Late Season Chop & Crop

I have recently seen quite a few questions from beginners about chop and crops as a means of getting combs from national nucs into top bar hives (usually of the horizontal sort).

I’ll start by saying that I have never been a fan of chop and crop, much preferring some sort of converter hive/box as being less disruptive for the colony.  OK, it takes time, but where is the hurry?

Second, if a chop and crop is done, it is least disruptive on a small nuc that has not yet filled its combs with brood.  A nuc that has been heavily fed by the producer and is bursting with bees and brood should, in my view, not even be considered for chop and crop.  A  lot of brood will  likely be destroyed, or discarded, and the little colony will be put under considerable stress. I’ve seen this more than once where circumstances required surgery – with difficult cut-outs and the like.  The result is either a colony that takes a very long time to recover or the bees simply abscond.  The more I see it, the more convinced I become that it should be reserved for situations where the alternative is that the colony will otherwise be destroyed in any event.

For those who find themselves with bees on the ‘wrong’ shape of comb, consider converter boxes/hives or just keep the bees on the comb size they are already on and allow them to swarm next year.  Swarms are very easy to install in boxes of any shape or size. 🙂

Gareth, West Oxfordshire

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2 Responses to Late Season Chop & Crop

  1. Paul says:

    We started beekeeping with a normal nucleus we bought. We’d seen crop & chop on Youtube and tried that to transfer the bees into our TBH. Nightmare, even with two of us suited up. Can’t imagine it’s possible for one person on their own.

    The main thing the video didn’t show, so we werent prepared for, was that the Youtube demo was done with standard frames of a subtly different construction to the ones we had acquired. This led to two major problems:

    – These frames had wire embedded in the wax. We couldn’t just use a sharp knife to whittle them into a V-shape.
    – These frames’ corners were nailed together. We were using a tree lopper (big 2-handed secateurs) to chop them. Didn’t work. Looking back later, the video guys used bolt cutters, and if they encountered nails they just sliced through them. Whereas we ended up with splinters, crushed wood, nails at odd angles which needed to be prised out.

    Not surprisingly the bees were most upset and made their feelings known.

    The whole process took (if memory serves) well over an hour and we ended up with a couple of broken combs held onto their bars with string – which works about as well as it sounds, they don’t hang straight – lots of dead and stressed bees, probably chilled brood. We ourselves were fraught and exhausted, something that we’d thought would go smoothly became a cascade of escalating crises. “We need another tool!” “That comb is falling off again!”

    Avoid this if you possibly can.

  2. Robin says:

    Agreed – as ‘natural beekeepers’ we should be totally against chopping & cropping as there are bee friendly alternatives as Gareth has pointed out.

    North Somerset

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