There are different methods of how the queen is used in the hive but three of the most common are:
- Single Brood Chamber
- Double Brood Chamber
- No Queen Excluder
Each method has advantages and disadvantages. You have to evaluate your equipment and how you manage your bees throughout the entire year. Part of the criteria to evaluate what works best, is the examine the following:
- Ease of overall management (spring, winter prep, swarming)
- Taking off honey
- Queen Management
Given these 3 factors, we have decided to keep using single brood chambers. Many who use double broods, complain that the queen doesn’t have enough laying space. Let us examine how a single brood chamber is almost like a double brood.
The secret to single brood chamber beekeeping is to allow the queen to lay into the second box in spring until a month prior to extracting. This is essentially giving you the double brood advantage for 6 weeks in spring for quick buildup. It also encourages bees to move up through the excluder once it’s put in place because of the brood frames in the second box. Bees are usually reluctant to go through the excluder, but if brood is present, they will always go up.
Two points to remember if you are using this method. You have to allow an opening on top for drones to leave because they cannot fit through the excluder if they hatch above it. They will try to squeeze through the excluder and die when they get stuck. This creates a messy hive for bees to clean.
Many beekeepers put 2-3 new frames into the brood chamber every year. This is a great management strategy and can still be done. When you add a second box (step 2), you can exchange 3 frames from the brood box and the first honey super. Put 3 drawn out frames into the brood chamber and move the 3 brood frames into the center of second box (what will become honey box 1). If we do a frame exchange and manage to spot the queen, we’ll move her to the bottom box and add an excluder. That hive is done and the queen is in the bottom with 3 new frames. You simply check the hives that already have an excluder and skip the fume board step later on. You will find that half your hives are done manually simply from spotting the queen when working the hives in spring.
We mentioned the fume board method. A simple way to get bees out of the second box into the bottom one is to use a fume board and Bee Go or Bee Repel. Bees hate that smell and will vacate the box in a minute. After they are gone, simply lift up the second box, add an excluder and put it back on. Done.
Using this method, you can have brood on 12 – 15 frames. Your hive population will be huge when it comes time for honey flow.