-Posted by Isaac
The last post was about fattening the bees up on artificial pollen. Well, that time has past.
The bees are doing just fine now on the real thing, thank you.
In fact, they're blowing up.
Ha ha, April Fools. This picture was taken during the splitting process. Sometimes the hives look a little out of sorts.
This is a post about how we relieve the spring congestion problem by splitting the hive.
It's only the first week of April, but the mild winter gave us some huge hives. We have split around 200 already, and day by day, yard by yard we'll be making our way through the next 400 by the middle of the month. Hopefully.
Splitting hives and working alone is the best. I've got my wandering thoughts to myself, and there's no one around to look at me funny when I talk to the bees. By myself, if you include all the steps, I can split a hive in about ten minutes. Working with someone, we average something more like six minutes, but it's not as much fun. I have to act all serious and pretend that this beekeeping is hard work.
Truth be known, it's so fun it's the easiest job I've ever had.
Here's a little step by step. It can happen all at once, or over several trips covering about a week.
When we arrive at the yard, things need cleaned up. Most the the hives are still working through some winter feed, and all the spacers need to be removed and put away.
Once things are more tidy, it's time to smoke the bees down and one by one shake each frame.
What we're doing is finding that elusive queen without actually having to find her. We're simply putting her and all the rest of the bees into the bottom box. It's pretty fast.
The center frames have the brood nest. Great looking brood for early April.
One guy puts some sugar syrup in the bottom feeder and throws a queen excluder on. We're going to isolate that elusive queen to the bottom box.
The other guy scrapes propolis off the lid and the now empty top box. It makes working a hive much easier if it's not all gunked up with proplis. If I'm working alone, well, I cut corners. Not everything gets scraped.
It doesn't take long before the bees come back up to protect and care for the brood. The queen stays in the bottom box.
In theory, you could start grabbing brood as soon as there are enough bees covering the frames. Usually what happens is that we move on the the next yard and come back in a few days.
I've missed some photos showing the removal of the brood and replacement with new foundation. Sorry about that.
But it's a pretty simple recipe- take out three frames of brood and bees. (Ideally capped brood) Add one frame of honey/pollen. Put in replacement frames. (Ideally drawn comb) Right now all we have is foundation. And oh yeah, don't forget to remove the queen excluder. With a little feed and the coming spring nectar flow, the bees draw out new foundation in a heartbeat.
If you want to keep all the older bees, you need to take your split to a new location.
And this time of year you need a queen. By May, if you don't feel like shelling out another 25 bucks, you can skip the new queen step. (But there are a few more details to explore if you're making a new queen.)
Above are fifty young beauties just arrived by next day air.
Within about fifteen minutes the bees have discovered the queens.
It takes about half an hour to install 50 queens. But only if you're all set up and ready, having done the real work days in advance.
The first queens went into strong splits that will soon be going into the apple orchards.
These girls have work to do!
A strong split is basically the entire brood box. Maybe five or six frames of brood.
Most of the splits in the next few weeks consist of three frames of brood going these cute little nuc boxes. It's our first year selling nucs in mass. Both exciting and a little scary.
These girls will have work to do too. I suspect some of that work will involve educating their owners.