Question of the Month
Your hives have made it through winter and are now busting at the seams with bees. Do you continue to add hive bodies and build up your hive? Can you create a split? Should you worry about swarming?
An overwintered hive will begin brood production before winter comes to an end. By the time spring gets here, they will be high in population and ready for the nectar flow. This can lead to the possibility of swarming and requires attention from the beekeeper.
You have two options to help prevent overcrowding in the hive:
Creating a split seems simple, but there are different variations (below is just one example how to create a split) and challenges involved. This is however, a great and convenient way to establish a new colony in your bee yard.
- You may continue to build up your hive by adding on the next story. This is an easy option and will build up your hive fast. If the queen is not in the bottom brood chamber, reverse the brood chambers and place above the brood chambers. Reduce the congestion by giving your bees roohoney supersm to move up into the hive and space for your queen to lay. You still must be cautious of swarm cells and dealing with a honey bound hive.
- Create a split. A split in its simplest form, is the transfer of several frames with mixed brood and frames capped with honey from your mother hive into a new hive. You would replace the transferred frames with empty frames, giving your mother hive space to continue growing. Splitting a colony gives you another hive with a more bees to help pollinate your garden and harvest honey.
When making a split, you will want to have your equipment setup and ready for the transfer of frames. It is best to grab 4 or 5 frames of mixed brood in various stages of development. This will keep the population going as new bees are hatched and as larvae continues to develop. The hive's survival will be dependent upon the newly hatched bees and developing larvae. Frames of nectar and pollen will be essential in feeding the colony until they are able to increase in population.
When transferring the frames into the split, you do not want to brush off the nurse bees. The nurse bees will be beneficial to help feed and raise out the brood. The bees that are transferred from your mother hive are orientated to the mother hive. Once they fly from the split, they will return to the mother hive. You will want to transfer a good number of nurse bees over to the split because the majority of them will return to the mother hive. This may require you to shake a few extra frames of bees into the split. The bees that hatch out will become orientated to the split colony and will replace the nurse bees that returned to the mother hive.
Right now your split is queenless. You have the option of purchasing a fertilized queen (before you create the split) and introducing her to your split colony. It will take 5 to 7 days before your colony will become acclimated to her, but once she is released, she will begin laying. If you know that you transferred over frames of brood with eggs that are less than 3 days old, your split hive will realize that it is queenless and will begin to raise out their own queen from the fertilized eggs. There are numerous risks in allowing a colony to raise out their own queen. Dangers in raising out a new queen: low drone population, rainy weather, birds, car windshields, ect. Aside from these threats, it can take 2 to 3 weeks before the queen is able to begin laying (if she is properly fertilized).
After transferring your frames and ensuring your split is queen right, they will continue to grow. The split is a new colony and should be treated as such. Add a feeder to the split and give them time to grow before checking on them. Your mother hive will need to be monitored to ensure it does not become overcrowded. Some beekeepers can create multiple splits from one hive, depending upon the strength of that colony.