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Making a Spring Split

One of the big events that I am looking forward to is the Honey Bee Hive Split, a method a beekeeper can use to increase his hives from his own bees. There are lots of ways to do it, but my strategy will be the following:

1. In the Spring, anytime from mid-March to late-April, I will identify any strong hives for the split. Since the whole reason for a split is to increase (create an extra hive or two), you want to use your strongest hives for this. By Strongest, I look for the size of the colony, the fact that they made it through a Winter and the amount of honey that they produced. Here’s a good rule to follow:

Strong – Make your splits
Medium – ‘ Let ’em make honey
Weak – Combine (or requeen, if you are early enough in the year)

2. Find the Queen in the strong hive and move her, along with 2 frames of brood, to the Nuc. Take one frame of honey and one frame of pollen to accompany her. If possible, take 2 frames of honey, otherwise drop a frame of drawn comb in with the other four.

3. It is crucial to have eggs and larva in the strong, parent hive. The bees should build a new bee from these (it might be a good idea to see if they build more then one queen cell, in which case I can maybe get another hive by using one of these queens.)

Splitting a Swarm Prep Hive

Orient the Nuc so that it is facing the opposite direction of the original hive, to prevent the bees from returning to the old hive.

Locate the queen cells. If there is one, that one is staying with the hive. If there are two on different frames, then one can be moved to yet a second NUC (see starting a split from a swarm cell below.)

Locate the current queen. She needs to go to the original Nuc. Move her and one frame of fully capped brood. This frame should be covered with bees to help get things going. These will be mostly nurse bees, or so you hope. There should be at least a frame-and-a-half of brood in the Nuc at this point. Both of these frames should have been covered with bees. If not, shake off some bees from another frame of capped brood.

Now, locate a frame of empty, uncapped brood frame and place it into the box. Locate a frame of honey and another empty frame and place these on the outside (on either side) of the other frames. The frames should be something like this, from left-to-right:

  1. Empty, drawn frame
  2. Frame of uncapped (empty) brood
  3. Frame of capped brood and queen cell
  4. Frame of capped brood
  5. Frame of capped honey

Put a feeder in place (1-to-1 sugar mix) and an entrance blocker (not just  a reducer, but a blocker) into place. Leave this setup alone for 2 tp 3 days.

Remove the entrance  blocker and replace it with an entrance reducer. Place a twig or blade of grass in the  entrance, to force any foragers that came with the split to reorient to the new location.

Variation: Many folks recommend simply taking the frame of bees with the queen cell and a frame of honey to build the new Nuc. I guess the bees do not need a lot since a new queen is on the way anyway. I am thinking that two frames of bees (one being with the queen cell) and capped brood is the trick if you cannot move the Nuc 3 miles away. This way, you are getting enough Nurse bees that do not know how to get to the old hive to make it work.

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