Beekeepers Friend

Peaches' Beekeeping Blog

February 18, 2015

Bee Spring Is Here Again

I have no excuse at this time for my years’ absence since my last post. So I’ll just jump right into my new post….: I have had my two swarms from last Spring over-winter and now I am looking to do some splits from my survivors. I have made some improvements on some of my wooden-ware as some have started to break down. Wood putty is great for some and the fire pit for the others.

Now is the time to get to planning how to do the splits. Do I uses nuc boxes to make small colonies to start? Or do I put the splits in large brood boxes the let the bees bees fill out at a slower rate? How many splits do I make and what am I going to do with them. Do I try to keep all the bees in my back yard until they get larger or do I move them to an out-apiary? These are the same questions you should be thinking about. Same scenario…just different beekeepers.

Personally, I will probably use nucs to split one of the colonies into, and just divide the other colony into two large brood boxes and let them fill them out. I will take the original queens and their splits to an out-apiary and and leave the new splits with eggs in the same place of the original colonies. The reason is: when the bees swarm, the old queen will leave and take half the population with her with an equal amount of nurse (young) bees, Middle aged (guard and house) bees, as well as older field bees. the bees in the split will then take several 1-3 day old larva and make some more queens to replace the one that left.

This way the swarm will have young bees to produce wax flakes, older house bees use those flakes to build the comb cells and have some guard bees to help fight off incidental intruders, and the field bees to start foraging for food. This will be anywhere from about 20,000 to 60,000 bees. The move will be about 3 miles or more so the field bees will not be in the area they worked before the split. If they recognize the area, then they will go back to the original site. If they are outside of their original work area, then they will be forced to get acquainted with the area back to the new homestead.

Now I understand that not everyone will have the advantage of multiple apiary sites, so there are several ways to split inside of the same area. When you make splits with the knowledge that you will have to use the same apiary, then when you move the frames with open and closed brood, then you must take care to not shake the adhering bees off the frames. These are nurse bees and if you need to shake more bees into the split, then use bees on other brood frames.

The nurse bees have not been out of the hive except to use the bathroom and will not have made any foraging flights to be able to memorize the surrounding area. Now it is possible to move the bees to the furthest point in your yard. Maybe they cannot smell the pheromone of the honey that would be familiar to them from the other hive.

When the bees realize that they have no foragers, then some of the nurse bees will take on that job. The colony will equalize the workload to resemble the correct percentages that a colony needs to survive. Bees are very resilient and very forgiving when you do something to upset the balance.

Now, from now to June, you should be ready to work as the bees will be swarming and you will be catching your own bees and you will have calls telling you of someone else’s bees aswarmin’. You will have your hands and boxes full if you don’t have all your woodenware in use.

Just remember, if you split, then the bees will have only half of a normal colony and they may have trouble keeping the new box warm and according to all the indications, there will be at least one more cold snap before Easter. Take that into consideration when you start splitting.

All these suggestions are my own and not proven in a scientific manor. Keep your veil handy, your smoker lit, and your hive tool sharp.

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