Bees protect their hive, just like humans protect their home. Upon opening one of our hives for inspection, a wasp flew into the hive. The pictures tell the story, the wasp did not stand a chance.
This weekend we split two of our strongest hives and created two new hives. We did this to increase the number of hives we have, but to also prevent swarming. Spring is prime swarming season, so we do what we can to reduce the chances of that happening.
There are several ways to make a split, and every beekeeper will have different methods and advice. I will explain the method we used, but before making a split of your own always make sure the hive is strong enough to split, that you have the necessary equipment (including ordering queens ahead of time if you go that route), and that the weather is warm enough.
Here was our method:
- Make sure the strong hive has at least 8 frames of brood.
- Move 4 frames of brood and 1 frame of honey into a new hive.
- Locate the queen and move her to the new hive.
- Make sure the old hive has at least 4 frames of brood, including a frame with eggs/uncapped brood, and 1 frame of honey.
- Fill in the rest of the old and new hives with empty built or new unbuilt frames.
- Put entrance reducers on the hives.
The eggs/uncapped brood in the old hive will give the worker bees what they need to produce a new queen. We’ll give them 2-3 weeks to produce a queen. If they are unsuccessful, then we will introduce a mated queen from a local queen supplier. Alternative method: After the split you can wait 24 hours and then introduce a new mated queen instead of waiting for the hive to produce their own queen.
If you are using new unbuilt frames, then you should also feed. Feeding stimulates wax production so the worker bees will build out those new frames faster.
Entrance reducers help the smaller population guard the entrance of the hive from pest and other intruders.
I’ve put together a Q&A list of some common questions.
Why to split a hive?
There are a few reasons to split a hive.
- To discourage swarming
- To increase your number of hives for honey production
- To control mites
How does splitting discourage swarming?
When a hive becomes strong, it is a natural behavior for part of a bee colony along with the queen to leave the hive and create a new hive. This is the way bees reproduce in nature. When you split a hive you are removing half of the bee colony. This makes the bees “think” they have swarmed.
How does splitting control mites?
When you leave a hive without a queen for 2-3 weeks that breaks the brood cycle. Mites reproduce by laying eggs on bee brood, so if the bees are not producing brood, mite populations decrease.
Do I need to feed?
If you have introduced new unbuilt frames into the hive then, yes, you should feed. This will help the bees draw out comb faster. Just use a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. If you are using empty built frames and have enough honey in the hive, then you should be okay not feeding. Bees consume about six pounds of honey to produce one pound of wax.
A laying worker is a worker bee that lays unfertilized eggs in the absence of a queen. Only drones (male bees) develop from the eggs of a laying worker because drones only have one set of chromosomes from the mother.
This is one sign that you have a laying worker in your hive and that the hive is queenless. You can see multiple eggs in a single cell.
This particular hive we knew was queenless because we were trying to let the hive rear a new queen, but they were unsuccessful. We bought a queen and introduced her to the hive. All is well now.
I know I haven’t posted in a while, but it has been rather quiet with our bees. We tried splitting our one hive, but it was not successful, and we had to combine it back with the original hive. So we have been here with our one hive…until today. We got a new hive! All thanks to a new program called Pay It Forward by Bee Understanding.
Bee Understanding is a non-profit organization dedicated to the understanding, education and promotion of honey bees and beekeeping. The Pay It Forward program gives away a free starter kit, consisting of a hive box, bottom board, lid, frames and working bees to beginner beekeepers in the South Florida area. For more information on the program, visit www.beeunderstanding.com.