A while back we were asked, “Why do you use the honeycomb box for brood?”
Our question back was “Once you have bees in your single box beehive (Langstroth deep), what can you do with it?” Funny, the comment was “Then I raise bees.” Our thoughts were, actually, you sit and wait and wait and wait. Then we asked, “How long before that Langstroth deep box is full?” The answer was, “It depends.” This was getting good, so we asked: “What do you do when the first Langstroth deep beehive box is full?” Again an expected answer, “I add another Langstroth deep box.” Once more the question was asked, “What do you do then?” The response, “Wait until it is full.” Our question again, “How long do you have to wait?” The response was, “Sometimes it takes the rest of the season.” How much interaction in raising bees was this beekeeper really performing?
So back to the initial question, “Why use the honeycomb box for brood?” The difference with using the smaller frames is that they allow the beekeeper to manipulate the hive quicker and actually raise bees. No wonder this beekeeper then asked us, “How?”
A honeycomb box is a box with mini frames and can used instead of a Langstroth deep. When the bees build on smaller frames they can be divided or separated sooner. A captured swarm will fill a honeycomb box with mini frames in about 7 days, whereas a package of bees can take up to 30 days to do the same unless they are fed. If fed, the package colony can perform similarly to the swarm. After a week a few open brood mini frames can be separated with their nurse bees and additional colonies can be started. Understand that this split all took place in about a week after capturing the swarm!
So now two hives are growing instead of just one. In the first hive, the bees will care for the young and each mini frame with brood can produce up to 1500 bees. Once the brood is all filled and growing other bees begin to fill food frames with reserves. If any of the reserve frames are filled and capped the beekeeper can harvest them. Capped honey is mostly for winter stores – a long long way off, so removing the frame allows the bees continued growth and expansion. Once the mini frames are removed and sold the beekeeper begins recouping spent funds at $25 US per frame, and that can begin as early as within the first month. The second colony that was separated from the first within the initial week had a period of 3-5 days to create queen cells. Usually, 1-3 queen cells appear. After a week they are capped and incubating awaiting emergence.
A second mini frame honeycomb box can be added to the initial hive 3-4 weeks later, due to the first group emerging and the queen filling the cells with the second round of young. Once that second group is being capped a second box can be added under the first for expansion as 20 plus frames with up to 1500 bees each will soon emerge needing room. During this same period, the beekeeper raising their bees in a Langstroth large deep hive will still be waiting. The honeycomb box option now has two colonies – one growing fast and the second a nucleus or a piggy-bank for the beekeeper to use with brood reserves or a mated queen in waiting.
By the time the brood boxes are full, the mini frame honeycomb box beekeeper will have harvested many mini frames of valuable honeycomb whereas the Langstroth deep hives will sit until the Langstroth double deep is filled and an expansion honey box (honey super) is added and again another waiting period passes.
For the backyard beekeeper, this Eco Bee Box mini honeycomb box option does not require extraction equipment for honey harvesting.
This is why we recommend using the Eco Bee Box mini frame “honeycomb box” system to raise bees.