It's not all fun, games and complaining about things here on the bee farm. At times we've actually had to work. One of the most pressing and important jobs in the spring is making increase. Meaning, building up our hive count. Why?
Before last month's tirade about farm chemicals, you'll remember I was going off about another subject-- the dreadfully cold winter. And the corresponding bee death. We lost a lot of bees!
I found this picture in Smithsonian Magazine:
Wow. Go figure.
The only logical conclusion: God hates the Midwest.
And our little honeybees too!
So we needed to build up our bees.
There's an easy way and a hard way to do this. We do both. This post is about the hard way: making splits.
To start, you need a queen.
But in this area, middle of May, a laying queen is the way to go if you want to catch the summer honey flow. We give the California based Koehnen company a lot of business.
The queens can go to the bee yard with you, but you don't want to leave them in the hot cab of the truck.
|Don't Do This!|
I have cooked queens. I have run over queens.
The equipment for the new splits gets laid out first. This was a yard of 17 decently strong hives.
I really enjoy the actual splitting process. I offhandedly commented to Jayne one evening about this-- "It's one of the few things in beekeeping that isn't dumb repetitive labor... splitting takes a little skill, a little experience."
One of my favorite jobs and I love it.
Every hive holds its own surprise. Sometimes you're surprised with a big early box of spring honey!
Sometimes the surprise is an unbelievably awesome queen.
Dan Williams has been showing off his brood (strong queens) on Facebook. Thought I'd show you one of mine... she can rival the best of them:
Pulled the next frame--- even better!
At this point I was thinking, Man... I'd really love to meet this girl...
Pulled the next frame. Lo and behold:
|"If you got the money, honey, I got the time!"|
Making a strong split involves three or four frames of brood, some pollen, some honey... and it's sure nice to know where the queen is.
Sometimes you find her, sometimes you don't.
The new queen obviously goes where the old one isn't.
It's important to record what you've done:
What the devil?!??
What is this strange cryptic beekeeper code?
Next we'll look at the easy way of making increase.