Sunday, June 26, 2016

Mr. Eggman Has Arrived!

With the advent of summer vacation, a lot of friends want to visit the bees, so I've had to split my inspections over multiple days. Although I'd rather get them all done at once, most little kids don't have the ability to look through more than a couple nucs without overheating.

Lots of helpers last week
More new beeks this week -- they should've switched suits, but they liked wearing them like this. Kids.

For my last inspection, I put together a table regarding queen status. Here is an update.
HTML Tables
Date ColonySpotted Queen? Eggs? Other
6/26 PersephoneYesYes Full of honey, but a lot of it has crystallized. Commercial beeks in my state are saying that they're seeing the same thing. The working hypothesis is that we had a late freeze that killed off a lot of flower buds & whatever it is that usually keeps our spring honey liquid didn't bloom this year.
6/26 Elsa Yes Yes Completely full, but still refuses to swarm.

Donated 2 bars of brood to Celestia.

Removed another 2 bars of nectar and gave them to another colony to ripen
6/26 Austeja Yes. The bees were far less agitated and runny than last week. However, I don't think they used the swarm cells I gave them since those cells had been torn down. Yes Gave them lots of space. Will probably not inspect these for another couple of weeks.
6/26 Hippolyte No, but at least one swarm cells I gave them had been pierced through the side, so I suspect they have a queen. Couldn't
tell. Didn't notice any young larvae either
If they let one of those swarm cells emerge, I could've expected a queen to emerge June 27 and be laying by July 7 (+/- 5 days).

However, it looks like they already had a queen, so if I don't see eggs by next week, I'll come up with a plan, then.

Took a bar of honey to make some room.
6/25 Buttercup Yes Yes
6/25 Peach Yes Yes
6/25 Celestia No No She should have begun laying by June 22 (+/- 5 days -- bringing that to 6/27).

As a precautionary measure, I gave her 2 bars of eggs/young larvae from Elsa. Monday or Tuesday, I'll go in and check for queen cells. If I see them, I'll remove the oldest ones in order to select for a better queen.

Crystallized honey from Persephone

Some crossed comb in Persephone. This is why I like wedged bars better.
Flat bars don't always encourage them to build straight -- even when placed between 2 straight, full bars of comb.

A big beautiful blonde

Another beautiful blonde
My daughter's favorite job -- crushing honey

Now that my bout of egg paranoia is over (Thanks to Don of Buddha & the Bees for that psychiatric diagnosis ;-)), my biggest annoyance now is that all my hives are full of comb, but none of the honey has been ripened. Since they're all full, I can't move comb from one hive to another to finish off. At this point, I have to either 1) make more splits or 2) hope they ripen some honey soon for harvest before they getting swarmy again. (#FirstWorldBeekeepingProblems) My fingers are crossed for option 2.

Friday, June 24, 2016

A Portable Observation Hive

Last week, I received such a wonderfully extravagant gift that I have to share it. My friend Bill built me a portable observation hive that I can take to the various talks I give to school kids. 

My plan is to pop a bar in just before a talk (one with the queen, of course), and then put her back when I'm done.

He asked whether I wanted it to hold one bar or two. Two bars would provide the ability to show different kinds of comb. But one bar would be more stable in transit.

Instead of a door, it has latches at the top that allow a portion of the top to be removed. The pane of plexiglass on that side of the hive can be pulled out in order to put a bar in.

The plexiglass extends into the roof so that it is completely bee-tight when closed.
The groove in the piece that opens fits right over the plexiglass.
A closer look
Long "feet" make the base extremely stable.

There are plenty of ventilation holes, too. If the weather is chilly, I can pop some corks in a few holes from the outside.

Ventilation is closed with screen on the inside.

Bill is a fantastic woodworker, and the hive is as beautiful as it is functional. I was thinking that it would even be a showstopping way to serve comb honey at a brunch or for dessert. Just pop a bar of honeycomb in with maybe a shallow dish underneath to catch drips & let everyone slice off their own honey.

I'm encouraging Bill to take orders, and he promises me he's amenable to the idea. I'd definitely recommend his work to anyone.

Anyway, I had to share. I love it so much -- can't wait to use it for the first time!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Jun Kombucha (Honey Kombucha)

When my husband and I got married years ago, I took a class on making naturally fermented pickles, and made zillions of them. The problem, though, was that nobody was ever home to eat all that stuff and I was running out of room in the fridge, so I gave it up. A few months ago, though, I started taking it up again by making kombucha.

Kombucha -- fermented tea -- is made with tea and sugar and undergoes an anaerobic fermention process. A scoby (which is an acronym of "symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast") creates a biofilm over the tea, which prevents air from entering the liquid and causes natural carbonation. Yeast converts sugar in the tea to alcohol, and bacteria converts the alcohol into acids (essentially, it creates a vinegar). Sugar (opposed to other sweeteners) is used to make kombucha because it's much easier to control its pH that way.

On paper, I realize this beverage sounds completely unappetizing. (Biofilm? Yeast? Bacteria? Really?) In fact, my DH looked pretty skeptical when I offered him a glass, but now he's just as hooked as I am because it's really quite nice. Even my dog likes it. Bubbly and tangy, it reminds me of stone fruit and apple cider vinegar.

So anyway, I've been making this for a while using a continuous brew method, which I like because of the minimal cleanup, and we've been enjoying it every day. However, I recently read about something called jun kombucha. It was described as "the champagne of kombuchas." Also, instead of using sugar, jun is made with green tea and honey! Well, hot diggity! I had to try it!

It's important to note that one cannot use a regular kombucha scoby and starter tea to make jun as it requires different yeast/bacteria to process the honey. Jun scobys also work better at lower temperatures, which might be a good thing since a lot of windows make my kitchen a bit chilly in the winter.

Although I grew my own kombucha scoby, jun scobys are reported to be much more difficult and fickle, so I bought one instead. You can pay as much as $45 online for a jun scoby & starter tea, but I found a much less expensive one on Amazon. Even with shipping, it came out to only about $10. Etsy seems to have some jun scobys for sale as well.

Here are my scoby, starter tea, and instructions

Making jun kombucha is pretty easy -- just mix some green tea, honey & starter tea and add the scoby. The hardest part is waiting for the fermentation process to complete.

Green tea brewing

Green tea is cool. Honey goes in next.
Brewing a new pot for me in the background.

Add jun scoby & starter tea
Avoid transferring undesirable bacteria to jun scoby
by making sure everything it touches is clean.
Couldn't find a rubber band, so I used a long balloon to tie my kombucha!

After letting it ferment the prescribed number of days, I bottled it and let it carbonate a few more days until it was ready to drink.

A bubbly glass of jun, ready to drink

The color of it was positively lovely, and it had loads of bubbles. But the smell was... not entirely off-putting. I could smell the honey, but it wasn't the tangy, vinegary smell of regular kombucha. The actual tasting, though, was something of a Lou and Andy moment. Lou and Andy are two of my favorite characters from a sketch comedy show called Little Britain. Essentially, Andy constantly insists on having things that Lou knows he'll hate -- like an ice cream cone with just the cone and no ice cream. Despite Lou's valiant attempts to dissuade him, Andy always gets his way and always ends complaining, "I don't like it." It's a highly predictable gag, but it still cracks me up. Anyway, I'm having a very Andy moment. I don't like it.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Queen Status

Sorry for the lack of photos. I wasn't in the mood to take pictures. Today's bare-bones notes are more for my record-keeping than for readers.

HTML Tables
ColonySpotted Queen? Eggs? Other
Elsa No, but she is queenright Yes Completely full, but still refuses to swarm.
Removed 2 bars of nectar and gave them to another colony to ripen
Austeja No, I suspect she is queenless. The bees were extremely agitated and runny.

Gave her 2 bars of capped swarm cells from Bubblegum. 
No Expect queen to emerge June 27. Should be laying by July 7 (+/- 5 days)
Hippolyte June 11, there were new eggs and larvae. Between then and now, they threw a swarm and made more swarm cells. Population has been greatly reduced which is a good thing since they're a lot less b*tchy now.

Cut out all the swarm cells and combined with Bubblegum, who had capped swarm cells.

I couldn't find Bubblegum's queen. Not entirely sure if she swarmed or not. 
No If they let one of those swarm cells emerge, I can expect a queen to emerge June 27. Should be laying by July 7 (+/- 5 days)
Buttercup Spotted queen.  No Expecting her to lay by June 22 (+/- 5 days)
Peach Did not see queen. I suspect this one may be queenless as well. Bees were a little runny in this one, too.  No Expecting her to lay by June 22 (+/- 5 days)
Celestia Did not see queen. No Expecting her to lay by June 22 (+/- 5 days)

Not having eggs in so many hives all at once is nervewracking for me. I can't help but think of a character in that disturbing film Pink Flamingoes -- she's a grown woman who sits around in a baby's playpen all day yelling for eggs. The highlight of her life is a visit from the guy who delivers eggs. At the present moment, I totally get that feeling. "In here, Mr. Eggman! Help! Help! Here I am!" Oh boy. Beekeeping really has made me twisted.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Popcorn Queens

My kitchen has a wall of windows that look out into the backyard, so that's where I like to work. This morning, I woke up early to finish up a last minute project that is due tomorrow morning. As a result, even though I can't quite see the hives from my seat at the table, I am able to monitor their flights to and from the beeyard.

About 10 am, I looked up and saw some crazy busy flying, which prompted me to run out the kitchen door. Buttercup, whose swarm cells were due to start emerging today, was frenetic. Could it be a swarm starting?

Usually, bees swarm just before the the swarm cells get capped. Since Buttercup didn't have much honey stored in the hive, and she's been queenless for two weeks, so I wasn't expecting a swarm. But there were remarkably few bees inside. Had she already swarmed? Did I miss it? Rewatching the video, I think that the activity I saw was bees that had been left behind re-entering the hive.

Anyway, I went through the combs to 1) see if any queens had emerged and 2) save unopened queen cells for Hippolyte and Austeja. This turned out to be a crazy, frustrating activity. I would set bars with queen cells aside to continue looking for cells/queens, but as I looked, the queen cells I'd set aside would open. It was like watching popcorn pop. Needless to say, my plans for requeening Hippolyte and Austeja were derailed.

Virgin queens are much harder to spot than mated ones. Of course, I was too stupid to think of catching them until I'd found the third one. Then I had to go back through and re-find them. The second time I went through, I could only find 1 of them. (So in total, I caught 3.)

BTW, here are some photos if you'd like some practice spotting virgins. No tricks! There really is one in every pic.

At least two queens are inside Buttercup now. They'll just have to duke it out between them.

Peach, I suspect, is queenless. She was split May 19 and should've had an emerged queen by Jun 4. Instead, I saw 1 open queen cell and at least 3 intact queen cells. It's too early for eggs, but those unopened queen cells just don't look good to me. I also haven't noticed a queen in there. That's not to say she's not there. I could've missed her, but I am becoming somewhat passable at spotting queens, so my confidence level of having a queen isn't high.

Anyway, I put one queen in a cage, cracked a couple of Peach's bars apart and laid the queen on the nuc for awhile to see how the bees would react. They seemed interested, not aggressive. Then I put the caged queen inside Peach for awhile while I made up another nuc with the third queen. Still lots of interest and no aggression, so I direct released her into the hive because I wanted her to be able to go on a mating flight. At that point, there was a roar. It could have been them spreading the news, or maybe they just balled her. I don't know. As extra insurance in case I just messed up royally, I put a bar with the last two queen cells from Buttercup into Peach as well.

As I mentioned, I also made up a new nuc. My family suggested lots of princess names including:

  • Princess Rosalina (from the Mario games)
  • Princess Zelda (Legend of Zelda games)
  • Lumpy Space Princess (our favorite Adventure Time princess)
  • Princess Charlotte (in honor of the newest Windsor)
However, in the end, I chose Princess Celestia (from My Little Pony) because she's the princess of the day and raises the sun each morning in the land of Equestria. (How is it that I know these things??? Oh yeah, I've been a mom for the past 14 years.) That made it a fitting name for bees, I think. However, the next nuc will be Princess Charlotte to please my girl who lobbied hard for that name.

The rest of the afternoon was spent making an insulated roof for Celestia. I was so happy with it, but when I went to put it on, it most decidedly did not fit. Ironically, during the building process, I thought I'd cut a couple of pieces too long, so I shortened them an inch. If I'd left them, the roof probably might have been perfect. Ugh. I'm so sad in my heart. 

Ah well. Tomorrow is a new day.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Queens Galore

The flowers this spring have not been anywhere near as spectacular as in years past. The protracted rainy, cold weather killed a lot of the earlier spring buds/flowers. Then we had a wicked heat wave, going from 50 F to 90 F overnight for a couple of weeks. More rain, and now finally some nice weather.

The white clover, which marks the end of my spring flow, normally blooms from about mid-June to mid-July. This year, it started about 2 weeks ago. The bees take this in stride, though, and continue to do their thing.

Looking very nice, girls!

Here's a quick rundown of the hives/nucs by those that have queens and those in the process of making them.

Queen-right Colonies

John's nuc: looking good with 6 enormous bars of bees. He's going to pick up in the morning, which will give me some much needed space in the bee yard.

Bubblegum: I made this split from Persephone about May 19, and this nuc is now completely full. Sigh.

Ladies in Waiting 1 & 2: the "ladies in waiting" (LIW) haven't got names because they're going to someone else soon. 

  • LIW 1 is a major disappointment. The queen came from Peach (May 19), which has consistently been one of my best queen and was going like gangbusters before I moved her. Now she just does not want to build anything, and I don't know why. I shook 3 bars of nurse bees from Bubblegum into her. We'll see what happens.
  • I made LIW 2 during the last inspection May 27. The queen in it came from Buttercup, and she's doing marvelously. She started with four bars and currently has seven. Unfortunately, one of the combs fell and had to be repaired. Otherwise I would've called to have it picked up this coming week.

Hippolyte: Her queen has emerged, and there were two bars with eggs/very new larvae. My guess is that she just started laying within the last five days. I dislike those bees so much that I'm not sure I even want to give this new queen much of a chance. If I'd found her today, I would have pinched her and placed a bar of queen cells from Buttercup in her. Maybe I'll try again tomorrow -- or whenever Elsa is ready to swarm. Another option is to just pinch the queen and combine her with Bubblegum. Hmmm... The more I think about doing a combine, the better I like that idea. 

Elsa: This hive is packed to the gills. She has maybe two empty bars, and that's it. However, she does not appear to have any intention of swarming. I was expecting to see lots of queen cells started, but there were none. Maybe two or three queen cups, but they were all empty. I wonder if this has to do with the fact that she is so insulated. In his book, Lazutin mentions that his insulated horizontal hives often have to be induced to swarm.

In any case, this lack of swarm cells was disappointing since I was really hoping to use some to requeen Austeja & Hippolyte and to make another nuc. 

Queenless Colonies

Persephone: All the tips of her swarm cells are open as if all the queens emerged. In other words,  none of them have been pierced through from the side, which happens when a queen stings them. There are also surprisingly few bees. I suspect she threw one or more swarms. This is the first time I've experienced a split swarming, but Don at Buddha and the Bees mentioned that his hive did just that this year.

Hard to see in this photo, but all the queen cells are open like a queen emerged.

I didn't see any brood, but she simply may not be laying yet. She should have emerged around 6/6, but it might be somewhere between the 16-21 before she lays eggs. On the plus side, she's loaded with liquid gold. 

Some wonky honey comb

Buttercup: Packed with bees, honey, and Queen cells. I expect her queen to emerge around 6/12. Removed a bar of honey to make room. 

Austeja: I made a shook swarm from her a couple weeks ago. At the time, she didn't have any swarm cells, but it just worked out to be a good time for me to make the split. Today, she had loads of capped queen cells along the edges of the comb. I cut out a bunch of the smaller ones, leaving just the biggest ones. I expect her to emerge any day now (6/12 is the date marked on my calendar).

The bees are sort of covering thing up, but there are twin queen cells on the left.

A collection of queen cells.
You can see some royal jelly in the one that is broken open

Peach: Honestly, I can't remember whether her queen emerged or not. I think she also should've had a queen by 6/6. I do remember not seeing any brood yet.

Ok, well, that's all for today. I've earned a popsicle & a shower.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Super Easy Comb Stand

A comb stand is a great tool for a TBH keeper. Sometimes, you get a hive that is completely full, and it helps to have a place to put a couple extra bars while you inspect. Or maybe you want to separate a bar out for some reason. Again, it's helpful to have a place to put it.

Images of stands online range from extremely simple to fairly complicated for someone with minimal woodworking skills. A woodworking friend of mine has the coolest stand I've ever seen. It folds ups and even rotates on a lazy Susan base! 

A folding comb stand
Image from:

I think this one is interesting because the bar slides in,
but I'd worry about my fat fingers taking it out again.
Image from:

Adjustable comb stand from BeeThinking
Image from:
A less expensive variation on this theme is a hanger for file folders,
but you have to make sure it will fit your bars/comb.

Image from

My DH made me a nice comb stand a few years ago, but it broke, and he hasn't had time to fix it. (This is not a complaint, btw. He's a busy man, and I appreciate that he works hard.) So I took matters into my own hands and made a new stand based on photos someone posted to FaceBook. Here is the photo that was posted.

Mickey Schafer's brilliant comb stand design. It holds 3 bars at a time.

It's not a furniture-grade object, but it's easy to make, sturdy, and efficient. Perfect!!! It took about 20 minutes to make my own stand (time includes scrounging for wood scraps & chitchatting with the hubby). Oh yeah, since I used scraps that were lying around, it was pretty much free, too. Have I mentioned how brilliant this idea is & how much I love it???

I did change up one thing. I added a couple of blocks at the bottom of the posts for added sturdiness. They probably weren't necessary, but now it's solid... solid as a rock, that's what this stand is, that's what we've got... Sorry, it's late, and I'm getting punchy singing horrible, sappy 70's tunes.

My new comb stand with all its crazy, unmatched scraps of wood. But it's sturdy, practical & functional.
The upright posts are narrower than Mickey's, so it holds only 2 bars, but I'm still happy with it.

I didn't take any step-by-step photos, but this is a pretty easy project to figure out from just the photos. Anyway, if you're like me (i.e., workshop-challenged and too frugal to drop $70 on a comb stand), perhaps this design will be up your alley.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

How to Split a TBH

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me how to split a TBH, and swarms are starting in my state already. So it seemed a good time to write a post.

The truth is that splitting a TBH is really not that different from splitting a Lang. In fact, when I first started making splits a couple of years ago, I used Michael Bush's notes to help me through the process. Peter Borst also gave some great talks on splitting at my local club last year.  Although these notes deal with splitting Langs, they are certainly applicable to TBHs, and there is a lot of great info in there, so I'd recommend reading them.

Reasons to Make a Split

There are many reasons to make a split. For instance:
  • To control or prevent swarming
  • To raise queens
  • To control mites by providing a brood break
  • To increase your colonies
  • To make nucs that can be overwintered
Some of the finer details of making splits might vary a bit depending on your goal, but the basic process will still remain the same.

Timing the Split

If you are going to give your split a queen right off the bat, you can make your split as as soon as queens become commercially available. Since the split doesn't have to raise its own queen, things like available drones and forage are not quite as critical.

It takes drones 10 days to mature and start flying after emergence.
Be sure to take that into account when timing your splits.

If you want to let your split raise its own queen,  you'll want to wait until drones start flying in the spring. Drones are a sign that a colony feels good about its available resources. Also, while queens don't mate with drones from their own hives, seeing lots of your own drones flying means that there will be drones from other colonies in the area flying too.

When letting my bees raise their own queens, I also like to make sure that the danger of freezing temps at night is over. We can get some freaky weather well into May, and I don't want my queen or any of the brood in the split to chill.

In my area, beeks who raise their own queens can usually start splitting in early to mid-May (late April if the weather has been exceptionally fine). We can continue making splits up until about July/early August (and expect them to survive winter) if the fall flow is good. These late splits, though, might need to be babied through the fall and winter with feedings. Your calendar, though, could be entirely different.

Some people say that splits should be made just before the main honey flow so that bees can build up. However, Dr. Delaney has intimated that splitting just after the main flow might provide a better balance of mite control & honey yields. From my personal experience, I think that Dr. Delaney may be right if you're using Langs. However, my bees usually fill up the hive (I use Sam Comfort's dimensions) well before the main flow is over. So if I waited that long, I'd probably lose swarms. My current practice is to just make splits as soon as I start seeing swarm cells. Maybe that will change when/if I start rearing queens, but so far, that approach has been working ok for me.

Split Basics

Again, there are some finer details depending upon your goals. Below, I'll cover three basic ways to split, but I highly recommend reading the section called "Kinds of Splits" on Michael Bush's page for a better idea of what to do depending on what you want to accomplish.

However, basically you want to make sure that one of your hives has a queen, and the other hive has eggs and all the resources it needs to raise a queen (e.g., workers, honey, pollen, brood, etc.)

Ok, so here are three easy ways to make splits (which will be covered in more detail below):

  • Split and install a purchased queen
  • Split using swarm cells
  • Split and let the bees raise their own emergency queen

Anticipating a split for the first time can nerve-wracking, but once you do it, you kind of  wonder what all the fuss was about. It's just that easy as long as you follow some general guidelines.

Method 1: Making Splits with a Purchased Queen

If you've purchased a queen and want to use her to requeen the split, give your split 2-3 bars of brood & bees in all stages as well as a bar of pollen/honey. Shake in 3 or 4 more bars of bees and let them sit overnight. After 24 hours, they will be much more likely to accept a queen.

When you install the queen, make sure you do not install her with attendants since the bees will be less likely to accept her. You can hang her in her cage just like you would when installing a package. Or, if you want to increase acceptance, you can install her with a push-in cage over a patch of comb that contains empty cells as well as capped brood. Emerging brood will accept the queen immediately. Empty cells allow her to lay eggs, which makes her much more attractive to the bees. (BeeWeaver has some better instructions for using a push-in cage.)

Whether you hang the queen in a queen cage or use a push-in cage, you can release her once the bees have accepted her (usually within about 4-5 days). YouTube has some videos of Michael Palmer  inserting a push-in cage and releasing a queen from a push-in cage. Here's another good one of him releasing a queen with some additional/different comments.

Push-in cage made of wire to hold queen.
Image from:

Method 2: Making Splits with Swarm Cells

If you start seeing lots of swarm cells in your hive, it's time to split. (Unless you/your neighbors don't care about bees swarming.)

Note: If you are splitting because you've found swarm cells in your hive, split when the queens are still in their larval form. Swarms usually take off a day or so BEFORE queen cells get capped, so if you wait until they are capped, you may be too late.

Swarm cells on a comb.
Just plop one of these in a nuc with a few more bars of brood and bees
Swarm queens make the best queens, and making splits with swarm cells is the easiest thing in the world. Just put a bar with some swarm cells in a nuc/hive, add 2-3 more bars with brood in all stages as well as the bees that are one them. Add a bar of pollen/honey. Then shake in 3-4 more bars of nurse bees, and close up.

If you have a very robust hive, you can make 2 or 3 splits at the same time this way. Or if you don't have lots of extra hives/nucs, you can move several bars with queen cells over to the split. I've done this without any issues at all. The split will most likely be able to support just one queen, so the first one to emerge will kill all the others. No need to worry about afterswarms.

Another option is to simulate how a swarm would work in nature by making a "shook swarm." In other words, move the queen and shake about 3 lbs of bees into the split. This approach decreases the number of varroa in both groups by giving them a brood break. Remember that without brood, it's sort of like making a package, but the bees already know the queen, so there's no acceptance period. If you'd like them to build up faster, give them a few bars of brood, too. The bees will still be able to do quite a lot of housecleaning.

Note: If you move the old queen out and leave the swarm cells behind in the original hive, be careful that the hive is NOT still boiling over with bees. If it is, you may find that the bees will allow multiple queens to emerge. The first one will stay with the hive, but then they may throw some swarms with the other queens.

Method 3: Making Splits and Letting Them Raise Their Own Emergency Queen

Let's say that your hive isn't making swarm prep yet, and you don't want them to. You could split them preemptively and let them raise their own emergency queen. She won't be quite as good as a swarm queen, but I've raised some this way, and they've worked out fine. Sometimes they requeen themselves more quickly, but that's ok with me.

Basically, you'd do the same thing that you do for other splits. Move 2-3 bars of brood (eggs to capped larvae) into a hive/nuc. Add a bar of pollen/honey and shake in 3-4 bars of bees. The bees will take care of raising a queen for you.

Note: If you let the bees raise an emergency queen, the bees may use brood that is older than 0 days old, but less than 3 days old. If you want a better queen, go into the split after a couple of days and take a look at the brood in the various queen cells. If you're not too squeamish, consider cutting out the queen cells with older brood and leaving the queen cells with younger brood in the split. 

Note: Sometimes when making a split, you just can't find the queen, and that's ok. Just divvy up bars equally between your hives, making sure that each hive has at least 3 bars with brood in all stages (eggs, larvae, capped brood). In three days, check on your hives. The one with eggs has the queen.

What to do after you make your split

Prevent drifting / Even out the numbers. Ideally, if you have the space and the ability, you want to prevent bees drifting from the split back to the old hive. Lots of people will tell you to move your split 2 miles away, but seriously??? How many people can actually do that? Another common technique is to move both the split and the hive so that returning bees have to choose which hive to enter. The image below shows how this is done with Langs, but personally, I'm just not moving my full-size TBHs to do this.

One way to even out numbers after splitting

Instead, if I'm splitting to a nuc that doesn't yet have a queen, I'll sometimes set the nuc on top of the original hives bars until evening. That way returning foragers might choose to enter the nuc, but I also run a risk of bees leaving the nuc for the hive. More often, though, I just set my split wherever I want them to be, and it still works out fine. However, I do shake some extra bees in and put a branch or something over the entrance so that the foragers reorient when they leave the hive.

Another thing I do is add bars of mostly capped brood (but also some eggs and larvae) once a week to splits that are queenless. That way, their population doesn't get too diminished before the new queen's babies emerge. Also, if the queen fails to return (which has happened to me), the bees can start a new one almost right away.

Mark key dates on your calendar

Keep a timeline. I highly recommend making note of key dates like:

  • When was the split made?
  • When did the queen emerge?
  • When should I expect eggs?
Knowing these dates helps you know approximately when you should expect to see eggs. Usually, once the queen emerges, it takes an average of 3 - 15 days before you see eggs. 

When I make my splits, I actually mark approximate dates for all of these events on my calendar so that I don't forget and have to keep recalculating.

This seems like a very long write-up, but it's actually quite an easy process. 

If you have some tricks and tips for splits, please, share them! Would love to hear what you do!