described above might be a good option. I will have plenty of drawn comb to work with; just very little with honey in it. Thank you for your response.
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sc-bee
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« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2014, 08:10:15 PM »

Here is the link to beewranglers description of checkerbaording. Even Walt gives beewrangler credit for explaining it a little simpler I guess you would say in layman's terms. Remember Walt is an engineer by trade  and it don't take much to talk over my head grin

Beewranglers simple description of Walt Wrights checkerboarding:

http://talkingstick.me/bees/checker-boarding/
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« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2014, 09:22:38 PM »

That sounds like a resounding endorsement to me. Well written and easy to read for sure. Thanks.
 
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sc-bee
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« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2014, 09:31:03 PM »

What do you do when you don't have a super full of honey to work with? My bees are all up into the top box and into the emergency feed at the end of a brutal winter. There are boxes of empty comb below them. If what you are trying to prevent is the perception of a honey band above the brood nest, no such thing exists at the moment. All I can really do at this point is reverse boxes and feed, right?

 I misread your post I thought you said you were emergency feeding not in the emergency feed/.... long night shifts. Do you think the queen is in the top box? Are you saying the brood chamber is empty. Even if so I hear northern beeks talk about worrying about chilling brood if they reverse to soon. I have never reversed often because I have not had an issue with my bees not moving down.
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sc-bee
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« Reply #15 on: March 06, 2014, 09:58:15 PM »

If what you are trying to prevent is the perception of a honey band above the brood nest, no such thing exists at the moment.

Another benefit from checkerboarding before bees are ready for swarm prep is:
Before swarm prep they want to expand their winter numbers in preparation to swarm. During the brood expansion mode, they will consume solid overhead honey to expand before entering the swarm prep mode. It is harder to consume a soild wall of honey overhead. Checkerboarding the above honey allows the bees easier access to the honey in order to consume it for expansion. It also gives space and room for the queen to lay.

As the bees expand in a solid band they eventually reach their desired numbers, enter swarm prep mode and begin backfilling. With cbing you have broken the solid wall for easier expansion, provided overhead space for them to expand and they see no wall of honey overhead. As long as you stay two super ahead they do not perceive the overhead and continue to store nectar vs backfilling.

The evidence of nectar being added to the top supers is all you need to verify your bees are not backfilling and preparing to swarm. Therefore you do not have to tear the colony down to the brood chambers and check for swarm cells. Win-WIN th_thumbsupup
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« Reply #16 on: March 06, 2014, 10:23:01 PM »

Do you think the queen is in the top box? Are you saying the brood chamber is empty.

I think the entire cluster is in the top box, along with the queen. They started winter in the bottom 1-1/2 mediums and have eaten through the 2-1/2 mediums on top of them. Now the top of the cluster is into a shim above the top box chowing down on dry sugar that I put there at the beginning of winter as emergency feed. I did not expect them to need that. I don't know how large the cluster is (how far down it goes) because it hasn't been warm enough to break apart the boxes and check it out. Tomorrow with warmer temps I might be able to do that.
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sc-bee
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« Reply #17 on: March 07, 2014, 03:26:05 AM »

Dang- emergency feeding as in dry sugar. Sounds like you are right. Plenty empty boxes to reverse and get them off the top cover and still not have them low to the entrance in case you have more cold weather. Off course with me, here,worrying about the cold weather during the reversal would not be an issue. And my temps are warm enough and usually always are to dry feed.

Good Luck getting them sorted.
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sterling
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« Reply #18 on: March 07, 2014, 06:45:53 PM »

Do you think the queen is in the top box? Are you saying the brood chamber is empty.

I think the entire cluster is in the top box, along with the queen. They started winter in the bottom 1-1/2 mediums and have eaten through the 2-1/2 mediums on top of them. Now the top of the cluster is into a shim above the top box chowing down on dry sugar that I put there at the beginning of winter as emergency feed. I did not expect them to need that. I don't know how large the cluster is (how far down it goes) because it hasn't been warm enough to break apart the boxes and check it out. Tomorrow with warmer temps I might be able to do that.

If it gets warm enough to go in the hive have some thick syrup with you and put some in an empty comb or two and put the comb full of syrup near the brood if there is any brood. so they can eat that while they are clustered.
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sc-bee
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« Reply #19 on: March 07, 2014, 09:35:59 PM »

What size boxes

Walt recommends deeps and shallows. He has tried the system with double deeps but based on his observations chooses to winter in a single deep instead of double deeps. You can find his article the evils of the double deep here:
http://www.knology.net/~k4vb/ABJ%20Copies/NCB%20BC%20Nov%202003.pdf

Realize this is Walt's preference for his area. You may find a different configuration works better in your area for your needs or preferences. Actually Walt now winters with a pollen shallow on bottom, a deep brood box, and two shallows of honey overhead. He added the pollen box later which he states is not part of Nectar Management Principles but is worth the investment for healthy bees. You have seen all the buzz about fat bees skinny bees lately. The shallow pollen super on bottom should have been used in fall build-up and should be empty entering the CBing manipulation. The empty pollen shallow is used to CB the overhead honey. The stack entering winter will be: Deep box of pollen, Deep of Brood. two shallows of Honey
Entering winter the stack will look like this:

 HHHHHHHHH
 HHHHHHHHH
DDDDDDDDDD
 PPPPPPPPP

In Walts Tn area he can get by with one full fall prepared deep and a full shallow of honey but after observations decided to add the second shallow of honey as insurance. After CBing the stack will look like this:

EEEEEEEEE
HEHEHEHEH
EHEHEHEHE
HHHHHHHHH
DDDDDDDDDD

**The bees will consume through the solid honey in the early build-up period and enter the CBed supers overhead during early expansion. By the time frame of swarm prep the bees will be in the overhead Cbed supers and will recognize no ceiling and will continue to add nectar as you stay two boxes ahead.

Cold Weather Beekeeper

Beewrangler in Wyoming winters in three deeps. At the end of winter he has a bottom deep with some pollen and honey. His bees have moved up to the middle deep during the winter and he has a honey deep or partial deep overhead. He reverses the middle deep to the bottom and uses the bottom deep to Cb the top honey deep. The stack will look like this after CBing:

EEEEEEEEEE -You may or may not add the empty super at this time depending on you local needs. Wrangler waits till dandelion bloom to super.
HEHEHEHEHE
EHEHEHEHEH
DDDDDDDDDD

Don't get caught up with the issue if you do not have a complete honey super during theses manipulation. Just even it out as best possible. And realize you can make the system work with Deeps/ mediums/ shallows as they meet your needs.

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