Monday, May 6, 2019

And then there were three...

On Saturday, both hives looked like they were prepping to swarm soon -- backfilling with honey and making loads of drones on both ends of the hive. Normally, I'd wait at least a week before opening the hives again, but our forecast calls for rain all week, and I wanted to avoid them making swarm cells.

In the past, I've always postponed splitting until the bees started making swarm cells, figuring that's when the were ready to swarm. However, during my last season in CT, I came to the realization that I always ended up making multiple splits (way more than I wanted) just to prevent afterswarms. Also, due the size of my hives, they'd generally start making queen cells in June sometime, too close to the end of the spring flow, so feeding them became a necessity. Hearing Sharaskin talk helped me better understand when splits should occur in relation to the flow (which is when they would happen if my hives were only 40L in size). (BTW, other good indicators for timing splits are the presence of drones/drone comb, when the days are reliably warm enough for the queen to fly, and the danger of freezing is past.)

Another reason I had always postponed splits was to get the nicest, fattest queens from the swarm cells. Then I noticed something in one of my hives during that last year in CT. One of them had trouble making a mated queen. She'd make queens, but they wouldn't come back. I kept giving her eggs, though, so she kept trying until she finally made the smallest, most pathetic emergency queen you ever saw. Seriously, she was so small she could slip through the fingers of a queen clip. She laid eggs, though, which was all the bees needed to make a supersedure queen, who was every bit as nice as one from a swarm cell because she was raised for that job starting from Day 1.

As a result, I've decided not to wait for swarm cells and that an emergency queen is ok for awhile. As long as she's mated and laying, the bees can create a new queen later, and I can take advantage of the peak flow for splits. Also, bees generally wait for their supersedure queens to start laying before they, er... call for the reigning monarch's abdication. That means there are usually two queens in the hive laying simultaneously for while. It also means that there's no downtime in terms of brood production while waiting for the supersedure queen to start up.

I found Katya's queen and some worker eggs/larvae, so she got a divider board down the middle. Hopefully, she'll have a new laying queen sometime between May 25 and June 9.

When I installed the bees, I put them in the center of the hive -- like you'd do with a Goldstar TBH. The idea was to get the foragers used to both entrances so that when I was ready to split, they'd naturally go to one side or the other and keep the population even-ish. The branches over the entrances should force them to reorient tomorrow. I have to go out and prop the left branch up. Will do it later, though. They weren't happy with me messing around and kept darting into my hair.

However, there weren't enough eggs/worker larvae in Theodora to make me feel comfortable about them raising a new queen.  It was all capped brood and drone comb. I don't know if this will work, but I popped two empty frames between the worker brood combs) to see if I could get some eggs for raising a queen. Fingers crossed. Maybe by next week I can split them as well.

Holy moly. I have to get cracking on some new hives!


  1. Nice to see you back in the thick of things. There was a nice article in the May American Bee Journal on splitting that said very similar things, so you appear to bee on the right track.


    1. Thanks! I'll have to go dig that article up!

      Hope you and your bees are doing well this spring, too!


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