Saturday, July 5, 2014

Inspection Notes: I Gotta Split

I know it's only been 5 days since the last inspection, but I decided to dive into the hives again today because I've been freaking all week over the swarm cells I found. In fact, between Tuesday and today, I've built a new TBH nuc. I've also been working on a Warre, which is 90% complete. Ugh, if you could put all the sawdust I've inhaled this week back together, you could probably get a small piece of furniture.

Some capped honey from Hippolyte

Hippolyte & Peach
I was hoping that splitting Hippolyte and making a new nuc (Peach) would be enough to suppress the swarming instinct and they'd break down the queen cells on their own. Ah, I'm such an optimistic dreamer! Contrary to my hopes, Hippolyte had capped all her swarm cells, and there were quite of lot of them on two different combs. No eggs or larvae. Only a tiny bit of new comb, which was full of honey, on one of the bars that I added.

Capped queen cells

Peach didn't have any eggs or larvae either. Since I didn't spot the queen today, I still have no idea where she is. Peach had also capped all her swarm cells, so she had queen cells on 4 different bars.  Ugh. Fearing that the bees might swarm anyway despite the split, I decided to make yet another split.

New nuc -- Princess Bubblegum
The new TBH nuc (which our kids chose to name after a character in one of our favorite shows) definitely came in handy. I moved two bars that had capped queen cells from Peach to Bubblegum. I also moved some stores and bees from Hippolyte to Bubblegum.

My daughter wanted a picture of young Bubblegum,
But I love the wonderfully psychotic Peppermint Butler.

Finally, I popped a little bit of syrup into both Peach and Bubblegum since they don't really have any foragers before closing them up.
I added a drop of blue food coloring so that
I can tell the sugar syrup from the honey.

Because Austeja was getting too crowded, I opened up her brood nest a lot on Tuesday. However, she hasn't built any new comb on the empty bars. Also, I saw very little open larvae and even fewer eggs, but there were large patches of comb that looked recently vacated. Hmmm...

Austeja also had a number of queen cups. Most of them were empty, but there was one on a comb toward the middle of the bars that contained a larva. Another comb toward the entrance had one capped queen cell, one queen cup with a larva, and one cup with an egg.

I feel a bit, torn, though, trying to decide whether these are swarm cells or supersedure cells. Prior to picking up the bees in May, I had been given a choice. I could pick up in May, but I'd get an older queen, or I could pick up in June and get a newer queen. Being recklessly impatient (and having experienced a trouble-free supersedure last year), I chose an older queen in May. So... I think this could go either way, but since there were only 4 cells with eggs/brood (instead of dozens), my instinct tells me this is a supersedure. I'll check again in 4-5 days just to be sure. What if they turn out to be swarm cells, though??? Oh, saints preserve us -- I need more backup hives!


  1. Very inspiring. You're as tireless as your bees! When it comes time for hubby and i to do a split, i'm going to rely heavily on your step-by-step.

    Beautifully done!

    1. Thanks for the comments, but I really am a little tired. ;-)

      If you have to do a split, I recommend checking out Michael Bush's instructions:

  2. If the queen cells are already capped that the time to worry is over. It is either supercedure or the swarm has already left. The thing you've got to watch out for now is cast swarms. I would put out some bait hives around and about if I were you. Cast swarms will often take the first place they find and don't like anything too big 8 - 10 topbars seems about right.

    1. Thanks for the heads up, Dewey! That makes me feel much better. I'm 75% certain that Austeja is a supersedure, but I'll still definitely take your advice to put out a bait hive or two if I can make another in the next few days. Sadly, real work is calling my name.


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