spring management

Rotate brood combs for a healthier nursery

After repeated use, old brood combs become very dark—nearly black. The inside diameter of each cell also becomes smaller because the cocoons of each succeeding generation are glued to the cell walls. Even though the cells are polished by nurse bees before new eggs are laid, some of this cocoon material remains.

Pesticides and disease organisms can reside in both the wax cells and the cocoon layers. The darker the cells get, the higher the probability of contamination. For this reason, it is recommended that very dark combs be cut away and discarded. This was not always the case. In the past beekeepers could keep combs in use ten or twelve years and it was a point of pride to do so. However, with the universal use of pesticides and the ever-widening array of honey bee diseases, that philosophy has changed.

One of the easiest ways to rotate old comb out of your supply is to decide on an annual schedule of replacement. For example, if you replace the worst 20% of your combs every year, you will rotate your entire stock once every five years. Some beekeepers prefer to replace 25% every year for a four-year rotation.

If I’m doing a hive inspection and notice a particularly bad comb, I mark the top bar with a felt-tip pen so I can find it again later. Then, before spring build-up when both stores and brood nests are small, I go through the hives and pull out the 20% I’m going to discard. Since the brood nests are small, it is easy to equalize the boxes so that each box has eight frames remaining.

The empty slots can be replaced in several different ways. You can use new frames or you can cut out the old comb and reuse the frames if they are not too bad. You can use foundation—or not—just as you normally do. I prefer to have all new frames made in advance and then just drop one in wherever I pull an old one out.

The system is not perfect. You will always find a hive where all the brood for the entire colony is on the one worst comb. Don’t worry about it—just leave that one there and remove the worst frames that don’t contain any brood. Even with those few exceptions, you will still be providing a healthier environment for your baby bees.

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  • The queen must be surrounded by fully employed hard working fulfilled bees in a calm industrious stress-free balanced environment.

    Provide options for the queen to lay worker and drone brood as she may require.

    Insert new frames and a harmony frame – 2 weekly interventions.

    Remember to keep the queen’s quarters clean at all times.

    A new honey flow can recommence at short notice.

    Two weekly interventions ensures the brood box is always ready to go into fast track mode.

    Rotate most of (but not all) sealed and unsealed worker brood from the brood box up into the exact same position in the super above the queen excluder. As the larvae mature and hatch the cells are filled with honey.

    Rotate most (but not all) sealed honey frames away for extraction.

    Rotate uncapped/capped honey frames from the brood box up into a honey super.

    Result happy bees, no swarming, just as Langstroth devised 158 years ago.

    Rotate dark used frames up and out of the brood box into a honey super to be filled with honey.

    Rotate dark extracted frames to the shed for cut out and foundation replacement.

    Rotation is a continual ongoing process.

  • Just as Langstroth said on page 15 of The Hive and the Honey Bee, the bees do not swarm in a movable comb hive. The rotation of frames every two weeks as previously emailed: it is here during the peak honey producing spring and summer periods that correct regular predictable rotations allows a tangible connection between beekeepers and the bees and bees work as fulfilled balanced creatures. Collecting pollen, nectar, water, propolis and working to air condition the hive is only part of the work cycle. They have to continually build comb as and when required. On my hives that is most of the year.

    A Randy Oliver-type drone frame placed into position two in the brood box and then shifted to position one after the frame has been drawn will then be rotated to the top honey super and away for extraction. Cleaned up and again rotated down into the brood box position two for drones once again continues the harmony process of rotation. In the 21st Century when I hear modern beekeepers telling me their bees are swarming, well I say to them “Bah Humbug!” That is bee losing not bee keeping.


  • I would like to read more on this topic. Marley’s statement seems sound to me:

    “The queen must be surrounded by fully employed hard working fulfilled bees in a calm industrious stress-free balanced environment.”

    And it seems that I need to read Langstroth.

    Your response to Marley seemed a bit dismissive. I am sure this is one of those things beekeepers have different ideas about, but sometimes many hundreds of my bees hang out on the front porch and I wonder if I am keeping them busy enough. I have only 10 deep frames and 10 more medium frames in a super. I cannot rotate frames between boxes. I am wondering if I need different equipment. Or do I just need to buy some more deep and medium frames and swap them in when “appropriate”? I do not think I have enough information yet to judge.

    • Sorry if I sounded dismissive. I truly don’t know what he means by “harmony frame” and I was hoping for a clarification so I could comment.

      That said, two other things run counter to my beekeeping philosophy. First, I believe in as little beekeeper interference as possible. The bees know what is best for them so, for the most part, I like them to run their own household. Marley’s way seems overly intrusive in my personal opinion.

      Secondly, I believe happy, healthy bees want to swarm. That is nature’s way of reproducing the hive. Bees should want to swarm, they need to swarm, it is the biological imperative. Sort of like sex. I believe that colonies that are not inclined to swarm are not healthy or are under some kind of stress (like too much beekeeper interference?)

      When I see raucous, ambitious, lively hives, chomping at the bit to swarm, I believe the beekeeper is doing a good–no, a great job. Beekeepers need to do what is good for the bees, not what is convenient for the beekeeper.

      And, Paul, you are right: keep reading. There is so much information out there. One thing you will find is that bees spend a lot of their time sleeping (or resting). Sometimes they don’t want something else to do, sometimes they just want a catnap.

  • Thank you, Rusty. You make complete sense that bees should want to swarm. This idea is somehow calming to me. My focus can be more on assisting the bees and less on controlling them, which I can only partially do anyway.

    The concept of bees resting is new to me. I had observed up till now that the hive was always busy. Perhaps not all the bees are always needed to be busy. Hm. I wish I knew more.

    I will, of course, continue to read. Bee reading is nearly as enjoyable was bee watching and tends to increase the effectiveness of the observation.

    • Paul,

      If you don’t mind, these are my personal recommendations for you based on your comments & questions:

      The Buzz about Bees by Jurgen Tautz. I know it sounds like a kids’ book, but it’s not. The sub-title is “Biology of a Superorganism.” It’s about how all the bees in the hive act as one organism, always for the good of the hive, not for the good of the individual. It tells a lot about how the bees communicate with each other, and about their sight, navigation, etc. Just the pictures are worth the price of the book.

      Honeybee Democracy by Thomas Seeley is about swarming. It tells about all the group decisions regarding when to swarm and where to live. All you ever wanted to know about swarming and then a whole lot more. This is not an easy read, but if you carefully follow the graphs and diagrams, you can pick up a wealth of information and insight.

      • Thanks, Rusty.

        I was disappointed by the selection of beekeeping books at Barnes and Noble when I went to look for these. My local B&N had zero beekeeping books. Zero. I told them they would have more soon. I predict an increase in demand.

        Then, I lost my paper list and I’ve been scouring this blog site for the above comment. I read a bunch of interesting stuff I was not looking for, but eventually I found my way back here. Now I have the list again and am leaving Father’s Day hints for my wife with good solid Amazon.com links.

        My wish list now includes:
        The Buzz about Bees: Biology of a Superorganism – Jürgen Tautz
        Honeybee Democracy – Thomas D. Seeley
        Beeing: Life, Motherhood, and 180,000 Honey Bees – Rosanne Daryl Thomas
        The Queen Must Die: And Other Affairs of Bees and Men – William Longgood
        Langstroth’s Hive and the Honey-Bee: The Classic Beekeeper’s Manual – L. L. Langstroth

        • I’m almost jealous: you still have those great books in front of you! I have been intending to add more to the “Bookshelf” section, but I have a hard time getting around to it. I probably have twenty-some to add. But you have a great selection on your list. I buy them all through Amazon. Brick and mortar bookstores are sadly lacking in books. Odd, that.

  • Temple Grandin (the cow whisperer) suggests, “ . . . all animals and people have the same core emotion systems in the brain. Everyone who is responsible for animals needs a set of simple reliable guidelines for creating good mental welfare. Don’t stimulate rage, fear and panic; do satisfy the play and seeking aspects of behaviour”.

    LANGSTROTH says in ‘The Hive and the Honey bee’:
    “ . . . I could dispense entirely with natural swarming, and yet multiply colonies with greater rapidity and certainty. All feeble colonies could be strengthened, and those which had lost their queen furnished with the means of obtaining another. If I suspected anything was wrong with a hive, I could quickly ascertain its true condition and apply the proper remedy . . .”

    Every two weeks get close to the queen bee in your life. The workers only live for 45 days. The queen bee is a reflection of the energy and temperament of the hive provided her beekeeper has communicated every two weeks. Regularity, repetition, rotation, cleanliness. Young bees MUST work. Older bees LOVE to work. Have the brood box in a state of readiness with fresh frames and a drone harmony frame, rotate the sealed and unsealed worker brood to the exact same position above the queen excluder.

    My bees do not swarm. My queens work WITH me. They always have plenty of OPTIONS in their brood box.
    Your beekeeping experience just went up several notches. Get with the program guys!
    I keep bees in Western Australia where we deliver the world’s finest honey to our friends and family. Ha!

  • Hello again. This year has been a difficult year with huge numbers of bee hives swarming all through the springtime (Sept Oct Nov in the southern hemisphere.)

    Got to view some bad tempered queen bees doing their thing and after a few adjustments to their brood frames as per the Harmony Frame Rotation method and a couple of extracted sticky frames dipped in water, that queen was saying hello baby every 4 days and laying eggs right there in front of me and soon after she was transferred into a bigger brood box and going like the clappers and her bees so focused and the hive so evenly balanced why would anyone not want to try the HFRM and have nice bees . . . all the time.

    Animal behaviour, that is an area of study also applies to bees. Once the queen bee gets with the program, recognizes the bee keeper as positive calm dominant energy, she goes to work. In a 10 fr hive recently the queen had laid eggs in 8 frames and the twice monthly intervention spotted this, moved the frames, made room for the queen to lay yet again and the flow of honey was as it should be. Very quickly that is within 2 hours the bees have re-organised, taken fresh instructions from the queen bee and are doing what they do best…work. I’d rather bee beekeeping than anything else when it is always so fulfilling for me and my queen bees. Gotta love them!

  • Marley here… It’s January 2013 and our southern hemisphere in Australia (on the West Coast) has see a altogether PERFECT SPRING! So much honey in all suburban locations and country areas as well. We have had bathtubs full of it! Now we have run out of bathtubs.

    More on the Harmony Frame Rotation Method…been away to visit OP hives (other people’s) with cranky old QBs in residence and glued-up hives with barely room for the bees to operate correctly. Once switched to a 2 weekly intervention routine and rotating frames and taking off surplus honey in a timely manner and ensuring the brood box has new foundation and fresh combs to be built = work for the bees, all is calm and as it should be. The hives weeks later were simply delightful to work on and guess what? No smoke was required. Why pump in smoke to frighten a QB when all is calm already. Have a great New year B people….Marley

  • Hi–may I use your information about brood comb rotation in our website? We are a small bee business located in LaFayette, Georgia, USA. It was very interesting and informative and I think the small apiaries in this area will benefit from the information. Thanks

  • Its Marley…just came back for a looksee on Honey Bee Suite. Jane Tolassi asks if she can use the HFRM in her Georgia hives. All through spring and summer (excepting extreme hot days) we open our hives every two weeks to keep in touch with the Queen Bees and they with us. When too hot the Queen Bees quit egg cycles as they are weather sensitive. QB’s will recommence egg cycles as they see fit. The two weekly inspection of the brood nest reveals these changes to us. Lifting the sealed Worker Brood Frames (shake off the bees into the brood box) and place these sealed W/B frames into the same position in the super ABOVE the queen excluder. Into the brood nest place extracted or new foundation frames (usually 4-6 frames) The clean open spaces in the brood nest are highly valued by the nursery and the QB loves to lay her eggs here. (Clean sheets on the bed). The sealed brood above the Q/Excl. will hatch and join the group below. The field bees will bring more honey to be stored in the new opened cells above the Q/E. Next two weekly intervention, we rotate the unripened honey from the super above the Q/E to the supers above and these are left to ripen and get sealed as completed honey frames. I am using full depth 8 or 10 Fr hives – FOUR DECKS HIGH. The harder the bees work, the quieter they are. If the nectar source becomes scarce, feed the girls at once to maintain the harmony in the hive. We have mild winters where I live here in Western Australia. Cold long winter BK techniques are unfamiliar for me. However, I do reduce the 4 deck hive from 4 down to 3 or 2 depending on the visible strength. Hope this can help. We got 150 KGS per hive this past year and our bees did not swarm in their domesticated environment, but were really happy going to work every day. Cheers, Marley

  • Hello once again, Rusty. As you have observed this BK lark is a complex topic. A craft no less. C R A F T (can’t remember a flippin’ thing…)People over here using a rotation method have returned to me many times over to report excellent results for both interactions with the bees and the quality of results when honey flows are engaged by the bees.

    If I would introduce topics such as checker boarding, Demeree, swarm catching etc., in respect of bees leaving the hives due to overcrowding then for them it would be confusing. They, like me do not see QB cells when the rotation method is faithfully followed. Yes, of course; where a QB suddenly perishes then a supersedure QB cell or 3 is clearly an indicator of a serious fault. In this case, the BK leaves the bees to nurture the best of these and adopt the best QB for their colony. But, spotting QB cells all over the place only happens in overcrowded hives where inconsistent slack BK’s are evident.

    Sadly like people in your part of the world we have irregular inconsistent badly advised BK’s doing it wrong quite frequently. They call up for help and finally make changes which make their new experiences so much happier. In a strong healthy happy colony, quietly removing frames of day old eggs and supporting frames to make a 5 FR Nuc hive and seeing a calm QB emerge and go forward to connect well with a BK and produce copious amounts of honey brings balance and fulfilment to all concerned.

    I do enjoy reading all the short stories and articles on your site. Fascinating. Keep up the good work. I would be interested to know if you have tried the HFRM method and found your spring and summer and fall experiences are similar to us down here. Cheers! Marley

  • Hi Marley, I am wondering how you would go about this method if you had a deep and a medium as your brood boxes. I can’t switch between them. It sounds interesting. I’d like to learn more.

    Bianca in Miami, FL zone 10b

  • Hi Rusty and hello Bianca. I am just back to look at this web page after being very busy in our springtime weather down under. All supers have to be the same for the rotation method to work effectively. The harmony frame rotation method (HFRM) is continuing as a most effective and long lasting BK process. If Rusty would allow, privately; ask for my email address and send me an email. I shall be glad to explain how effective it works. The honey we get is overwhelming and we do NOT see swarming or emergency QB cells owing to the regularity of the 2 weekly intervention and rotations. Out from the top super with the honey. Up with the unsealed honey from the middle or rotation super. Up with sealed (4/5 or 6) frames of sealed worker brood from the brood box into the middle super. IN with new foundation frames and sticky extracted frames into the brood box. Any honey frames in the brood box are also taken up to the middle box and new frames added into position No 1. Of course shake the bees off gently so the QB stays put. In 2 weeks we return and do it all over again. The bees go right away into full working mode and remain clean stress free and fulfilled as a working colony. Good Luck. Marley.

  • Hello once again…oops, I should have said Brood Box + QE + Rotation Chamber above + Honey super on top. When a honey flow gets lively, we add another super to gather extra honey. Cheers. Marley

  • Marley,
    This system sound like something I want to try this year, now that I seam to have my hives in order. I’m going to do the final winter prep on the hives this coming week as the weather takes a turn for the better. I have a feeling that this will be one of the last times for me to open the hives except to take a quick look and do any winter feeding. Then its just hoping I helped them enough to make it until spring. I need to replace some rather repulsive looking old frames that the queen likes to keep laying in. I don’t want to lose the brood in them, so moving them to the box above the queen excluder will do the trick. Now all I need is a queen excluder. Hahahahaha ! Only once they hatch out I will be discarding the frames. I may try to boil off the wax to use as starter beads on new frames, but they may be even beyond that use, They are old frame from the starter Nuc purchased last summer, and I have no idea how old these frames are, all I know is that they are even beyond repair. I would trash them now but my queen laid her winter brood in them and I can’t afford to lose any bees this time of the year. I plan on trying to get my bees to replace at least one brood deep on each hive with new comb this summer. I hope I’m not setting their goals to high as they also have to make all new honey comb in the supers, or draw out the sheets of surplus thin starter wax I plan to alternate between foundationless frames. Maybe I’m setting my goals for them to high. I guess we will see. I would be very happy with one medium super of honey from each of the two hives this coming year, and they get the rest. Any more than that and I would be amazed. Thanks for the info and I’m going to give the FHRM method a try.

  • Hi, Rusty. My research hasn’t led to the answer to this predicament… I started Spring 2017 with two packages of honey bees. They were fruitful and multiplied, and over the summer I caught 5 swarms. I had equipment to put the first three in deeps and they did fine. I had two swarms in late August; I called a buddy who came and took one. The last swarm was on a weekend and there was no chance to get to a store for supplies. The only frames with foundation I had were four from a shallow super (5 3/4 inch) and six from a medium super. Going into mid Autumn I placed this mismatched hive on top of a weak hive and combined them. What I have now is a deep on bottom and a medium with mismatched frames full of bees. I’d like to transition this to two deeps but not sure how. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

    • Rick,

      What I usually do is just put the short frames in the deep box. The bees will add comb under the frames to match the depth of the deep box. You can also cut out the combs and tie them into deep frames for the bees to attach. It works well but can be a hassle.

  • Hello Honey BEE Suite, Boy oh boy; have we had some fun with the new FLOW hives proliferating all over the countryside. I just spotted a new email from the Flow Hive Guys telling a story about F H hives swarming -erk!
    I will again repeat- a well managed 3 deck Full-Depth 8 or 10 Frame hive will NOT swarm provided the spring and summer BK routines include the simple ROTATION process. The FH apparatus can be added as a 4th Super or sometimes as a 3rd Super whilst the colony is expanding and building up to its maximum strength. The 2 weekly rotation of new and or sticky frames (4-7) at the very least into the Brood Box and the uplifting of SEALED brood frames into the same position above the QE excites the Queen to once again demand freshly built Brood Combs for her use. The Sealed frames above the QE are faithfully cared for by nursery bees and these cells hatch to boost the strength of the colony.
    Any honey found in any super within the hive can be removed for extraction and sticky frames replaced in those positions. In the hot days of summer, a honey frame 2/3rds sealed is right for the taking. On the other hand, the cool days we must allow the honey fame to be 4/5ths sealed. Any old dark frames are removed as unwanted and the wax melted.
    We find some BK folks are leaving the FLOW HIVE frames too long before extracting. Do extract sooner rather than later. The running honey down through the tubes (and dripping) re-activates the work ethic of the bees and keeps them lively. They LOVE to work. Give them plenty of work to do with a bonus of tasty honey drips and they will love you and work more closely with you.
    Do not allow the waste of energy when the bees are overcrowded and swarming.
    Just keep them WORKING every day.

  • Marley,
    I just came across this and find it very interesting. My hives are currently 1 deep on the bottom and Westerns on top of that. I just can’t physically lift a deep any more. If I replace my deeps with 2 westerns, could I use your system the same way?

  • Hello Mary, first I might preface my reply with some general background information on BK generally.
    Within each world location, BK experts extol the virtues of their methods. Logs, ceramic/clay pots, skeps, tea-chests, plastic containers, and of course Langstroth’s “moveable frame hive” with its many variables. Full depth and 3/4 depth etc., the list is endless. Here in my country the commercial BK community run with 3 or 4 deck full depth BH’s to good effect. Our honey flows allow the collection in most (but not all) 200-400 lbs of honey each year. The replacement of Queen Bees and continuing relocation of apiaries is featured. A tried and true method featuring rotations of new or sticky frames into the brood box on a regular basis ensures timely renewal of bees in their 45 day life cycle.
    The backyard hobbyist is able to consider, (given consistent honey flows) a wider variety of Hive hardware styles including: top bar, 3 or 4 deck full depth, 8 half sized supers, 3 or 4 deck hive with or without a Queen Excluder, long coffin shaped hive with 24 frames at waist level and of course the newcomer – the famous Flow Hive. You have to go with whatever works best for you in your location… HOWEVER!
    As a solo operator or in partnership with my great friend and bee buddy, a 4 deck full frame hive can be stripped of its honey and rotated and reset in 4 minutes. Its all about the process, a consistent routine, always being well-organised and set to go, especially on a hot day. Getting that cold drink after suit removal within a short time frame is most welcome.
    Here’s how its done- The 4 minute Beekeeper. 10FR. 3 deck full depth hive.
    Up to the hive with a Wheelbarrow and an empty Super in it. Off with the Lid – slowly.
    Crack apart the frames, remove 5 frames of honey, place into the Super in the Wheelbarrow.
    Take off the now lightweight super and place it on the ground on the upturned LID.
    Middle super (rotation chamber) crack these ripening honey frames, place 5 frames into the Wheelbarrow.
    Take off the lightweight Middle Super and place on top of the 3rd super.
    Remove the excluder. Crack apart the Brood nest frames ready for examination. Both END FRAMES are usually holding sealed or ripening honey. Place these in the wheelbarrow.
    Take out 5 frames of SEALED WORKER BROOD, shake off the bees deeply into the middle of the nest. Place these 5 Brood Frames in the wheelbarrow. Insert (7) NEW or STICKY frames into the spaces in the brood nest. Return the excluder, Return the lightweight Rotation Chamber, add back the 5 frames of Sealed Worker Brood. Return the lightweight top (3rd Super). Add back the ripening Honey Frames from the Wheelbarrow. Add the hive mat and a thick sprig of Artemisia (wormwood) herb. On with the LID. Wheel back to the car or house 7 frames of honey for extraction. 4 minutes at the hive and you’re done!
    This is the process during peak honey flow times. Of course, in cooler less busy honey flow periods, you may only need to rotate 4 frames. Its all in the doing. HOWEVER, if a honey flow is anticipated, rotate 7 frames as the bees will react to the abundant spaces. Good Luck.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Thanks to your instructions for moisture quilts and candy boards, the 3 hives I took over last fall that were in poor shape have so far survived the winter here in SW Ohio. The Ag Dept has now advised me to replace as many frames as I can this spring due to last year’s SHB mess. I do not know how long the old frames have been used, perhaps 1 year, perhaps numerous. I am leaning strongly towards going to foundationless, and will place a few foundationless frames in the deeps, but I will also use some with foundation because I understand that without a guide, there is more a chance for misshapen or cross comb. My question is, how do I decide what size cell foundation to buy? 4.9mm or a larger cell size? Or, do you have experience with good outcome of using new foundationless frames next to each other in brood chamber.

    One colony seems strong, the next medium, and the third small but eating well. All are single deeps with 1 shallow.

    Hope this question is fitting enough for this blog entry. Thank you so much for your work to help the community!

    • Alice,

      To use small-cell foundation (4.9mm) you need to regress the size of you bees over several generations. If you go foundationless, they can build what they like right from the beginning. I would definitely use standard-size foundation between the foundationless frames so you’re not forcing the bees to use a cell size that is too small for them.

  • I just took the time to read this post and all the comments. I’m willing to try the HFRM (Harmony Frame Rotation Method) on my own hives. It is now spring here in the northwestern USA, and I’m unsure how to start. I just purchased two packages of bees and placed them into some existing 4-5 yr old comb in the brood chamber. I’m running with deep 10-frame Langstroth hive. I’ll need to purchase some QEs to get started evidently, but how can I tell when the rotation super should be added?

  • Hi there Rusty,

    It’s April down under, and it’s autumn re-queening time for us. Robert asks, ‘how do I know when the rotation super should be added?’ Having settled the bees and Queen into a 10F Brood Chamber, check the volume of bees and observe 2/3rds of the frames drawn out and covered with bees.

    (I would be inclined to remove any old – too – dark frames and insert new ones.)

    Observe and confirm at least 3 frames of SEALED Worker Brood, plus a frame or two of open unsealed larvae and eggs.
    At this point, and in the very first rotation movement for a new hive; check the all important 7 day WEATHER forecast in your home place. Going into a warming trend is preferred. If cold and rain is forecast, leave until the warmer change occurs. The weather being favourable, take out the 2 end frames to create space in the middle of the brood, slowly and gently. Lift the 3 X SEALED Worker Brood and shake all the bees off down deep in the middle of the Brood Chamber, leaving the QB – down there. Add back 3 X new foundation frames. On with the QE, On with the Rotation Chamber and the 3 Sealed Brood Frames. Add new frames, hive mat, some wormwood leaves, now the lid etc.

    Check again in 2 weeks, weather permitting. You can hear me very loudly commenting on the weather. We are farmers, bee farmers, if the temps remain low and its rainy, place thick sheets of polystyrene on top and at the back and sides to keep the ladies comfortable. These are easily removed when hotter days close in. I always have a thick – wide piece of polystyrene on top to keep the rain off and the hot midday sun from melting wax. The ladies will not have to work so hard, wearing themselves out in the air-con mode. OK, the 3rd and 4th supers requiring to be added occurs when the Rotation Chamber is 2/3rd occupied with bees and 8 frames of open cells -ripening honey is clearly observed. Additionally, 6 SEALED Worker Brood frames found to present in the Brood Chamber during the 2 weekly inspection, signals the BK to make ready for a strong honey flow. Of course, the 6 X sealed brood Must go UP to be replaced with New foundation frames or ‘stickies’.

    Good Luck Robert.

  • I purchased a 5 frame nuc in May and loaded it in a deep box with 9 frames. The bees are backfilling the original frames – all in the center of the box – and aren’t drawing the new frames (4). I can’t spot the queen, but believe she’s in there. It seems premature to add another box and checkerboard as I don’t want to give the bees too much space. How risky is it to move 2 honey frames to a different position in the box and replacing them with undrawn frames? This at least would leave space for the queen to lay.

  • Mix up those new and old frames, feed the bees as the honey flow is not producing nectar owing to a poor season or the sun is cooking off the juice in the flowers too quickly. Robber bees? In a dearth period wandering strangers will come to call. Lastly, the QB may not be well bred or has mated badly. Marley.

  • I was tasked with doing a presentation on Frame Rotation for our local bee club. Ran across this discussion, Most Helpful! Marley, Good to see the Langstroth quotations. While I certainly respect and read many of the more recent researchers (Seeley, Ellis, Ramsey), it’s great to hear that Langstroth still has relevance. Thank you Rusty for the page.

  • Hello, all at Honey Bee Suite. It is high summer in Western Australia 2021. Have been teaching quite a few new BK’s this past year, also checking local hives of friends who are using the time-honored Harmony Frame Rotation Method. It has been 20 years since I began to use this and to read more extensively on the work of famous animal behaviorists – then applying concepts to BK in general. Have done away with the use of smoke due to the fact that the queen bees are responding so well to the regular-repetitive-repeat 2 weekly inspections and synergistic frame rotations. Additionally, when starting a nucleus (5 frame full depth) hive, the activity is checked (following the hatching of the queen) every 4 days for a period of 6 weeks. Here the queen bee learns the ways of the BK and vice versa. No smoke is used. Transferring this into an 8 or 10 frame hive is a very calm moment. As the hive accelerates and requires the 2nd third and fourth supers, the queen bee remains connected to her BK provided the repetition remains constant. In truth, I have opened a 4 deck bee hive 3 and 4 times on any given day to reveal the workings to new BK’s, and still the queen bees and 60,000 bees are calm and are not smoked.

    The F word covers two extremes. 1. Fulfillment 2. Frustration

    Continuously following the 2 weekly rotation method – lifting sealed worker brood up above the queen excluder and unsealed honey lifted up into the honey supers for ripening; then adding new frames into the brood nest (minimum of 4) or ‘sticky frames’ PLUS the harmony frame continually retains the fulfillment and balance, therefore, the bees rarely make queen cells and certainly have no reason to consider the swarming mode. This is bee – K E E P I N G not bee losing. Long Live The Queen!

    A harmony Frame is:- an empty single wired frame with a strip of wax under the top bar. These can also be made using a serrated knife to cut away all the wax in a (used) honey frame leaving a strip of wax under the top bar. As a honey flow progresses, a harmony frame will be completely drawn out in 48 hours by the Nursery Bees, Other times it might be ignored, but it will give indications of the levels of activities being carried out by the colony. Hope you have high levels of BK “fulfillment” along with your very fulfilled colony of bees.

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