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Lesson : Starting Splits Late

Since last year, my bees have endured one issue or another and I have tried to learn lessons from each situation. The problem with any ‘bee lesson’ is that you cannot be absolutely sure of the cause of any given effect. Regardless, I use this blog to record my observations so that I can continue to track these issues and narrow down on the causes.

Over the past two weeks, I have had some major issues with robbing of the Apache Hive, the small split that I started to accept one of my new queens. This is not minor robbing, but a full onslaught (I have to believe it is from several invading hives or feral bee nests.) Even my robbing screens, that have always reduced or eliminated the robbing in the past, are not working for this hive. I actually closed it up completely (3 days ago), giving them some syrup and some shade, to let them get their feet under them. Today, I opened a small hole, enough for a bee or two to get through, around noon, and once again the onslaught was on.

Now, the immediate conclusion is that the frame of honey that I gave them is the primary issue. I do agree that this is a ‘sub-lesson’. Never give a small, starter hive a full frame of honey. It is nearly impossible for them to defend it from robbers (or other pests, like the Small Hive Beetle) and it simply draws robbers with its smell. That’s a lesson that I will not forget.

But, I am coming to the conclusion that the primary error was trying to start a small hive so late. I effectively started two small hives in the middle of June, Apache and Bob, and both are under some kind of onslaught (although Apache is taking the real beating.) One of the most disappointing effects of this issue is that I simply cannot check on them without drawing bees out of the woodwork. I cannot even do a quick inspection, without catching the attention of a flight of attackers. This is really frustrating, as I like to keep a close eye on the smaller hives (primarily for educational purposes, but also to be able to react to any issues that they may encounter.)

So, tonight I start my first Out Yard, down in Charles City to hopefully remedy this situation. I will be moving both the Apache Hive and the Bob Hive down to Charles City to start this small yard.It is my hope that I will be able to open both tomorrow, for the first time since introducing the new queens, and confirm that I have a laying queen and a bee or two. I will be happy if just one of them is doing well.

There is another lesson that might be on the table here. It could be that having so many hives in my home apiary (and my area in eastern Henrico, Va) is simply pushing it. I may even move the Berkeley Hive down to the new Out Yard tomorrow night. I am seriously considering dropping back to one established hive in the yard for the time being, perhaps creating yet another Out Yard. Trying to play with small hives is very difficult in my yard at the moment and it is something that I really enjoy doing.

Regardless, it is highly unlikely that I will try to start a hive this late in the year again.

Another sad note was the discovery of the demise of the Southside Hive. They were never able to get a queen started. They also dealt with some robbing issues and I am fairly certain they were the first to be robbed out completely. They seemed strong, so I did not get a Robber Screen on them until it was probably too late, unfortunately.

1 comment to Lesson : Starting Splits Late

  • Doug Ladd

    Starting late isnt the issue althought it does not leave room for ANY errors. I made two spilts this past saturday… they do take extra attention and your robbing situation is NOT helping. Great move on your part for moving them. This will help.

    This season has not been good. Dry and hot has killed almost everything and without unmanaged fields (which i am fortunate to have a few hundred acres of them on my property) wildflowers just dont exist. No nectar and no pollen for most people, and what pollen they are getting is from Crapemrytles…

    My hives right now are very defensive. i have to duct tape my thin gloves… just putting on quick pollen patties and sugar water awards me with quite a few stings…LOL

    So i see you have caught the bug as well…welcome to my world, next will be a second morgage to buy bee equipment…LOL

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