Palmerized bee hives? Is this where you ask if I am writing about a new breed of honey bee? Or perhaps you are thumbing through a supplier catalog and can’t find the Palmerized bee hive in the equipment section? Ok, let me explain a management technique that Brother Adam of Buckfast Abbey wrote about decades ago but has only gained acceptance through the sustainable apiary teachings of Michael Palmer of Vermont.
So, you installed a package or nuc, maybe several, or even dozens back in April. You may have even completed spring increase through splits. Well we all know those efforts aren’t always rewarded for some reason – lets blame bad queens for now since they seem to be an easy scapegoat. What do most beekeepers do to strengthen those slower colonies? Right, take brood frames from strong colonies and “equalize” them. That certainly is one solution, but you will find that Palmerized bee hives may be a better course of action.
Let me talk about Palmerized bee hives as a solution. I had the pleasure of spending some quality time with Mike Palmer back in January at the American Beekeeping Federation annual convention in Hershey, PA. He told me that he didn’t invent the management technique but finally came to understand what Brother Adam wrote about in his book. Mike now runs over 700 hives and 1,000 nucs (Palmerized bee hives) using a sustainable apiary model guided by Brother Adam .
Those of us robbing out frames of brood from strong hives in order to build up slower hives have “equalized” all hives for easier management. What we have done though is weaken a strong hive, thereby reducing its overall potential for honey production. We want loads of bees in a hive in order to make loads of honey. Mediocre hives don’t produce excess honey. Medium strength hives often don’t produce excess honey. So why reduce the strength of your hives? Well, you don’t have to, just use Palmerized bee hives to become a self-sustaining apiary.
Palmerizing (our industry has pinned this management technique’s name on Mike whether he likes it or not) is nothing more than creating summer splits, or nucs, requeening those nucs, and using equipment configurations that will allow you to over-winter them successfully. The Palmerized bee hives can be used as brood factories to support queen rearing; further strengthen honey production colonies; replace failed queens in production colonies; replace dead-outs the following spring; or even split them again in the spring.
Using a standard ten frame Langstroth hive body, we have added a divider in the middle, separating the hive body into two separate nucleus chambers. The bottom board has a divider glued/stapled in place to completely isolate the bees between the two nucleus chambers. Separate entrances are maintained fore and aft. We made custom second story nuc boxes (the supplier catalog nucs are too wide), and custom inner covers to support syrup jars.
Our nucleus chambers can hold four frames very comfortably. To establish the Palmerized bee hive, we create splits of two frames of capped brood, 1 frame of pollen, 1 frame of honey from our under-performing hives the first week of June. We add new queens to the Palmerized bee hives, and feed syrup through an inner cover with two holes, one serves as a vent, the other holds the jar. We cover this with either another ten frame standard box and telescoping cover or two separate nuc boxes with a telescoping cover.
As the brood nest expands into the second box and feeding is required, we continue to use the inner covers and syrup jars while stacking boxes. If feeding is not required, simply tape 1/8 inch hardware cloth over the second hole for additional venting. Note that the entrances of the two Palmerized bee hives are opposite from each other.
Palmerized bee hives will continue to build quickly. Maintain a good inspection schedule to prevent swarming and don’t forget to test / treat for varroa mites!