Date: Fri, 14 Jan 2000 17:41:08 -0700
Reply-To: Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology
Sender: Informed Discussion of Beekeeping Issues and Bee Biology
From: Allen Dick
Subject: Maximum Brood Area
Comments: cc: "" <sci.agriculture.beekeeping@list.>,
kflottum@ airoot. com
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While in San Diego, I bought Bee Culture's pollination video "The Honey Bee -- A
growers Guide". It's a great video, but one thing bothered me: the part about
brood area. Frankly, I'd be afraid to show it to a grower -- and that was my
intent in buying it.

I was very pleased to see that they recommended actually measuring brood area by
holding a grid over the comb surface and estimating an area on each side in
1/4ths or 1/10ths of a frame of brood. They did not specify what to conclude if
one side was 80% brood and the back side was all honey. Is that an 80% frame or
a 40% frame. I assumed that would bee 40% of a frame of brood.

FWIW, I was interested to note that my estimate in each case -- made
subjectively by looking at each example and playing along before they announced
their measurement -- was always more generous than their result. They also
showed how to estimate the number of bees in terms of frames of bees. I found
that pretty subjective.

What puzzles me is that they stated -- after carefully explaining the
measurement method -- was that a hive could and should be expected to have from
6 to 12 (Yup, TWELVE) full frames of brood when going to pollination.

In my personal real-life experience, going through thousand of my hives frame by
frame in spring and summer, and thousands of other peoples' hives in spring as a
bee inspector, I can only recall seeing, *at most*, 10 to 16 frames WITH brood
on both sides -- not twelve frames OF solid brood (both sides) -- in *any*
normal single queen hive. The hives that had the twelve frames *with* brood
actually would have areas of more like 8 or 9 frames of solid brood (each with
two sides) when measured, and allowance made for the empty cells or cells of
honey and pollen.

As I have stated here before, when breaking good doubles down to singles for
Ross Rounds (tm) production -- and we did this a lot (thousands of times) -- we
would remove all the brood from the two boxes and put it, and the bees, into
singles, then take the honey frames away. When doing so in a yard of 30 hives,
we usually got a few extra boxes of brood that we used for increase. Such
splits consisted of odd frames with patches of brood from the sides of the
original brood nests and we almost always found a few queen cells that could be
used to make sure they had a queen, so by summer's end, they became strong

The point here, though is that out of 30 hives, we always got a TOTAL of about
35 singles. Some were 9 frame and some were 10 frame, so taking a simple
average, we got 9.5 x 35 = 332.5 frames WITH brood. Most were pretty solid
brood, but using the estimation method in the video, I would think that an
observer should rate them about 80%. That gives us 80% x 332.5 = 226 full
frames of brood total or 8.87 frames per hive. And -- these were REALLY GOOD

The conclusion I reach here is what I have always said: in our country the
maximum brood area is eight to nine 100% FULL frames (2 sides@ 100% = one frame)
of brood in good single hives at the peak of the season. I don't see how people
get the 12 frames of brood mentioned in pollinating hives, unless they are
counting *each* side of the frame as a frame of brood. The 6 frame number seems
to me very reasonable for a pollinating hive, using my ways of counting, but I
cannot see how hives could average 12 frames of brood. Especially when they are
not yet at full strength and are being carried around in doubles as shown in the

I am assuming that a frame of brood must cover BOTH sides 100% to be one frame
of brood. Maybe I am not using the same standards as others? Maybe EACH side
is counted as a frame of brood, so that a single frame with two sides solid with
brood would actually be 2 frames of brood?

I have kept bees for over 25 years, pollinate crops for a living, have been told
that my hives were way stronger than anyone else's in the 1998 season, and yet I
cannot understand this.

Anyhow, let's assume I missed something out there in the hot sun year after
year. Maybe I can't count or Old Timers is setting in. Let's do some simple
math: The best queens I have heard of can lay 3000 eggs per day. That's what
all the books say. In my experience, it is abnormal for them to do this
continuously. They tend to shut down from time to time or cut back due to the
environmental conditions, but let's go with the biggest number.

Okay! 3000 eggs laid each day for 21 days (after that they hatch) is 63,000
eggs. There are about 3200 cells per side of a comb (I counted), i.e.. 6400
cells per comb. Now, 63,000/6400 is 9.8 FULL combs -- both sides, every
cell -- I mean FULL combs. Maybe Dee gets a few more cells per comb and thus
fewer combs, but I'm dealing with *my* bees here.

How do we get twelve?

I can only conclude that I must be counting assuming that one frame requires
both sides to be 100% full of brood, and everyone else is counting each side as
a frame of brood. This is the weakness in such a measurement.

I know the scientists use square inches or a metric equivalent, rather than
'frames' of brood. This is much clearer and less subject to misunderstanding.

What say ye all?