Bee Stuff

The warm(ish) winter and spring have really jump started the bee hives.
I went into winter with 2 hives.  Both hives had ample honey stores and were strong going into winter but one didn’t survive.  I’m not sure why.  Many experienced beekeepers in the area lost hives this winter so I wasn’t alone.  Most blamed the mild winter (which I enjoyed) but can lead to all kinds of issues in the bee world.
So I was left with one hive.  A very strong hive with the queen laying tons of eggs and a hive full of workers to back her up.   So I decided to split this hive and make a new one.
When you split a hive, part of the bees from the “mother” hive will be put into another hive body so they can begin to make a new queen.  All you need for the new hive is fresh eggs, larvae, capped brood, bees (not the queen), pollen, and honey.  Very intimidating for a beekeeper who’s only read about it.
I picked a day that I could spend some time looking through the hive.  This particular hive has 3 deep supers.  That adds up to 30 frames of bees with each frame having 2 sides.  I knew I was going to be there a while.  I took out each frame and looked for the queen (which I had found and marked in a previous inspection).  When I found a frame with  pollen, honey, larvae, capped brood and no queen, I placed it in a nuc box (a small 5-frame box).

different colors of pollen on the left and capped brood on the right

pollen on foundation

different flowers make up the different colors of pollen

I was fortunate enough to find the frame with the queen (in the very last box I checked, of course)  and watched her for several minutes.  After I saw her lay several eggs, I gently put her on a different frame and  put the frame she was on in the nuc box.  This assures me that the eggs will be young enough for the workers to begin the makings of a new queen.  Since I knew the queen was in the  bottom box, I went back to the middle box that was sitting beside the hive and took out the remaining frames I needed for the split.  Be sure and have extra, empty frames handy to replace the ones you take out.
I strapped and secured the box and took it to my dads house 3 miles away.   The books will tell you if you move a hive less than 2 miles away from the original hive, they will return to the original hive so I was not worried about the distance.   He had a hive set up and ready and we placed the 5 frames in the center of the hive body and put 5 empty frames around the bees.
It will take some time for the hive to realize they don’t have a queen and begin to prepare to make a new one.  We checked the hive last week (10 days since the split) and it looks like they are making a queen cell.  I will keep you updated on the progress.
emergency queen cell

queen cells are much larger than capped brood

Since the big hive I did my split from was so strong, I decided to split it again.
The reason I’m so anxious to split it again, is because it has been going gangbusters since I got it 3 years ago and I want to keep the genetics of this hive going in my bee yard.
Except this split will stay in my bee yard.
Right next to the mother hive.
Not like the book suggests.
I’m such a rebel.
Here’s what I did.
I went through the hive again (this was a week after I did the split for my dad), and took out the appropriate frames.  I found the queen once again and was able to watch her lay eggs so that was the most important frame needed for fresh eggs.
I set up an empty hive next to the mother hive and placed 5 frames of eggs, larvae, capped brood, bees (no queen), honey and pollen inside.  Then I added 5 empty frames that had old brood comb on them.  Old brood comb is foundation that has had beeswax built up for the queen to lay her eggs.
The area in the center of the above photo does not have brood comb built up yet.  This is the foundation that is put in the frame and is the starting point for the bees to build it up.  You can see the advantage to already having the foundation built up (or drawn out) for the queen to lay her eggs.  That’s a lot of work to do so, by adding these frames already drawn out, the bees can skip this step and begin the process of storing pollen, taking care of  young eggs and larvae, and preparing for a new queen.
I was fortunate to have several frames already built up, but here is one that was not.  The white is beeswax in the process of being drawn out.

After I placed the 5 empty frames and the 5 frames from the mother hive, I put my entrance reducer on.  Instead of being open, I had tacked wire around the openings so they would not be able to leave.
entrance reducer with wire attached

I was told to leave the hive like this for 3 days.  After the third day, I removed the wire and placed a limb with leaves in front of the entrance.
The purpose of this is to make the bees re-orient themselves when they leave the hive.  Supposedly, after 3 days of being sequestered in a hive, that is long enough for the bees to forget about the mother hive and accept this new hive as their home.
Today, 10 days later, I opened this hive.  Can you see the queen cells?
Here’s another look without the bees.
I counted 6 queen cells in this hive.  Here’s another one that the bees are working on capping (covering) so the larvae will pupate.
Queen cell in the process of being capped off

Same queen cell

I am very excited about this but there are a lot more things that need to happen before these splits are deemed a success.
I’ll keep you posted.
I am linking with Our Simple Life blog hop this week.                                      

0 thoughts on “Bee Stuff”

  1. So, how do the bees “make” a queen? I’ve always wondered about where the queen came from. Do you still have your hive going from the swarm that you brought home a few days ago?

  2. Hi Brenda – The emergency queen cells look pretty good. Some folk reckon you always get runt queens using this method, but I’ve read that if you have fresh eggs (you did) on new comb (yours looks new – certainly not old brown brood comb) then the bees can draw a good queen cell. Quick question – how do you decide how many QCs to keep?

    • I’m keeping them all. I was told to let the them hash it out. May the best bee win so to speak. If I had another hive to split I think I would put them there but I don’t. What would you do?

      • I’m not sure. If its a strong colony they might swarm with a virgin queen if there were other QCs present. On the other hand the first queen out might just sting out the rest and there’s no problem. I think I’d knock-out any obviously runty QCs and leave a 2 -3 good size ones.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I still have so much to learn but and it seems like I learn something new every week. I went to your blog and enjoyed several posts and looking forward to reading more.

  3. Thank you for sharing your bee adventure. My son got a scholarship from a local bee keepers association. We get our bees tomorrow! We are soo excited. I built a top bar hive so I am planning to split his hive into my top bar at some point. Great Pictures! and good step by step advice.

    • Thanks! I’m still learning every day. I will probably look back at this in a few years and be shocked at what I did. We gave some good local groups I go to and these people are invaluable for newbie like myself. Thanks for reading!

  4. The other thing to consider is if you think you would like to make multiple splits you should relocate the queen to the nuc. This would allow the masses of queenless bees produce multiple cells them you can make multiple splits. It has been said that it takes a lot of bees to produce quality queens. So you decrease the chance of a “runt” queen. Just food for thought. Nothing wrong with how you did it.

    • Could have been either one. If there were no bees in the hive, then they absconded or left for a reason (sickness, pests, colony collapse). Sometimes they starve if not enough honey was left for them or they were too cold to move to the honey.

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