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Splits and Other Tidbits

The East Richmond Beekeeper’s Association had their May meeting this evening and the focus was splitting beehives, creating Nuc’s and tidbits about swarming and other beehavior. Kenny was the focus, which is always good as he has a ton of experience. It would have been good to have Tom here, too, as he is probably doing tons of splits and Nuc’s at this exact moment (which is probably why he couldn’t make it!)

Kenny defines ‘splits’ literally, which makes sense although I had never looked at it this way. For him, a split is taking two deeps and creating a hive from each one. Interestingly enough (or maybe it is sadly enough), I have only just recently had a queen start laying in the top Deep. Clearly, this is normal behavior for a strong hive. Regardless, when you have brood and nurse bees in both boxes, it creates an ideal scenario for a ‘split’. Kenny’s method is to find the queen in the upper Deep and move her back to the lower Deep. Then, take the upper deep and make a new hive out of it. The whole concept of ‘finding the queen’ is not something that I do casually. In fact, I would have to say that I do it ‘by accident’ currently. I have been advised that this will change as I become more experienced.

But, with this low likelihood of finding a queen, I am more likely to spin Kenny’s strategy a bit by simply locating frames of eggs and making sure that both Deeps have at least one frame of eggs. This way, whichever box is missing the queen will have the proper tools to build their own queen. The key here is to check back in five to seven days for a queen cell (or two.) Bee math says that the egg will turn into a larvae on Day 3/4, be capped on Day 7/8 and hatch out as a queen on day 16/17. Then, the young gal apparently meanders around the hive getting her legs under her (and probably looking to kill any other queens that have not emerged from their cells) for about 5 days before she goes out on the town to find a lover. 26 days after the split, I should be seeing eggs. But, Kenny mentioned that he has seen it happen on Day 35, so it is best not to give up hope immediately (I’m guessing that I would freak out by Day 29 anyway!) I think you can probably test the theory by dropping another frame of eggs (from another hive) into the new split and see if they try to raise another queen (in which case I might want to follow up with a frame of capped brood if I can spare it, just to keep the population of nurse bees strong.)

Kenny also mentioned the idea of moving the hives a long distance. But, as Michael Bush (online) and Doug Ladd (occasional blog reader) have advised, you can move them a short distance and still have high rates of success. I can move them a long distance to my family farm in Charles City or two one of my friend’s farms, but I kind of doubt that I will on the first tries (this year or next.) I am fairly certain that I will try Doug’s method my first time.

Kenny also demonstrated a home made Cloakboard, another method of doing a split and/or raising queens which involves keeping the hives together. I am still in the research mode for raising queens and have no opinion on this method at the moment.

One of the most educational bits (for me) tonight was the advice on how to check for swarm cells (I am keeping an eye on the Geronimo hive for a possible swarm – it is unlikely, as I believe the queen is young, but I have learned my lesson on banking on my expectations!) To begin with, he advised that most swarm cells are made in the upper Deep. This was brand new information to me. To check for them, you do not have to invade the hive with a full inspection. You simply have to lift the top Deep and place it on its side where you can look for the cells with a good vantage point (they should be on the bottom on the upper deep.) I am probably going to do this on the coming weekend, just to see how it goes. I like this idea as I really have no need to break the frames of this strong hive up anymore.

There was also a lot of talk about swarms. Wade had found nine swarm cells in one of his two hives. Kenny had apparently been catching swarms all week. Anne had even just picked up a swarm a week or so ago and put it in a top bar hive (where it had already drawn out 12 frames!!!!) I actually finished my first swarm trap (a 6 frame, custom made Nuc that I could hang at 8′) this very evening. I am going to put it in Charles City this weekend (or maybe put it over at 1699 on Thursday if I can get another one built tomorrow night.) I hope to post back more on this experiment in the future.

Finally, I met two folks that have visited my blog at the meeting tonight. One, David, lives up the road and is looking to get into bees. He has apparently spoken to Tom (I’m thinking Tom’s list must be a hundred long!) In addition, I met Doug Ladd and his folks. I think his folks come to the meeting regularly, but Doug belongs to another club down to the west of Richmond. The beekeeping community is getting larger and it’s a blast chewing the fat about bees.

For the purposes of recording observations, we are going through a bit of a cool spell now, with at least a few more days in the low-70’s. The main note here is that they are calling for storms in a couple of days. We are definitely getting dry now and I do not believe that the nectar of anything but trees and well established shrubs will last to any great degree if we do not get rain in the next week (of course, I am mainly concerned about my garden and plants, but I want the bees to have a full plate too!)

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