How to manage a large colony


Last summer one of our colonies grew quite large to an extent that we provided it with a second brood box. Whilst this gave extra space for the queen to lay the second box was predominately used by the colony for stores. This was useful over the winter as it provided a good supply of food.

The colony is now (in April) expanding rapidly but we are concerned that the queen does not have much room to lay as both boxes still have a high percentage of stores and her laying is spread out over both boxes.

So we are wondering if it might be prudent to remove a number of frames that are mainly made up of stores and replace them with new frames and foundation.

We are also wondering that if we did this whether there would also be some merit in temporarily restricting the queen to one brood box. We are also giving some consideration to acquiring another queen and using some of the brood from the existing hive to establish a new colony whilst easing the crowding in the existing hive.


Sounds like a good question. You don’t mention supers. I would be tempted to:

  1. Take out half the brood frames that only have nectar & honey and place them in another brood box that goes on top of an empty box above the crown board. Hopefully they will think this is outside their nest, rob it and store it elsewhere leaving you with drawn brood comb – a valuable asset.
  2. Immediately below the crown board I’d have space for honey. SBs with foundation or drawn comb and of course the Qx below that.
  3. Now for the brood boxes. I’d keep this as a double BB for now. There will be vacant spaces where the brood frames containing honey came out. Assuming the colony is large I would place new foundation every third or even every other brood frame. A strong colony will quickly draw this out giving the q somewhere to lay. I wouldn’t worry about breaking up the brood nest.

In summary then and this time from the bottom up:

  • Floor
  • Double BB with some new foundation
  • Qx
  • Super(s) with room for nectar
  • Crown board (with holes left open)
  • Empty BB or SB (to create a gap)
  • BB with brood frames containing honey & nectar