Checkerboarding- How it's done

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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  :-D

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:

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

Walts 1998 Hives:

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.

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????


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.


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