honeybees working a frame
New Brood on a split hive frame
© Wayne Davids

Successful Hive Split!

Against the advice of most experienced beekeepers (I know, I know, listen to the advice) I split both of my first year hives since they were doing so well. I did Hera Hive first, followed 9 days later by Persephone Hive. It was late July for the first split (23rd) and then August 1 for the second split. Both of my original hives were packed with bees and I decided to give it a try.

Both splits started well initially, however I did lose the first one, the Hera split. They were doing well, I was feeding them, and suddenly they just crashed. I failed to realize it until too late, but the original hives were robbing the weaker two. The forage bees from the split loaded up on honey and sugar water from the feeder, took it back to the parent hive, and then showed all the other workers where the free meal was located. Things were great, until they weren’t and I did not recognie the robbing behavior until it was too late for that first split. When I opened the split I found numerous dead bees in the bottom, the brood hatched out, and the resources pilfered.

When I realized what was happening I moved the remaining split hive across the yard, as far away as possible, from the original two hives and reduced the entrance to the smallest opening possible. I then took one more frame of brood from the stronger hives and bolstered the fledgling split with more bees to hatch. The moment those bees hatch, despite being initially from another hive, they will consider the new hive home which means they won’t migrate back to the old queen. 

I kept my fingers crossed for several weeks, checking the hive regularly from the outside, but only opening it to replace a pint feeder jar I had housed in an empty medium deep honey-super over the frames of brood. On August 24th I opened the hive, inspected for the first time, and was delighted to see open brood and eggs in the new hive. 

They successfully raised a queen and she was now laying. My first shot at splitting hives and I am batting .500. That being said I won’t try a late season split again like that until I am much more comfortable with my bees. I got lucky, and I know it. If I hadn’t been doing daily exterior inspections of my hives and recognized that the stronger hives were robbing the weaker, then I would’ve lost both of them and a lot of bees would’ve been wasted. Instead I did get one more hive out of it and it still has two months of nectar flow from grasses and late flowers. In addition, I do plan to feed them through the fall to bolster their numbers.

Next year I hope to do some splits again, but in the spring when the bees are naturally pre-disposed to swarming. Since the split replicates a swarm, to the hive, it seems more natural to me. Also, since the springtime is a nectar rich time, the bees are far less interested in robbing or stealing each other’s honey. With this being my first year I wasn’t ready for how fast a honey robbing situation happens. But now I recognize the behavior at the entrance to the hive since I have seen it first hand.

Included below are pictures of uncapped brood, eggs, and the bees steadily getting honey ready on the edges of a frame in anticipation of the queen laying brood in the middle.

Uncapped Brood

Newly capped and uncapped honeybee brood
Uncapped brood dots the frame and the small larvae can be seen inside as the nurse bees attend to them. © Wayne Davids

 

 

& Some More

multiple uncapped brood cells in a honeybee hive
Multiple uncapped cells in a new, split, honeybee hive. © Wayne Davids
Honeybee frame ready for queen to lay eggs on
This frame was drawn previously in the parent hive & I used it in the split. While waiting for the new queen to emerge the workers dutifully packed the corners with honey & left the center open for her to lay eggs
© Wayne Davids
Honeybee comb with difficult to see newly laid eggs
More hive comb just started to be re-populated by the new queen. The right side has eggs in many of the cells, but they are hard to see here.
© Wayne Davids

Finally in the above two pictures you can see the empty frame I took from the parent hive when I split them. It had contained capped brrod, but most had hatched. I took the empty drawn frame and stuck it in the new hive so they had a jumpstart on some frames. While waiting for the queen to hatch they packed it with resources and got it ready to receive eggs.

The bottome picture is a frame being worked after just having had eggs laid on it. The lower right side has some eggs visible, but I apologize they are hard to see. They will be capped once the nurse bees take care of preparing the new egg to grow and develop.

Thanks for sharing in this with me – hopefully my next post will involve harvesting at least a wee bit o’ honey.

Until next time-
Wayne Davids

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