Beekeepers Friend

Peaches' Beekeeping Blog

March 12, 2015

Split Survivor Colonys

A young beekeeper and his wife called me about several swarms he had hived. He ran out of complete boxes and asked what to do with one that was boxed but had no bottom board. Well since I am in the early stages of rebuilding my apiary, I said that I probably could take it off his hands. With them being new beekeepers, the swarm looked larrrrge so I loaded a 10 frame box with drawn comb along with top and bottom boards. I also put a nuc in the truck just in case the swarm was not as big as he thought.

When I arrived at their apiary, there were the beekeepers, his mother, and their son and daughter-in-law ready to watch and learn. The first thing I asked about was the sheet draped over the hive of  one of the swarms. The answer was that they didn’t want the bees to leave. I explained that the bees were looking for a home and when they were put into the box, they found a home and unlike humans, didn’t need to rest. They needed to get to work and with the sheet blocking their way, they couldn’t forage for nectar to start producing wax with which to start building comb.

With the bees uncovered, we took the top board off and dumped the adhering bees on the ground in front of the landing board. When Tom, the new beekeeper, and his wife, Gena, asked about the bees flying away, I showed them how the bees were going back into the hive.  Then, as the frames were not in the brood box, I had him put the frames in to give the bees the incentive to start building cells.

Next, we went to the swarm that was to go home with me. The brood box was sitting on a flat piece of cardboard with a top board jacked up so the bees would have a way in and out of the box as there was no bottom board. We proceeded to take the brood box to the truck and dumped the bees in the 10-frame brood box with the thought of putting them into a nuc the next day as a training session.

Next, we went into the two colonies he had on stands. First thing out of the hatbox, was do we need a smoker? Yes. Always, when going to the apiary, you should have a smoker, hive tool, and have your veil. Always, always, always. You never know when you will need one and going back to the house to get you equipment is not always a convenient time.

One was a European breed, the other was of Russian ancestry. From the European colony, we took a frame of open brood and put into the colony with the sheet just to give the bees a reason to stay, “There’s babies here and we need to feed them”. I told Tom and Gena that the bees have not had time to orientate to that spot on the ground yet, so he could move them tonight after the bee meeting to their stand that he had prepared. At night, the bees are all home and waiting for the sun to rise in the morning. That is the best time to move them to their new location. You want as many bees as you can get.

The Russian colony was filling up the brood cells with nectar. No brood, no eggs is an indicator that it was queen-less and he would need to get another queen or put some eggs in the hive so the bees could make their own queen. In that case, the bees would in all probability would end up being European. He asked why were they putting nectar in the cells instead of making another queen. The answer is simple. The bees cannot make a queen without a 1-3 day old larva. Can’t have a larva without an egg. So the bees without any direction, will do what they know the best and that is to make honey.So they forage – forage – forage.

At this point in time, we were needing to get going as our association was having a meeting and I would be late if I stopped by my house to drop the bees off, so I took them to the meeting. As it was approaching dark, the bees would be fine to leave in the truck and not blocked up. I forgot to say that I hardly ever plug the hive entrance when transporting bees unless I am going a fair distance in the daytime with several stops. Plugging the entrance in that case would keep me from losing very many bees in transport.

The next day arrived and I had a call from a couple that has had bees for about three years, but didn’t work them much, mostly had them for their own enjoyment. Richard and his wife, Barbara has just recently decided to get really involved with their bees and have been calling me for advice. The questions involved swarming and splitting. Well-wellll-welll- well! Guess what?! “Bee at my house at 4:30 pm and we will have a class.” I’ll have help rearranging my bees and maybe splitting a hive with freeee help. Hehe

I have a two-story nuc that I think is ready to split, and a 10-frame brood box that I just might be able to split. So at 4:30 all three showed up at my house and we (they) got suited up and with veils, went outside to start the smoker with whatever we could find for fuel. The best free fuel is Pine straw. However, some leafs and wood shavings, chips, pressed sawdust will work.

Having smoked the swarm in the 10-frame box that Tom and Gena gave me, the class as a group, set up the nuc and transferred five frames and all the bees into it. Then they moved the big box out of the way and placed the nuc in the space that it had occupied. This way the foraging bees would go to the nuc where their queen was.

My over wintered 2-story nuc was moved over and the 10-frame brood box was placed in the same spot and all 10 frames, honey, brood, and bees, were transferred into it. Not enough brood yet to split.

Then we went to the last overwintered swarm box and checked. It was weak and we took a frame of  bees that had two queen cells and put it in the weak hive to either replace the queen or at least strengthen the colony.

That frame had three queen cells, so I gave one to Tom for his Russian colony, and while I was looking for a queen cage, she had chewed her way out of the cell but was kept in cell cup by a finger until I could get the cage to her. In this case, I didn’t have any fondant for a plug so I got a small marshmallow. It works just great.

Now we all will just have to wait to see if all the bees make it. Just a side note, during all this maneuvering of the bees, I only say three Small Hive Beetles which I promptly killed.

As always, keep you veil handy, your smoker lit, and your hive tool sharp.

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