Managing single brood box hives

I have been keeping bees since 2013 and like most beginners I ran my colonies as double deeps. After all, there aren’t any classes or books or lectures teaching single box management. Obviously you can’t run a hive as a single brood box, right? There isn’t enough room for a good queen to lay in. If you could run a single brood box someone would be teaching it right?
I am here to tell you people have been running single brood box’s for decades if not longer. In fact most commercial operations run single deeps. I have decided to write an article explaining the methods and approximate timetable I use in my operation in central Massachusetts. You may need to adjust the timelines to suite your area and weather pattern.
I overwinter all my nucs in a climate controlled trailer I custom designed and built for that purpose. The method I use does not require indoor overwintering and will work just as well with outdoor overwintered stock. If you overwinter outside just skip the first step.
Depending on the weather, I put my hives outside the end of March or first of April. As soon as I put out the hives I immediately begin feeding either fondant or sugar syrup, which depends on temperature. I also begin to feed pollen substitutes to stimulate brood production. Around April 15th i preform hive assessments. I will tip each brood box forward from the bottom board so I can see the bottom of the frames and count the number of frames covered with bees. Doing this allows me to get a feel for how strong each hive is. I run 10 frame deeps so if you run 8 frame boxes you will need to adjust your counts. 8 or more frames covered with bees is designated a strong colony, 5-7 frames a medium and 4 or less weak. Each hive is then tagged to allow me to see without opening up the hive how strong it is, this will become important later as you will see. I use cattle ear tags to mark hives, they are cheap and can be used over and over for many years. I hang them on the hive from a small hook screwed into the front of each hive. Strong get green tag, medium get yellow tag and weak gets red tag. All weak hives get moved to a nursery Apiary. If you have only one apiary move weak hives away from the others until you can get their strength back in line with the rest of the Apiary. Around the first of May the dandelions begin to bloom signaling the beginning of the nectar flow. During the flow I do not feed. The only exception is in colonies that are rearing queens or colonies that are in the nursery Apiary , I use top feeders on those hives. I add a Honey super and queen excluder to every hive except the weak hives. Around The third week of May I will re-assess all my hives using the same method I described above. If any hive has lees frames covered with bees then it did during the first assessment the queen needs to be replaced. Any hives who moved backwards in total numbers of bees will have the old queen removed and she will be replaced with a new laying queen. At this time any colonies that are still green tags will be given a second brood box. This step is optional and I usually only do a few to make splits later in July. During June and July I remove frames of brood and make splits as needed. This prevents swarming and builds numbers in the Apiary. For the colonies that got a second brood box, at the middle of July I begin to make splits from the second brood box and force the bees back into a single deep. About the third week of August I will begin to pull honey boxes. During the season whenever I added a honey super I always add the new super under the old super. This is called bottom supering. This means the oldest honey is in the top box. This puts all my spring honey on top and fall honey on bottom. I will pull honey Supers off completely at the end of September, right before I start fall feeding. After I pull my honey supers for the year in September, the queen will begin slowing down laying. At this time I begin to feed sugar syrup for the bees to backfill the brood chamber with winter stores. I want each box to weight about 95-100 lbs going into winter.
Now let’s talk numbers for those of you who say there isn’t enough room for a queen to lay in, forcing the colony to swarm. Each deep frame has 80 cells across and 44 cells deep. That gives us 3520 cells per side. There are 20 sides on a 10 frame deep box. This gives us 70,400 cells per box of 10 frames. The average number of eggs a good queen lays per day is estimated to be 1500. It take 21 days for a worker bees to hatch out, 21 days before the queen could potentially use that cell again. That means the queen can be utilizing 31,500 cells with eggs, brood or Larva before the queen can lay in those cells again. That leaves 38,900 cells that are not needed for brood production. Let’s say honey and pollen take up 2 frames each. That uses another 28,160 cells. We have 10,740 cells left over for the queen to lay or the colony to store honey or pollen. As you can see from the math, there is plenty of room for the colony to do everything that it needs to and still have room left over. I run all my colonies as either 5 frame nucs or single deeps. It is not only possible but it forces the queen to utilize space wisely. Give single box management a try, you may never go back to double deeps again.

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