Fat dummies

The ‘Ben Harden’ queenright queen rearing method uses a double brood box in which much of the space in the top box (above the queen excluder) is filled with oversize dummy frames. These have the effect of forcing bees in the top box to be concentrated on the frames containing young larvae and, critically, the grafted larvae in the cell bar frame.

Correx and tape

Correx and tape

Normally the frame containing the grafts is accompanied by a frame of unsealed brood and two frames containing ample levels of pollen. The fat dummies that flank these occupy the remainder of the box and therefore each need to be the thickness of three and a half frames (i.e. 133 mm). They can be built from pretty much anything convenient – thin plywood around a softwood frame or Correx held together with duct tape work equally well.

To make them slightly more useful they can be filled with expanded polystyrene chips. They can then be used to ‘dummy down’ a weak colony in a standard brood box for the winter, effectively converting it to a four-frame nuc (assuming two are used) without having too much dead space for the bees to keep warm. If there is no flow grafted larvae will usually be ignored. To avoid this it is necessary to simulate a flow by feeding with thin syrup. It is therefore useful to build at least one fat dummy with an integrated frame feeder. Dave Cushman describes construction of fat dummies with a very narrow feeder, negating a requirement for a wooden float. Mine are wider, about 20mm, because that was the size wood I had at the time … I’ve not had problems with them being a bee graveyard.

Fat dummy with integral feeder

Fat dummy …

3 thoughts on “Fat dummies

  1. Brian

    Hi David

    Found this very interesting and am gathering info and materials to start Queen rearing of my best attributed ( word ?? ) black bee stock this season.

    In relation to the ” Fat ” Dummy feeder , do you find the need to waterproof the internal feeder surface ? Marine Ply ? Wooden bottom and side batons waterproofed ?

    Also what syrup ratio , did I recall ” Weak ” 1:1 ?



    1. David Post author

      Hi Brian
      Not sure about ‘attributed’ … behaved? Or perhaps just ‘… best black bee stock …’.
      I’ve not used marine ply, but do use waterproof wood glue when putting these things together. I waterproof the inside of the feeder with molten beeswax. It’s not permanent and will flake off over time, but it works fine and has no ‘nasties’ in it. I just pour a small amount in and slosh it about a bit. When cell raising (and there’s no flow) you will probably need to add thin syrup to ensure the larvae are well fed. They can tear down the cells if they think there’s a dearth of nectar.

  2. Brian

    Thanks David

    Yes, waterproof wood glue sounds like the way to go. Good idea re the wax sealant, will try that . Presume a residue adsorbed by the wood even after the initial flaking would provide some level of sealing and any leeching out would be met by enthusiastic ” moppers up “.

    Best Regards


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